The Church Historian's Press The Church Historian's Press

19

The Power of Prayer

Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association

Salt Lake City, Utah Territory

February 1, 1882


Ellenor Georgina Reed Jones (1832–1922) taught the young women of the Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward about the power of prayer in 1882. Not much is known about her personal life. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, she was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, by 1850.1 By 1860 she had married Berry Jones and moved to San Mateo, California, where they had three children.2 After Berry’s death in 1863, Ellenor Jones married Hugh Jones in San Francisco in 1865.3 They separated after they had two children, and Hugh died in 1893.4 She traveled back and forth between California and Utah from 1870 through the 1890s; a San Francisco city directory in 1873 listed her as a widow.5 She died in Redding, California, in 1922.6

Born into a multiracial family and raised in the South at the height of slavery and hostility toward free blacks, Jones likely experienced racial prejudice. Census records indicate that her mother, Mary Jones, was born in Kentucky, and that Mary’s spouse, Thomas Jones, from Virginia, was “black.” Ellenor Jones, her mother, and her brothers and sisters—who were born in Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee—are listed on the census as “mulatto.”7 Later, in Utah and in California, Jones was registered as white in the census. No mention is made of Jones’s multiracial heritage in Utah or Mormon records, which is especially significant at a time of the Civil War, racial unrest, and the church’s ban on priesthood ordination for black men and temple admittance for black women and men.8

The traces Jones left in the historical record indicate that she was a devoted Latter-day Saint. She and her family became acquainted with the church in Tennessee in the 1840s. Her older sister, Margaret, was baptized in 1842, and Jones followed in 1844. Jones was endowed in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City in 1869, and she lived in the Eleventh Ward.9 She corresponded with Brigham Young in 1875, hoping to visit with him before she returned once more to California. She commented in a Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA) meeting about living among people of other faiths in California.10 All four of her living children appeared in ward records. She and her children donated money for the construction of the Salt Lake temple in 1892.11 Jones performed temple work for and with members of her family in the Logan temple in the 1880s and 1890s, when temple worship was denied to people of African descent.12

Jones wrote an article for her ward’s YLMIA manuscript newspaper, the Improvement Star.13 Several ward organizations produced manuscript newspapers, which were composed, edited, handwritten—often by different people for each issue—and then read aloud and discussed. At the Eleventh Ward YLMIA weekly meetings, the young women and their leaders would read lessons, talks, and editorials from the Improvement Star and the Juvenile Instructor, as well as chapters from the scriptures.14 YLMIA president Mary Ann Freeze encouraged those in attendance to both write for and read the paper.15 This article was read in a YLMIA meeting and then published by the Woman’s Exponent on February 1, 1882. While Jones’s discourse does not offer biographical information, her teaching on the principle of prayer suggests a trusting relationship with God and a profound connection to the divine in a tenuous world.

Prayer is the key that will unlock the statehouse of knowledge.16

It is the foundation rock of every Christian’s life; and we can safely say that there is no one that can attain to a position of usefulness in the kingdom of God without knowledge.

We learn that our Savior, whom we should all choose as our pattern, prayed often, and in the gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 22, verses 39 and 40, after he had administered the last supper to his apostles, we read: “And he came out and went, as was his wont, to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples also followed him; and when he was at the place he said unto them, ‘Pray, that ye enter not into temptation.’”17

We learn from these few words spoken by our Savior that prayer is also a safeguard that will withhold us in the hour of temptation from doing evil.

Through prayer, our faith is strengthened and our powers of comprehension are quickened, and we receive power to discern good from evil.

Through prayer, we are led to search for truth, and learn to love and keep the laws of righteousness, laid down in his church and kingdom, through which we may be brought back into the holy and divine presence of our God.

Through prayer, the windows of heaven unclose, and blessings are showered down upon our heads and upon those we love and pray for.18

Through prayer, the darkness that had hovered over this earth for ages burst, and the light of everlasting truth shone forth; for it was while Joseph Smith, then but a boy, was praying to God to know which of all the different doctrines that he had heard preached was true, that truth was revealed, that those who lived in the days of Joseph, the Prophet, should know the truth, and for generations to come.

If you will read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and other good books, you will learn that all good and great people were those who prayed to God, for it is the only way to become good and great. And, my young friends, it is well for you to remember, while traveling on this journey of life, that there is no prison so dark, no pit so deep, no expanse so broad, that the Spirit of God cannot enter; and when all other privileges are denied us, we can pray, and God will hear us.19 No one can take this from us. But remember it is a most precious gift, it is something that must be cultivated; and when the still, small voice whispers, “Go and pray,” you must obey; for if you do not, the Spirit will be grieved, and the voice in time becomes silent.

Should you at any time find yourself overwhelmed with disappointment and sorrow, remember that although your prayers may be like the wailings of the most feeble infant, God, being more loving than the most tender mother, will hear and answer you.20 But we cannot say that he will always answer according to the desires of your mind; but in his great wisdom he sees and knows what is for your best good and will answer according to his wisdom.

To the young we will say, be prayerful; ask God to inspire your hearts with noble aspirations and to help you become good and great in his church and kingdom. And when you are done with this life, may you find that spirit of peace which was with our Lord when he appeared to his disciples, after the resurrection, when he spoke those sweet words, “Peace be unto you.”21

May God give you his Spirit, that you may seek unto him, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus, amen.

Footnotes

  1. [1]Ellen Jones, 1850 U.S. Census, Cincinnati Ward 4, Hamilton Co., OH. The members of the family are listed as “free inhabitants.” (Eleventh Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Record of Members, “Temple Donations Paid from April 1st 1892 to the Dedication of the Temple,” CHL; Death Certificate, Redding, Shasta Co., CA, Mar. 21, 1922.)

  2. [2]Ellen Jones, 1860 U.S. Census, Township 1, San Mateo Co., CA; Deeds, San Mateo, CA, Aug. 3, 1869, 10:358–365. Their third son, Joseph M. Jones, died in 1869 at the age of four in San Francisco. (California, San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, N. Gray and Co., Register, 1863–1878, 286, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.)

  3. [3]“Married,” Sacramento Daily Union, Nov. 20, 1865. It is unknown whether there was any relation between Berry Jones and Hugh Stevenson Jones. Ellenor Jones was a woman of some financial means. She acted as the administrator of her first husband’s estate, which was worth between six and ten thousand dollars. (“[Untitled],” Daily Alta California, Aug. 9, 1866; Deeds, San Mateo Co., CA, Aug. 3, 1869, 10:358–365; Nov. 27, 1872, 18:334–336; Apr. 5, 1875, 24:400–401; Oct. 10, 1882, 34:589–591.)

  4. [4]“H. S. Jones 1832–1893,” Gravestone, Gavilan Hills Memorial Park, Gilroy, CA; Ellinor Jones, 1870 U.S. Census, Salt Lake City Ward 13, Salt Lake Co., Utah Territory; Elenor Jones, 1880 U.S. Census, Salt Lake City Ward 11, Salt Lake Co., Utah Territory; Hugh S. Jones, 1880 U.S. Census, Gilroy, Santa Clara Co., CA.

  5. [5]Ellinor Jones, 1870 U.S. Census, Salt Lake City Ward 13, Salt Lake Co., Utah Territory; Elenor Jones, 1880 U.S. Census, Salt Lake City Ward 11, Salt Lake Co., Utah Territory. Eleanor G. Jones is listed as a widow in the San Francisco Directory, 1873 (San Francisco: Henry G. Langley, 1873), 333.

  6. [6]California, Death Index, 1905–1939, Surnames E–L, 5503; Death Certificate.

  7. [7]Thomas Jones, 1880 U.S. Census, New Jasper, Greene Co., OH. The 1850 U.S. Census lists Ellenor and her siblings, as well as their mother, listed as Maria Jones, as “mulatto.” One of Ellenor’s sisters married a “free colored” man. (Ellen Jones, 1850 U.S. Census, Cincinnati Ward 4, Hamilton Co., OH; Jesse Beckley, 1840 U.S. Census, Alexandria, Alexandria Co., District of Columbia; Jesse Beckley, 1850 U.S. Census, Cincinnati Ward 4, Hamilton Co., OH.)

  8. [8]W. Paul Reeve, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 140–170.

  9. [9]Endowment House, Endowments of the Living, vol. G, 1868–1872, Eleanor Georgina Jones, Sept. 6, 1869, 109, microfilm 1,239,501, FHL; Endowment House, Endowments of the Living, vol. H, 1872–1878, Margaret Elizabeth Reed Beckley, Nov. 29, 1877, 385, microfilm 183,407, FHL.

  10. [10]Ellenor G. Jones to Brigham Young, Nov. 1, 1875, Brigham Young Incoming Correspondence, 1839–1877, CHL; Eleventh Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association Minutes and Records, vol. 2, 1878–1889, Aug. 1, 1881, 219, CHL.

  11. [11]Eleventh Ward Record of Members.

  12. [12]In 1896 Jones was proxy in the sealing of her second husband, Hugh Stevenson Jones, to his first wife. In 1898, Jones’s daughter was proxy in the sealing of Jones’s first husband, Berry Jones, to his first wife. In 1885 Jones was proxy for her mother’s temple work. Jones was sealed in the Endowment House on September 15, 1869, to Bishop Alexander McRae of the Salt Lake City Eleventh Ward, becoming his third wife, but she never took his name nor did they live together or have children. (Logan Temple, Sealings for the Dead, vol. E, 1896–1903, Hugh Stevenson Jones and Mary Francis Blain, Oct. 2, 1896, 21, and Berry Jones and Mary Stevenson Jones, Jan. 19, 1898, 101, microfilm 178,064, FHL; Logan Temple, Endowments for the Dead, vol. A, 1884–1885, Maria Maxwell, Mar. 4, 1885, 367, microfilm 177,955, FHL; Endowment House, Sealings of the Living, vol. F, 1869–1870, Alexander McRae and Eleanor Georgena Jones, Sept. 15, 1869, 19, microfilm 1,149,515, FHL.)

  13. [13]This issue was edited by Gertie Sampson. On February 2, 1882, Sampson and other sisters read from the Improvement Star, and YLMIA president Mary Ann Freeze “said the last article read was very significant, and it contained a good moral. Said, ‘I do not think the Lord will hear and answer our prayers unless our lives accord with them.’” (Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, Feb. 2, 1882, 243.)

  14. [14]See Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, Jan. 22, 1882, 242.

  15. [15]Freeze said “she was pleased with the paper, for it contained many good maxims. We should sustain our paper and write for it. We are hearing good things day after day, and if we do not improve it is not for the want of knowing better.” (Eleventh Ward YWMIA Minutes and Records, Jan. 16, 1882, 241; see also Dec. 19, 1881, 238.)

  16. [16]A state house is “a building in which the governing body or legislative assembly of a nation meets.” (Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “state house.”)

  17. [17]See also Mark 14:38.

  18. [18]See Malachi 3:10.

  19. [19]See Doctrine and Covenants 122:6–9.

  20. [20]See Isaiah 49:15; 66:13.

  21. [21]Luke 24:36.