There are so many ways to teach John 14. I like to emphasize the importance of the Holy Ghost in the lives of Latter-day Saint youth.
John 14:15–26 and 16:7–14 emphasize that the First Comforter is the Holy Ghost, who gives comfort and peace, teaches, testifies, reminds us of the Lord’s teachings, and reproves sinners. The Second Comforter is Jesus Christ, who will one day reveal Himself to those who love and serve Him. With respect to the First Comforter, the following thought helps students see how the Holy Ghost impacts their thoughts, actions, feelings, and attitudes:
So then the Holy Spirit is the person through whom there comes to us the strength and grace of God to enable us to cope with life. Certainly, part of this work is to comfort, but only part. To call the Holy Spirit the Comforter, and to stop there, is to have a limited and rather sentimental view of the Spirit, whereas in the Greek the word is full of power and of the promise of the God-given ability to face and to master any situation in life.
How then did this word Comforter get into the English translation of the Bible? It came in with Wycliffe about 1386, and it has stayed ever since. But in the days of Wycliffe it was a perfect translation. The word comfort is derived from the Latin word fortis, which means brave, and originally the word meant someone who puts courage into you. Let us take two other examples of it in Wycliffe. Wycliffe translates Ephesians 6:10 as, “Be ye comforted in the Lord.” And he translates 1 Timothy 1:12, “I do thanksgiving to him who comforted me.” In both cases the word in the Greek is endunamoun, whose root word is dunamis, power, from which the word dynamite comes. In Wycliffe’s day to comfort a person was to fill that person with a power like spiritual dynamite. The Holy Spirit does not simply come and wipe our tears away; he gives us a dynamic power to cope with life. 1
I like the stories of great women filled with this spiritual dynamite. One story has to do with Mary Fielding Smith. She worked diligently to come across the plains with the Saints after the death of her husband Hyrum. Her story is told by Susan Easton Black in a devotional here.
Another great illustration of a woman in Church history demonstrating this dynamic spiritual strength is Amanda Barnes Smith. Amanda faced incredible challenges when her son and husband were murdered by a mob in Missouri at Haun’s Mill in what historians now refer to as the Haun’s Mill Massacre. Amanda’s experience with the Holy Ghost during this trial shows the range, power, and depth of the ability of the Holy Ghost to strengthen, comfort, direct, and motivate us to meet the challenges that life throws in our path. I shared portions of her story in class.
Amanda Barnes Smith
Amanda Smith, a woman of great faith and a survivor of the Haun’s Mill massacre, was born Feb. 22, 1809, in the town of Becket, Beckshire county, Mass., daughter of Ezekiel and Fannie Barnes. While she was but a young girl she moved with her parents to Ohio, and married at the age of 18 years. She was a member of the Campbellite church, together with Sidney Rigdon and others, until she heard the fulness of the gospel preached. When 22 years of age she was baptized by Elder Orson Hyde into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 1, 1831, the Church being then not quite one year old. Soon afterwards she moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where she assisted in building the Temple, and in 1838, with her husband and family and many others, she was forced to leave that place, on account of mob violence. They wended their way to Missouri, leaving all their property, except what they could take in a wagon with two horses.
The following interesting narrative is from “The Women of Mormondom,” (1877) by Edward W. Tullidge, as written by Amanda Smith: “We sold our beautiful home in Kirtland for a song, and traveled all summer to Missouri-our teams poor, and with hardly enough to keep body and soul together. We arrived in Caldwell county, near Haun’s Mill, nine wagons of us in company. Two days before we arrived we were taken prisoners by an armed mob that had demanded every bit of ammunition and every weapon we had. We surrendered all. They knew it, for they searched our wagons. A few miles more brought us to Haun’s Mill… My husband pitched his tent by a blacksmith’s shop. Bro. David Evans made a treaty with the mob that they would not molest us. He came just before the massacre and called the company together and they knelt in prayer. I sat in my tent. Looking up I suddenly saw the mob coming-the same that took away our weapons. They came like so many demons or wild Indians. Before I could get to the blacksmith’s shop door to alarm the brethren, who were at prayers, the bullets were whistling amongst them. I seized my two little girls and escaped across the mill-pond on a slab-walk. Another sister fled with me. Yet though we were women, with tender children, in flight for our lives, the demons poured volley after volley to kill us. A number of bullets entered my clothes, but I was not wounded. The sister, however, who was with me, cried out that she was hit. We had just reached the trunk of a fallen tree, over which I urged her, bidding her to shelter there where the bullets could not reach her, while I continued my flight to some bottom land.
When the firing had ceased I went back to the scene of the massacre, for there were my husband and three sons, of whose fate I as yet knew nothing. As I returned I found the sister in a pool of blood where she had fainted, but she was only shot through the hand. Farther on was lying dead Bro. McBride, an aged white-haired revolutionary soldier. His murderer had literally cut him to pieces with an old corn-cutter. His hands had been split down when he raised them in supplication for mercy. Then the monster cleft open his head with the same weapon, and the veteran who had fought for his country, in the glorious days of the past, was numbered with the martyrs. Passing on I came to a scene more terrible still to the mother and wife. Emerging from the blacksmith shop was my eldest son, bearing on his shoulders his little brother Alma. ‘Oh! my Alma is dead!’ I cried, in anguish. ‘No, mother; I think Alma is not dead. But father and brother Sardius are killed!’ What an answer was this to appall me! My husband and son murdered; another little son seemingly mortally wounded; and perhaps before the dreadful night should pass the murderers would return and complete their work! But I could not weep then. The fountain of tears was dry; the heart overburdened with its calamity, and all the mother’s sense absorbed in its anxiety for the precious boy which God alone could save by his miraculous aid. The entire hip joint of my wounded boy had been shot away. Flesh, hip bone, joint and all had been ploughed out from the muzzle of the gun, which the ruffian placed to the child’s hip through the logs of the shop and deliberately fired. We laid little Alma on a bed in our tent and I examined the wound. It was a ghastly sight. I knew not what to do. It was night now. There were none left from that terrible scene, throughout that long, dark night, but about half a dozen bereaved and lamenting women, and the children. Eighteen or nineteen, all grown men excepting my murdered boy and another about the same age, were dead or dying; several more of the men were wounded, hiding away, whose groans through the night too well disclosed their hiding places, while the rest of the men had fled, at the moment of the massacre, to save their lives.
The women were sobbing, in the greatest anguish of spirit; the children were crying loudly with fear and grief at the loss of fathers and brothers; the dogs howled over their dead masters and the cattle were terrified with the scent of the blood of the murdered. Yet was I there, all that long, dreadful night, with my dead and my wounded, and none but God as our physician and help. ‘Oh my Heavenly Father,’ I cried, ‘what shall I do? Thou seest my poor wounded boy and knowest my inexperience. Oh, Heavenly Father, direct me what to do!’ And then I was directed as by a voice speaking to me. The ashes of our fire was still smouldering. We had been burning the bark of the shag-bark hickory. I was directed to take those ashes and make a lye and put a cloth saturated with it right into the wound. It hurt, but little Alma was too near dead to heed it much. Again and again I saturated the cloth and put it into the hole from which the hip joint had been ploughed, and each time mashed flesh and splinters of bone came away with the cloth; and the wound became as white as chicken’s flesh. Having done as directed I again prayed to the Lord and was again instructed as distinctly as though a physician had been standing by speaking to me. Near by was a slippery-elm tree. From this I was told to make a slippery-elm poultice and fill the wound with it. My eldest boy was sent to get the slippery-elm from the roots, the poultice was made, and the wound, which took fully a quarter of a yard of linen to cover, so large was it, was properly dressed. It was then I found vent to my feelings in tears, and resigned myself to the anguish of the hour. And all that night we, a few poor, stricken women, were thus left there with our dead and wounded. All through the night we heard the groans of the dying.
Once in the dark we crawled over the heap of dead in the blacksmith’s shop to try to help or soothe the sufferers’ wants; once we followed the cries of a wounded brother who hid in some bushes from the murderers, and relieved him all we could. It has passed from my memory whether he was dead in the morning or whether he recovered. Next morning brother Joseph Young came to the scene of the massacre. ‘What shall be done with the dead?’ he inquired, in horror and deep trouble. There was not time to bury them, for the mob was coming on us. Neither were there left men to dig the graves. All the men excepting the two or three who had so narrowly escaped were dead or wounded. It had been no battle, but a massacre indeed… My murdered son was left unburied. ‘Oh! they have left my Sardius unburied in the sun,’ I cried, and ran and got a sheet and covered his body. There he lay until the next day, and then I, his mother, assisted by his elder brother, had to throw him into the well. Straw and earth were thrown into this rude vault to cover the dead.
I stole down to a corn field, and crawled into a stalk of corn.’ It was as the temple of the Lord to me at that moment. I prayed aloud and most fervently. When I emerged from the corn a voice spoke to me. It was a voice as plain as I ever hear one. It was no silent, strong impression of the spirit, but a voice, repeating a verse of the Saint’s hymn:
That soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I cannot, I will not, desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
From that moment I had no more fear. I felt that nothing could hurt me. Soon after this the mob sent us word that unless we were all out of the State by a certain day we should be killed. The day came, and at evening came fifty armed men to execute the sentence. I met them at the door. They demanded of me why I was not gone? I bade them enter and see their own work. They crowded into my room and I showed them my wounded boy. They came, party after party, until all had seen my excuse. Then they quarreled among themselves and came near fighting. At last they went away, all but two. These I thought were detailed to kill us. Then the two returned. ‘Madam,’ said one, ‘have you any meat in the house?’ ‘No,’ was my reply. ‘Could you dress a fat hog if one was laid at your door?’ ‘I think we could!” was my answer. And then they went and caught a fat hog from a herd which had belonged to a now exiled brother, killed it and dragged it to my door, and departed. These men, who had come to murder us, left on the threshold of our door a meat offering to atone for their repented intention. Yet even when my son was well I could not leave the State, now accursed indeed to the Saints. The mob had taken my horses, as they had the drove of horses, and the beeves, and the hogs, and wagons, and the tents, of the murdered and exiled. So I went down into Daviess county (ten miles) to Captain Comstock, and demanded of him my horses. There was one of them in his yard. He said I could have it if I paid five dollars for its keep. I told him I had no money. I did not fear the captain of the mob, for I had the Lord’s promise that nothing should hurt me. But his wife swore that the mobbers were fools for not killing the women and children as well as the men-declaring that we would breed up a pack ten times worse than the first.’ I left without the captain’s permission to take my horse, or giving pay for its keep; but I went into his yard and took it, and returned to our refuge unmolested. Learning that my other horse was at the mill, I next yoked up a pair of steers to a sled and went and demanded it also. Comstock was there at the mill. He gave me the horse, and then asked if I had any flour. ‘No; we have had none for weeks.’ He then gave me about fifty pounds of flour and some beef, and filled a can with honey. But the mill, and the slaughtered beeves which hung plentifully on its walls, and the stock of flour and honey, and abundant spoil besides, had all belonged to the murdered or exiled Saints. Yet was I thus providentially, by the very murderers and mobocrats themselves, helped out of the State of Missouri. The Lord had kept his word. The soul who on Jesus had leaned for succor had not been forsaken even in this terrible hour of massacre, and in that infamous extermination of the “Mormons’ from Missouri in the years 1838-39…
She came to Utah in 1850, and resided continuously in Salt Lake City, until a few months before her death, when she, having become too feeble to live alone, went to Richmond, Cache county, to live with her daughter Alvira Hendricks, where she died June 30, 1886, being 77 years 4 months and 8 days old… She passed quietly away, surrounded by children, many relatives and friends. Sister Smith was the mother of eight children, six of whom were living at the time of her death, sixty-seven grandchildren and thirty-two great-grandchildren. Amanda Smith was beloved by all who knew her good works and sterling qualities. She was ever unflinching and firm in her faith in the gospel, and rejoiced to see her children emulate her good works. 2
1. Introducing the Bible, 117 as quoted in Nielsen, Donna, Beloved Bridegroom, p.123-124.
2. Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 vols. Salt Lake City, p. 792. See also Edward Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom, 1877, chapter 15 -p. 116-132.