Thursday, October 27, 2011

From the journal of Joseph Millett, who tells of his name being read out as a missionary in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1852, of making his way as a nineteen-year-old, alone and mainly on foot, across the continent to Nova Scotia, learning the gospel and making converts essentially on his own, choosing one of them as a wife and making his way with a group of Saints back to Utah and then on to a colonizing mission in Spring Valley, Nevada. Near the end of the journal, he records a crucial, self-defining experience from the first days in Spring Valley when his daughter had died and many suffered great sickness and hunger:

"One of my children came in, said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks were out of bread. Had none that day. I put . .. our flour in a sack to send up to Brother Hall’s. Just then Brother Hall came in. Says I,“Brother Hall, how are you out for flour.” “Brother Millett, we have none.” “Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you were out.” Brother Hall began to cry. Said he had tried others. Could not get any. Went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett “Well, Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back if the Lord sent you for it. You don’t owe me for it.” You can’t tell how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett."

This sense of being special, of God knowing us by name, favoring us with his voice and special direction and responsibility, is crucial to the Mormon identity and central to our best literature from the beginning. But in my view, the quality of this passage is more than doubled by the way it opens out to the other meaning of chosen—called out of the world to bless the world. God knew Joseph Millett’s name not because he was partial to him, but so God could, with perfect confidence, tell his neighbor Brother Hall to go specifically to Joseph Millett for help.
--Eugene England

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