Reprinted from Our Pioneer Heritage, 18 (1975), 160-161
Imagine what Christmas was like back in the days of the early Saints. For pioneers, Christmas in the depths of harsh winters was unfortunately not often a time of plenty Yet memories of those early Christmas holidays, some as simple as a dance, a word of gratitude, or a small gift of sweets, have been passed down through families to this day The Mystery of the Missing Molasses is one such story.
One December evening some of the sisters of Orderville met to plan a Christmas treat for the children. The Order had no luxuries and necessities were strictly rationed. About the only sweets the people had was molasses, so, the sisters decided to make molasses candy and cookies for the youngsters.
But on Christmas Eve, they came to “Grandmother Spencer,” wife of Howard Orson Spencer, bishop and leader in Orderville, with the news that the brother in charge of the molasses “won’t let us have any. He says our allowance for the month is already used.” Grandmother’s lips tightened. “The children are going to have something for Christmas. I’ll speak to my husband after dinner—he’ll give us permission.”
When her husband came in tired and hungry. Sister Spencer hovered over her husband. Then after dinner urged him to rest by the fire. As he sat looking drowsily into the flames, she said in a low voice,
“You do think the children should have some candy and cookies for Christmas, don’t you Howard?” “Ummmhmmm,” was the sleepy response, and grandmother went away smiling. She reported to the ladies that everything was all right, “My husband has given us permission.” “Did he say we could have the molasses?” asked one doubting Thomas. “He didn’t say ‘No,'” replied Sister Spencer truthfully.
“Now we won’t wake up the brother in charge of the molasses. We’ll just slip out and take what we need.”
The man in charge of the molasses barrel was very conscious of his responsibility. On the lid of the barrel he had placed a section of heavy logging chain and a large boulder. Only a thin wooden partition at the head of the bed separated him from the barrel outside, and he was a light sleeper. Shivering from the cold the women crunched through the snow toward the barrel. It was beginning to snow again and the night was very dark.
With infinite caution they removed the heavy chain without so much as one betraying clank. It took the combined efforts of all the women to lower the boulder noiselessly to the ground. There was a breathless pause as Sister Spencer raised the lid and dipped into the barrel with a saucepan. She emptied its contents into a bucket and dipped again, and again. “We have enough now,” whispered one of the women. “Let’s go back.” With the same caution the chain and boulder were replaced and the women filed back to the warm kitchen to make the Christmas goodies. But, there was a dismayed gasp when they looked into the pail. “Oh dear, we haven’t enough molasses. We’ll have to get some more.” “Oh no. Sister Spencer. It’s cold and dark. It’s too risky.”
“Well, just the same, we must unless we want the children to be disappointed.”
There could only be one answer to such a statement and the little band of mothers went again to the molasses barrel. They returned safely and set to work. When morning came, every child in Orderville had two molasses cookies and one big slightly sticky lump of candy in his stocking. Santa Claus had not forgotten them. Grandfather insisted all his life that he could not remember ever having given the women permission to get the molasses.