July 25, 2011
Mary and Caroline Rollins Save the Book of Commandments
Today my story is one you may have heard before. Mary Elizabeth Rollins and her sister Caroline were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints early on. They lived in Jackson County, Missouri in 1833 when the church was headquartered there, and Joseph Smith was receiving revelations, writing them down so that they could be published. But relations with the non-members in the area were strained. Mary and Caroline saw homes burned and people tarred and feathered by angry mobs. Usually there was nothing they could do about the terrible things that were happening around them.
The day that the mobs attacked the printing press was different. Mary had seen the large sheets of paper that, upon folding, sewing and cutting, would become the Book of Commandments. When she saw the printing press thrown out into the street and sheets of paper with it, she knew what she should do.
Mary wrote, “My sister Caroline and myself were in a corner of a fence watching them; when they spoke of the commandments I was determined to have some of them. Sister said if I went to get any of them she would go too, but said "They will kill us." While their backs were turned, prying out the gable end of the house, we went, and got our arms full, and were turning away, when some of the mob saw us and called on us to stop, but we ran as fast as we could. Two of them started after us. Seeing a gap in a fence, we entered into a large cornfield, laid the papers on the ground, and hid them with our persons. The corn was from five to six feet high, and very thick; they hunted around considerable, and came very near us but did not find us.”
The girls risked their lives but saved what would later become part of the Doctrine and Covenants. Some say that it was the first half—from Section 1 to 64. Part of the saved papers were made into two little books and presented to Mary and Caroline as a token of gratitude for what they had done. Had they not rescued these pages, we might not have half of the Doctrine and Covenants today.
Saving the pages took courage and faith in God, that God would protect them and help them succeed. Sometimes we forget to rely on Heavenly Father for help when we can’t do any more ourselves to make things go right. I’m glad these two girls did!
Story found at: Gospel Art Picture Kit, Picture 409, “Saving the Book of Commandments” explanation on back
Autobiography of Mary E. Lightner (1818-1913) "Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner," The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 17 (July 1926):193-205, 250- found at http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/MLightner.html