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13

The Prayer of Faith

Smithfield Relief Society

Private Residence, Smithfield, Utah Territory

August 7, 1871


When Drusilla Dorris Hendricks (1810–1881) spoke at the Smithfield Relief Society in August 1871, she talked about trusting the Lord when faced with significant challenges. She spoke from many years of experience, which she recorded in her life sketch. In that sketch, she remembered that when she was a very ill ten-year-old, the doctor, a Baptist minister, prayed that she “might become a mother in Israel and do much good in [her] days, all of which [she] never forgot.”1 As new converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she and her husband, James Hendricks, joined other members in Clay County, Missouri, in May 1836.2 James was injured at the Battle of Crooked River, a skirmish between Latter-day Saint and Missouri militia forces on October 25, 1838.3 He remained paralyzed for the rest of his life, and his wife both nursed him and provided for the family.4

At one particularly distressing time, when the family was out of food, she remembered that a voice told her, “Hold on, for the Lord will provide.”5 Hendricks found different ways to support her family, including growing, making, and selling food and beverages; taking in boarders and laundry; and producing and selling gloves and mittens.6 In 1860, Hendricks and her husband followed their sons and daughters to settle in Richmond, Utah Territory, about one hundred miles north of Salt Lake City.7

Hendricks often visited her daughter Rebecca Roskelley in Smithfield, six miles south of Richmond. On August 7, 1871, they attended the Smithfield Relief Society, where her daughter was one of the founding members.8 Roskelley spoke, as did Hendricks, sharing the story of her son William volunteering for the Mormon Battalion in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1846.9 After lobbying by church leaders, the United States government had decided to enlist five hundred Latter-day Saint men for service in the Mexican-American War.10 Because her husband was severely disabled and she faced the daunting task of caring for him as well as the rest of her family in crossing the plains, Hendricks hesitated to give approval for her sixteen-year-old son to go.11 She later described how the Spirit reminded her to trust in God, who had provided for her in the past. Although the journey was difficult, the Hendricks family arrived safely in Salt Lake City, and William—after marching with the battalion from Iowa to California—reached the Salt Lake Valley ten days later. Hendricks added, “The hand of the Lord was in it; I have seen it since.”12

Sister Drusilla Hendricks, a visitor from Richmond, arose and addressed the meeting: Would rather sit and listen to her sisters but was always willing to bear her testimony to the truth and offer a cheering word; felt the necessity of living so as to have the prayer of faith continually in her heart; had realized the importance of it in past days; had worked day and night to support her family and pay her tithing when there was nothing else to sustain her but the prayer of faith and the consolation given in answer to it.13

After her husband was shot down in Missouri and then dragged about by the merciless mob when unable to help himself,14 and they were driven from their home, when a call was made for volunteers to go in the Battalion she was so indignant at the way in which the Mormons had been treated she said her boy could not go, and kept him from making any preparations until the morning the company was to start.15 Then, as she watched him go into the tall, wet grass which surrounded their encampment, to bring up the cow, the thought occurred to her, how easily he might be taken from her by death occasioned by the exposures and hardships he had to encounter remaining with her16—and then, how she should meditate, had he gone in the Battalion it might not have been! But again the feeling returned, “I cannot let him go!” Then came a peculiar sensation and it was as though a voice said to her, “Do you not want the highest glory?” She answered naturally, “Yes,” and the voice continued, “How do you think to gain it save by making the greatest sacrifices?” She questioned—“Lord, what lack I yet?”17 “Let the son go in the Battalion,” was the answer received, but she argued, “It is too late now, they are starting—and besides, he is too young and not able to carry arms.” Her heart was greatly disturbed.

James and Drusilla D. Hendricks with toddler

James and Drusilla D. Hendricks with a grandchild. Circa 1852. Drusilla Hendricks was an early proponent of the Relief Society. She reminisced that before the Relief Society was organized in Nauvoo, she dreamed that women were holding meetings and keeping records of their work. Hendricks joined the Nauvoo Relief Society on April 14, 1842, and was appointed to a visiting committee in the Second Ward in Nauvoo. (Photograph in family possession.)

Presently her boy came with the cow, and soon after came a man crying, “Turn out and volunteer to go in the Battalion—we lack a number of men yet, but we do not wish to press anyone.”18 She wanted her cow for a screen just then, and taking a bucket she knelt by the cow as if to milk, but in reality to pray. Her prayer was, “Lord, if you want my son, take him, only let him be restored to me again as was the son of Abraham,” and the answer came in spirit—“So shall it be, even as thou hast said.”19 She arose and with the help of some of her neighbors quickly prepared her boy and sent him from her with the firm conviction that God would be as good as his word and restore her son to her again. During his absence it was her constant labor to pray for him, and he was restored to her as a recompense for her faithfulness.20 So it will be with us all; we have to make sacrifices, but if done in meekness, with an eye single to the glory of God, we will never fail to reap a rich reward.21

Footnotes

  1. [1]Her illness continued for at least two years and perhaps longer. (Drusilla Dorris Hendricks, “Historical Sketch of James Hendricks and Drusilla Dorris Hendricks,” typescript, 1877, 2, CHL.)

  2. [2]Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 9; “Died,” Deseret News, July 20, 1870.

  3. [3]Alexander L. Baugh, A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2000), 99–113.

  4. [4]James Hendricks progressed to where he could hold things in one of his hands and walk short distances with the assistance of others or with a cane. He passed away on July 8, 1870, after a long sickness. (Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 11–21; “Died.”)

  5. [5]Neighbors and friends often helped the Hendricks family. Hendricks remembered, “I have just found out how the widow’s crust and barrel held out through the famine. … Just as it was out, someone was sent to fill it.” (Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 14–16.)

  6. [6]Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 15.

  7. [7]Of their five children, four settled in Cache Valley, Utah Territory, and one passed away before the family moved to Cache Valley. (Richmond Branch, Cache Stake, manuscript history, typescript, 1860, CHL; Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 21.)

  8. [8]Smithfield Branch, Cache Stake, Relief Society Minutes, vol. 1, 1868–1878, May 13, 1868, 2, CHL.

  9. [9]Smithfield Branch Relief Society Minutes, Aug. 7, 1871, 98–99.

  10. [10]The Mormon Battalion served from July 1846 to July 1847 but never saw battle. (See Larry C. Porter, Clark V. Johnson, and Susan Easton Black, “Mormon Battalion,” in Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, ed. Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000], 783–785; and Larry C. Porter, “The Church and the Mexican-American War,” in Nineteenth-Century Saints at War, ed. Robert C. Freeman [Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2006], 41–76.)

  11. [11]William Hendricks was one of the youngest members of the Mormon Battalion. (Martha Hendricks Aylworth, “A Sketch of the Life of William Dorris Hendricks,” typescript, n.d., 1, CHL; Tim Vitale, “William Dorris Hendricks,” Portraits in Time: Notes from Cache Valley’s Pioneer Past [Logan, UT: Logan Herald Journal, 1997], 58.)

  12. [12]Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 17–19.

  13. [13]Hendricks recounted paying tithing by making gloves and mittens. With the family’s yoke of cattle, her son William also “hauled rock for the temple to pay our tithing.” (Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 15.)

  14. [14]In a later reminiscence, Hendricks wrote of her husband, “He was a martyr for the cause of truth. … He often wanted the brethren to lay hands on him to ease him from pain.” (Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 11–12, 21.)

  15. [15]Brigham Young supported the raising of the Mormon Battalion in hopes of receiving financial assistance needed to cross the plains and to demonstrate loyalty to the United States. However, many rank-and-file Latter-day Saints viewed the battalion with considerable suspicion and believed it was a conspiracy to further persecute them. (Porter, “The Church and the Mexican-American War,” 43–44, 51–52; Matthew J. Grow, “Liberty to the Downtrodden”: Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009], 58.)

  16. [16]In her reminiscence, Hendricks wrote of this experience, “My eyes followed as he started through the tall heavy grass wet with dew. I thought how easy something might happen, for that was a sickly climate.” (Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 18.)

  17. [17]See Matthew 19:20.

  18. [18]Hendricks remembered, “William raised his eyes and looked me in the face. I knew then that he would go as well as I know now that he has been. I could not swallow one bite of breakfast but I waited on the rest thinking I might never have my family all together again. I had no photograph of him, but I took one in my mind and said to myself, If I never see you again until the morning of the Resurrection, I shall know you are my child.” (Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 18.)

  19. [19]Hendricks wrote, “I thought the cows would be shelter for me, and I knelt down and told the Lord if he wanted my child to take him, only spare his life and let him be restored to me and to the bosom of the church. I felt it was all I could do. Then the voice that talked with me in the morning answered me, saying, ‘It shall be done unto you as it was unto Abraham when he offered Isaac on the altar.’ I don’t know whether I milked or not, for I felt the Lord had spoken to me. … I don’t think that Abraham felt any worse than we did; I cannot tell the hardships we endured by his going. … We bore it with the patience of Job.” (Hendricks, “Historical Sketch,” 18–19; see also Genesis 22:1–13.)

  20. [20]Martha Hendricks Aylworth, William Hendricks’s daughter, wrote about how while on duty, her father “thought of his mother’s parting words, ‘Son, if you are ever in trouble, kneel down and ask the Lord for help.’ He knelt down and prayed earnestly for deliverance.” (Aylworth, “Sketch of the Life of William Dorris Hendricks,” 1.)

  21. [21]See Doctrine and Covenants 4:5; 82:19.