The faith of Catherine and Orson Spencer
One such was Catherine Spencer. When she joined the Church, her parents became embittered and angry, disowning her and refusing to allow her to ever return to their home or even to correspond with them. During the Saints’ final days in Nauvoo, Catherine became extremely ill. Fearing that she would not be able to survive the difficult journey west, her husband Orson Spencer wrote to her parents asking if they would not take her back into their home and nurse her back to health and care for her until Orson could establish a home in the west with the Church. No answer came to this heartfelt plea.
At last the time arrived for the Spencers to leave Nauvoo. A bed was made for Catherine in Orson’s wagon. As they traveled in the miserable conditions of March 1846, Catherine became sicker and increasingly weak. About five days out from Sugar Camp, they encountered a torrential freezing rainstorm that poured down through the canvas that covered their wagon. It was apparent that Catherine was failing fast. At this discouraging moment a messenger with the latest mail that had earlier arrived at Nauvoo found the couple. In his hand was a letter from Catherine’s parents. In the letter they expressed no interest in allowing her to come home or in caring for her unless, as they declared, she “renounce her degrading faith, and she can come back, but never until she does.” Without a murmur or complaint, the letter was folded up and put away, and Catherine asked Orson to get his Bible and read to her Ruth 1:16:
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
As Orson finished reading this passage, a calm, peaceful smile spread over Catherine’s face as she closed her eyes and lapsed into the quiet sleep of death. 1
When Orson finally made it to Winter Quarters, he received a mission call to Great Britain, and the decision was made that he should fulfill that mission. He left his children under the care of his oldest children, with a promise that the neighbors also would look out for them. He left his six children in these rough circumstances in Winter Quarters after he built them a small dwelling and in October of 1846 he departed for Liverpool, England. He presided over the LDS British Mission and served as the editor of the Millennial Star for about two years. During this time he corresponded with a Reverend Mr. Crowel, and these letters were later published. His work was not completed when his term of service was up, so LDS President Brigham Young asked him to extend his mission. In the meantime, his six children, aided by others, had made their way across the plains and settled in the Salt Lake Valley, living in a dirt dugout. He was reunited with his children in 1849.
His daughter, Mrs. Aurelia Spencer-Rogers was the founder of the Latter-day Saints primary Association in 1878 at the age of 44 with 12 children of her own.
1. Nicholas G. Morgan, “And Thus History Was Made,” Improvement Era, July 1940, p. 399. See also: Thomas S. Monson, Be Thou An Example, Conference Report, October 2001.