Nauvoo, June 12, 1842
Dear father and mother, I am at a loss what I can say to you. I feel so thankful for what the Lord has done for me and my family, for truly all things have worked together for our good. …
There is now in this city a female charity society of which I am a member. We are in number eight or nine hundred. Jos. Smith wife is the head of our Society and we meet on a Thursday at ten oâ€™clock, where we receive instructions both temporally and spiritually.
I must say something about the Prophet the Lord has raised up in these last days. I feel to rejoice that I have been permitted to hear his voice, for I know that this is the work of the Lord, and all the powers of earth or hell can not gainsay it. … I pray that the Lord may remove all darkness from your minds so that you may see clearly the way which you should go, so that at last you may enter in through the gate …
Your affectionate daughter,
So Ellen Briggs Douglas wrote to her family in England, reporting on her arrival with her husband and seven children at Nauvoo. This was only the first of several major moves Ellen would make in response to her testimony of the gospel.
Ellen was born in 1806, and married George Douglas in 1823. They and their oldest sons were baptized in 1838 by Heber C. Kimball. None of her parentsâ€™ family ever joined the Church, despite Ellenâ€™s repeated efforts to share her faith.
George was a hard worker and taught his sons to work, but there is evidence that it was Ellenâ€™s careful management that set the familyâ€™s standard of living. Soon after their baptism, Ellenâ€™s goals changed from raising her familyâ€™s temporal status to saving money for emigration to Zion. Reaching Nauvoo in March 1842, Ellen set about rebuilding the family fortunes. While her husband went to work building Joseph Smithâ€™s Nauvoo house and her sons and oldest daughter hired out to work for neighbors, Ellen worked at home. She planted her half-acre garden with vegetables; she bought chickens and built a healthy flock. When her teenage son received a young pig as payment for one dayâ€™s work clearing land, she gleefully described for her parents how valuable the pig was and how it would contribute to the familyâ€™s welfare.
But only three months after the Douglas family arrived in Nauvoo, George Douglas died. Ellen and her children stayed together, pooling their wages for the good of the family and feeding themselves as much as possible from their own garden.
Early in 1846, as the Saints were having to flee from Nauvoo, Ellen married widower John Parker, adding his three small children to her own. As many of the Saints did, the Parkers moved to Saint Louis to earn money for the outfit they would need to take them west. There Johnâ€™s skills and Ellenâ€™s management eventually led them to open a soda water and rootbeer bottling factory, which proved to be extremely profitable. The Parkers could have stayed in Saint Louis and become very wealthy, but they wanted to join the Church in Utah. In 1852 they sold their business.
The family bought eleven wagons with teams to pull them, and a threshing machine, and filled the wagons with family supplies and goods that were badly needed in Utah. Ellen sewed vests for her husband and sons, with false linings concealing pouches filled with twenty dollar gold pieces. Along with the Douglas and Parker families, Johnâ€™s extended family were members of the Church. The family was so large that John needed to hire only one teamster besides his own relatives to drive the wagons west. The family traveled as an independent company, and arrived without accident in the Salt Lake Valley on 28 August 1852.
Following ten years in Salt Lake City, the Parkers again pulled up stakes in response to the call for families to settle in Dixie. They began all over again in Virgin, near Saint George; Ellen lived there until her death in 1886.
Ellenâ€™s management skills, added to the willingness of her family to work hard and work together, enabled her to provide well for her familyâ€™s temporal needs. Yet she cheerfully â€“ and repeatedly â€“ put a higher value on her familyâ€™s membership in the Kingdom than on earthly wealth. â€œFor where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.â€
(originally published April 2006)