The month of July is a very special and reflective time for me. We are blessed to live in this land of freedom to worship how, where or what we may. The flag and the flag colors are very meaningful to me. In fact, I always say that my favorite color is red, white and blue. This weekend is the 162nd anniversary of the Saints entering the Salt Lake Valley. I was given an assignment to speak in Church today about this event. As I was researching and reading about the early saints, I was drawn to our Great Grandfather, John Bell Bennett, Senior’s history . This story is amazing.
John Bell Bennett, tenth-child and the sixth son of William J. and Elizabeth Bell Bennett was born in Shelby County, Illinois (May 16, 1830), a month after the church was organized in New York State. By the time his youngest sister, Nancy Ellen was born, July 4, 1833, the family was back in Shelbyville, Bedford County, Tennessee, where they had lived since 1826. His seven oldest brothers and sisters were born in Sumner County, Tennessee.
Baptism records reveal that William joined the Church in 1835, with Elizabeth, his wife, following in 1839. Of their children, Thomas was baptized in 1839, age 23, Hiram joined in 1842 at the age of 19; Martha in 1843, age 17, and Nancy Ellen in 1844 at age 11. John was baptized at age 20 after the death of his father during the time the family was enroute from Nauvoo to Utah.
John told his sons of a pleasant encounter with the Prophet Joseph. The Bennett’s were living in Nauvoo or in that neighborhood. John, who would be in his early teens, and a pal had walked some miles from home. In some way John sustained a stone bruise on his bare heel, which made walking a painful drudgery. As he limped homeward, a carriage overtook them and stopped. The Prophet Joseph noted the difficulty and inquired of their identity and destination and invited them to ride home.
John’s father, William, died of exposure during persecutions, but before his death he called his family to him and told them to stay with the Church and go West with it. They stayed at Winter Quarters for awhile, went to Kanesville with the Saints. They left Kanesville on April 15, 1851 – mother, Elizabeth Bell Bennett, daughters Mary Jane (McCauslin) and Nancy Ellen and sons, Hiram, Alfred and John. Erastus Snow was captain of the company. They arrived in Salt Lake, October 7, 1851.
Knowing that these events of being near the Prophet Joseph Smith, losing his Father to persecution, and enduring the hard trip across the plains without a father happened only four generations ago is very humbling.
I am amazed by their faith, testimony and commitment, Because of their's and other family member’s sacrifices and good examples, I am here. I am thankful to them for their sacrifice and obedience. Our family truly has a reason to celebrate!