On a hot, humid afternoon in May 1895, two missionaries made their way up the rocky, but thickly wooded hills near Smithville, Tennessee. They had been rejected by the townspeople and so had gone to seek converts among the mountain folk, who survived on hilly, low-productive farms. Traveling on foot, without purse or scrip, the elders relied upon the Spirit of the Lord and the hospitality of the people to meet their needs.
Toward evening the missionaries arrived at the humble cabin home of my grandfather, Harvey Anderson Pinegar, and his young family. Grandfather had gone to a meeting to hear them preach and had offered them food and a place for the night, which they eagerly and gratefully accepted. Harvey and his family shared their food, beds, and lodgings with the elders. The three children slept in the loft, Grandfather and Grandmother placed straw pallets on the floor in the corner for themselves, and the elders slept in the only bed. In this humble mountain home the missionaries taught Grandfather and his family the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Grandfather wrote in his journal,
“I investigated their doctern and I became convinced that they belonged to the only true church upon the Earth. So on the 14th day of May, 1895. … my wife and myself was baptized by Elder Owen M. Sanderson in Sink Creek a few rods above Jones’ Mill in the 7th District of DeKalb County, Tennessee, which caused great dissatisfaction with my folks, however I went on doing the will of my Heavenly Father. I knew the Doctern was of God and not of man.”
About one hundred people witnessed the baptism of Harvey and Josie Pinegar.
There was much opposition among the people in the area toward the “Mormon religion.” Harvey’s happiness at becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not shared by his brother, sisters, parents, and neighbors. Harvey soon discovered that he would be required to face opposition in the community and in his family. He was serving as a constable at the time. Upon learning of his having joined the Church his bondsmen gave up his bonds—one of these men was his own cousin.
Several times Harvey Pinegar’s cabin became a place of refuge for the missionaries. The elders would help Grandfather board up the windows and doors as a protection against mobs who threatened to tar and feather the elders.
Four years after Grandfather joined the Church, my father, then a young lad eight years old, accompanied his family and the members of two other families to a baptismal service. Grandfather was to baptize his young daughter and the daughters of a neighboring family on that cold December 3, 1899. As they traveled toward the stream at Reynold’s Mill, they were approached by three men on horseback. When the men asked where they were going, Grandfather explained their intentions. The leader threatened to bring a mob upon them if they carried out the baptismal service. Grandfather informed him that he and the 20 people with him would complete their errand regardless of what the man and his associates did. Grandfather and his party continued their journey to Reynold’s Mill.
Arriving at the mill they located a secluded spot for the baptism. The hill above the river was covered with trees, scrub oak, and ivy. My father, young John, was perched on a fallen tree that stretched out across a sandbar into the slow-moving stream. Here he could observe every detail of this sacred ordinance. Grandfather waded out into the stream to find the right depth and then returned to the riverbank for prayer. In the quiet of the prayer John heard the sound of a cracking limb. Opening his eyes and glancing quickly up the hill through the trees he saw the men who had stopped them earlier. They had arrived with a mob to carry out their threat. One of them was by a pile of rocks and was ready to pelt the baptismal participants. Suddenly all eyes were opened as a big redbone hound owned by the leader of the mob bounded down to within a few feet of my father. Young John looked fearfully at the hound as it growled menacingly. These men and their associates were determined to stop the baptisms from being performed. My Grandfather Pinegar courageously proceeded with the services.
Convinced now that these Mormon families were unafraid of his threat, the mob leader commanded his dog to attack Grandfather Pinegar. At this moment an amazing thing happened. The dog let out a low growl and his hair bristled like that on an angry hog’s back. Suddenly it bared its teeth and turned on its master, leaping at his throat and knocking him to the ground. The rest of the mob fled in fear when they saw the dog turn on its owner. As soon as the astonished leader could free himself from his dog, he left in hurried pursuit of his associates, with the dog yelping close at his heels.
A miracle had occurred! The Pinegar family and their neighbors thanked the Lord for their deliverance, and the baptismal service continued without further interruption.
That evening the families returned to Grandfather’s home. After darkness had fallen upon the mountain cabin, the troublemakers returned and again threatened to mob my grandfather and his Mormon friends. As they taunted him from the gate, Grandfather commanded them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to leave. The mob departed and did not return.
This experience told repeatedly to us by my father and grandfather has served as a source of strength to the members of the Pinegar family for generations. It has taught me appreciation for my grandfather’s loyalty to the Lord and has given me an assurance that right will prevail against all odds or opposition.
The courage of my grandfather and those who were with him to stand firm for that which is right brought assistance from the Lord. A quiet, peaceful strength came into their hearts, giving them the ability to face the opposition with courage and confidence. There have been occasions in my own life when the memory of this event in my grandfather’s life has given me the strength to resist persuasions to do wrong.
I am thankful for the loyalty and faith of my grandfather. His fearlessness established a heritage of faith in and love for the Lord. The sacrifices made by him and others of my forebears have made possible the many blessings of freedom and religious liberty that I enjoy today. I want to show my loyalty to my grandfather by also being loyal to the Lord.
We may prove our loyalty to the Lord by being obedient to parents, being respectful of our brothers and sisters, following Church leaders, and fulfilling our church callings and priesthood responsibilities. Loyalty includes being obedient to the laws of the land and the commandments of God. Loyalty to employer and employee, demonstrated by an honest day’s work and an honest day’s pay, is part of our loyalty to the Lord, for what we do unto each other we do unto Him. It means standing up for that which is right when our associates would persuade us to do wrong. It may mean standing alone in the defense of truth and right.
You may look into the lives of your family members and find similar examples of loyalty to our Heavenly Father that may be a source of strength and courage to you.
May each of us be grateful for the rich heritage we have received from our loyal ancestors, and may we strive with true faith to be true to these noble souls by being loyal to the Lord.