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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.