by Wilma Morley Despain, Centerfield, Utah
From The Saga of the Sanpitch, 1969 Historical Writing Contest
I stood in the bright light of the full-grown fall moon in a grove of maple trees, in Kirtland, Ohio. This grove of trees was, and is known, as the “Morley Grove,” and is planted there around the old Morley home by Thomas and Edith Morley, grandparents of isaac morley, also known as “Father Morley” in later years.
As I stood there filled with wonderment at having the express privilege, at last, of being here to see the things and places I had heard and read about all my life, my eyes turned again toward the Kirtland Temple, which we visited earlier. The night was warm, as nights are that time of year in Ohio.
The stars seemed near as their long pointed spears struck down to guard these historic places. They reflected past the glory of this holy house by shining on glistening bits of glass, still clinging in the older plaster, on those sturdy, historic walls.
We went next to the graves of my great, great, grandparents, buried there in the shadow of this holy place that had played such an important part in their lives and the early days of the church. These were Isaac’s parents resting here, protected by the spires of the house of the Lord, which they had helped to build.
Oliver Cowdery and his companion came on a mission to the East in the year 1830 and providence guided their footsteps to the home of Isaac Morley. He became one of the first converts to Mormonism in that region. He proved very faithful and his real worth was early recognized by the leading Elders of the Church.
He was ordained a High Priest in 1831 by Lyman Weight, and on the same day was ordained and set apart as a counselor to the first presiding Bishop, edward partridge. He was called on a mission this same year, just one of several he was called, by revelation through Joseph Smith, to fulfill.
We had come here this day, after witnessing the marvel of the pageant at Hill Cumorah. I was still enthralled with what I had seen and heard there.
How I thrilled at standing here, in the quiet evening remembering the progress that has been made through the long years since the humble beginnings here.
How the Saints thrilled in those days too, even during the worst of their sufferings, knowing that the work of the Lord could not be stopped by man!
Some of my own died, gave their lives that they might prove this to the world that they, from a humble beginning, could worship according to the dictates of their own minds, and the promptings of their Father in Heaven and made it possible for me and mine to do this too, in these latter days!
How this frail, little, three times great grandmother of mine must have worried and anguished at the many threatening and times spent in jail by her dear son. She knew of the times he offered his life to the mob if they would take him instead of the prophet. Surely this brought her much anxiety and distress!
Could I, with all my blessings secured by his early participation and that of many others of my loved grandparents, give my sons to a mob? No.., indeed I feel I could not. It has been hard enough for me to say goodbye to each of my three sons, as each left for their military duty or to fulfill missions for the Church.
Isaac’s mother, knowing he was a true, loyal friend of Joseph Smith also knew that he meant every vow he had taken to become a member of this church and that he would if called upon to do so, give his life for the Prophet. As all mothers should, and most would, she stood by him through all the evil accusations and supported him in all his righteous endeavors.
Another great grandfather, Andrew Hyrum Whitlock, Jr. of Ephraim knew and loved Joseph at this time, too. He was a teamster for him and also a member of the Nauvoo Legion and had many and varied experiences during this critical time. He was an interpreter of the Indian language for President Canute Peterson of Ephraim, and through this and his understanding of the red men helped to avert many unpleasant incidents.
The trek across those cruel plains had not been their worst trials and hardships. No, we have evidence that the horror they endured during those first days of the Church and the shock of leaving their lovely comfortable homes and dear ones behind was much the worst and most traumatic ordeals for them!
As we followed their trek as near as we could by car on our way back East, many names from these lines and many others of my descendants were common upon the markers of the common graves!
I stood at each one with bowed head and with reverence, knowing that these of my own and many others would not pass this way again, but were a living presence to me and had traveled every mile at my side!
My little, three times great grandmother tells of leaving her first home and her last! They carved this last living space from the thick forest and defended it and guarded it many times. She was left with small children to fight alone while my grandfather Isaac fought in the War of 1812. Many times as she stirred an outside fire to separate ashes to make lye so she could make soap, wild animals gathered at the clearing to watch and wait, her only companions beside her children for many miles.
Isaac and his family were very well established and very successful farmers, as were his people before him. They cleared much land of forests and also had a prospering coopering business, which was brought here by one of my earliest Morley progenitors from England, and who were taxpayers here in America in 1732.
Many times the angry mobs burned all his grain and other crops. Much of his wealth was given for the building of God’s kingdom in those early days. This included some very choice land that he gave when commanded to by the Lord through revelation. He was on a mission at this time and rebelled just a little. The rebuke the Lord gave him is in the Doctrine and Covenants and also tells how he repented of his rebellious thoughts and gave all again and remained faithful to the end. The other man involved did not do so and was rebuked; he rebelled and had to leave the Church. So, for his obedience and trust in the Lord, he was blessed with many responsible positions and much posterity, and for this, I am very grateful!
His valiant and willing work and support brought him the privilege of helping to build three temples. His temple apron, used in both the Nauvoo and Kirtland Temples is on display at our own Manti Temple, which he was also privileged to help gather funds for.
How easy we have it today as far as financing the Church is concerned and in many other ways, too.
I give thanks, humbly, every time I am blessed by going to the Temple to help with the records and salvation of some of these valiant ones. Can I do less? Can any of us fail those who in their generosity brought their love for the Gospel here to the valleys of these beautiful safe mountains to bless us with their faith, courage, and perseverance?!
When Isaac was sent, in the midst of the cruel winter of’49 as the head of the sixty brave families that came with him to the Sanpitch Valley, he asked for men who would keep the Sabbath day holy.
When President brigham young asked him what kind of men he would prefer, he told him also that he wanted men who would not profane the holy name of God!
There were those that smiled at this in those days too, but how wise he was, for can a man curse God and be loyal and worship Him in the same breath?
We have all read of the trials of this suffering company of Saints. Their privations and scute sufferings will ever make us grateful to them. As they braved their slow way to this beautiful Sanpitch Valley, were they asking themselves, “What is there in this for me, or why am I here?” No! Indeed they knew why they had become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints! Do all of us know today?
We of his large polygamous family know how food was rationed and divided with their Indian neighbors, shorting their rations to the extent that many of our own and many others, too, gave their lives here, perished as a result of the cold and hunger!
When I visit his grave in the beautiful and well-ordered Manti cemetery, here he also rests in the shadow of the most beautiful and most meaningful of all God’s holy Temples.
Here in times of solitude and sweet renewing, I pause and bow my head again in reverence and with a humble, grateful heart.
Recently I took his record, my genealogy sheets to a class I was teaching. I hung them all around the room consecutively and in a straight line. “Why have you hung all those papers around the room?” the boys and girls asked, a little skeptical, of course.
“Have we not been studying the effect that one act, of one person, can have on the lives of many, whether it be a good act or a bad act?”
“Yes,” they chorused. They were indeed surprised to learn that these, all these hundreds of names were the result of one act, by one man, Isaac Morley, bringing the gift of the Gospel to all these people over a hundred years ago! Of course, we have added names since then getting many from our Reorganized relatives who had started coming to our Morley reunions before they were discontinued.
What courage his wife had when the Indian Chief demanded their baby as a peace offering and symbol of trust, of his faith in their word, and to show that he trusted them.
What obedience had taught them through the past years, what pathos in the agony that those dear ones went through as they prayed for the safe return of their beautiful, brown-eyed boy! What rejoicing and thanksgiving by all when they did return him very dirty, but unharmed!
Could I, could you have given one of your dearly loved ones to a Savage, regardless of the safety and welfare of the Saints?
From then on, the Indians did keep their word to Father Morley because he had trusted them, they lost no more of their precious animals by theft and very few were taken by the Indians after this that were frozen, either, but before this time they even took those for food in this terrible winter!
They fought for their lives again in the spring. Unaware that they had dug their homes (dugouts) in a veritable rattlesnake den, or dens! Many anxious nights were spent killing these terrible, hissing enemies! They found them everywhere and as many as thirty were killed each night by each man, but not one man, woman, or child was bitten!
My great grandfather was an unassuming, but very talented man. In the book The Church in Action. it tells how fair and honest he was and how this Sanpitch family called him “Father Morley” because he was in every deed and every act a Father to them. Because of this great respect for his counsel and advice, they prospered in the face of all these tribulations! Because of their love for him, he was given the distinct privilege of naming this loved settlement and he took the name “Manti” from the Book of Mormon.
How they prospered and grew! One of the first community buildings was, of course, a schoolhouse, and many wonderful things were taught there. My gratitude goes to them and to all you who have followed after that have done things for furthering education right from the start here in our area and also in our state!
Isaac was active in all civic ways as well as being a zealous promoter of the Gospel. While serving as President of the Stake of Deseret, or the Sanpitch or Sanpete area as it is known today, he also was a member of the first Legislative Branch for this area in a State capacity and served in many other public causes for the progress of this area!
Many, many people have shown me and told me of Patriarchal blessings in their families given at his hand, and of his generosity in helping in Temple work and salvation for the dead.
Every time I enter one of these hallowed places where I know they, too, have been, I feel their presence; they forged this chain for me! Am I the weakest link? I cannot rest on their laurels! All the famous ambitious relatives in the world cannot make me someone or somebody if I have not taken the torch they so unselfishly handed me and carried it in honor! True, fine backgrounds do help, but I must finish the task I must do this for myself and help others of my own do the same!
I have tried to do this in myriad ways, but oh how little it seems when I compare it with the accomplishments of these early-day pioneers! I can try, however, by being a law-abiding citizen, an enthusiastic Latter Day Saint in “work” and deed!
I love and revere my progenitors who brought me my precious testimony of the Gospel!
These valiant ones were not all of this area; so many others could be written about both on my maternal and paternal records. The names of Bradley, Draper, Blackham, Cox, Lowry, Tuttle, and Clark are all on my records and all played important roles in this drama of Sanpete County and other Utah settlements and states!
My husband could write all this and more of his wonderful grandparents who left all and came up the Mississippi River on flatboats, burying along the way as many as did those on the cruel trek across the barren plains! His grandmother taught school with Carl G. Maeser, and much have his Livingston and Anderson descendants done for the Church and education in Utah!
This precious Gospel, brought to me over raging waters and barren waste, in loving arms outstretched, how can I, a blessed one not show my everlasting gratitude?
In a small measure, I have tried, both by trying to live for what they fought for and in trying to help others to live also!
We, my husband and I, have sent three sons into other lands to return this gift to others! That they might hear and share the joy it can bring. They have done so willingly and have honored this privilege, and their parents and grandparents, by taking this message to the world and taking their love and chosen life companions to be sealed in these Holy Temples that their “own” helped to build.
Our daughter and her husband are also carrying on these same principles in their home, he has served a mission also and did work as a worker in the London Temple for some of these very descendants.
Some of these, like my g.g.g. grandfather William Lathrop Draper, a Reverend and very prominent member of another church, had to give up country, family, and all they held dear to give me the BLESSING of living in AMERICA at this choice time!
Shall I riot and demonstrate against the things they fought and died for?
Shall I stop planning and look forward to each glad tomorrow?
No, I will look up and plan and support those who are fighting for our country and for peace. All of my sons are honored to have been in service to their beloved America, and we are proud that they did something about it instead of avoiding the obligation that their own people before them paid so dearly for. Some serve in one way, others in other branches of the military, as they did in those days too, but all are important if done in the right spirit!
I am humbly grateful for all this, and I want all of you to feel this way, too!
Yes, there are mountains to cross today, too, but can I, so blessed turn my back and say “they are insurmountable?”
We still must pioneer…, the youth of today!
We must also look up with hope for a future more wonderful than ever before!
We know your mountains are big and threatening. The wheels of progress have brought to your doors unrest, upheaval, immorality and it is a great challenge.
Can you face it with a clear eye and a glad heart? Of course, you can. Your descendants, these great people of yesterday did and we, like they, have the “WILL” to DO AND DARE! So – dare to dream and look ahead, dare to see the vision of tomorrow by being industrious and courageous, your own before you had Wars and rumors of War, too.
Dare to have faith in your God, he is not dead! He is still at the helm; we must help him to help us!
Be proud of your heritage and let us “fight the good fight,” as did they!
That is what I would call a DEMONSTRATION, if demonstrate we must!
“Oh you loved young people..you can do all this, and MORE and God will be marching at your side also!”
- Song of the Century
- Family Histories
- Utah and Her Western Setting
- D.U.P. Lessons
- Doctrine and Covenants
- Histories of Utah
- The Church in Action – Romney
- News clippings of all centennial observances, etc.
- Family publications, histories, letters, and many other sources.