Mary Elizabeth Rollins

A Young Girl Strong and Courageous

Fall, 1830
Kirtland, Ohio

“Quite a number of the residents of Kirtland accepted baptism. Mother and myself also, in the month of October, 1830. There was a meeting that evening, and we learned that Brother Morley had the Book [of Mormon] in his possession the only one in that part of the country. I went to his house just before the meeting was to commence, and asked to see the book; Brother Morley put it in my hand, as I looked at it, I felt such a desire to read it, that I could not refrain from asking him to let me take it home and read it, while he attended meeting. He said it would be too late for me to take it back after meeting, and another thing, he had hardly had time to read a chapter in it himself, and but few of the brethren had even seen it, but I pled so earnestly for it, he finally said, ‘Child, if you will bring this book home before breakfast tomorrow morning, you may take it.’ He admonished me to be very careful, and see that no harm came to it.

“If any person in this world was ever perfectly happy in the possession of any coveted treasure I was when I had permission to read that wonderful book. . . . We all took turns reading it until very late in the night as soon as it was light enough to see, I was up and learned the first verse in the book. When I reached Brother Morley’s they had been up for only a little while. When I handed him the book, he remarked, ‘I guess you did not read much in it.’ I showed him how far we had read. He was surprised and said, ‘I don’t believe you can tell me one word of it.’ I then repeated the first verse, also the outlines of the history of Nephi. He gazed at me in surprise, and said, ‘child, take this book home and finish it, I can wait.’

“About the time I finished the last chapter, the Prophet Joseph Smith arrived in Kirtland. . . . Brother Whitney brought the Prophet Joseph to our house and introduced him to the older ones of the family (I was not in at the time.) In looking around he saw the Book of Mormon on the shelf, and asked how that book came to be there. He said, ‘I sent that book to Brother Morley.’ Uncle told him how his niece had obtained it. He asked, ‘Where is your niece?’ I was sent for; when he saw me he looked at me so earnestly, I felt almost afraid. After a moment or two he came and put his hands on my head and gave me a great blessing, the first I ever received, and made me a present of the book, and said he would give Brother Morley another.”

—Mary Elizabeth Rollins

Fall 1831
Independence, Missouri

After leaving Kirtland, 13-year-old Mary Elizabeth moved with her mother, brother, and sister to Independence, Missouri.

“Terrible were the threats against our people, we were too much united to suit the inhabitants of Missouri, and they did not believe in our religion, or our way of doing business; [also] we did not believe in slavery. . . . Soon a mob began to collect in the town and set fire to the grain, and hay stacks in the yard of Bishop Partridge. All were destroyed. Then they began to stone the houses, breaking the doors and windows. One night, a great many got together and stoned our house, part of which was hewed logs, the front was brick. After breaking all the windows, they commenced to tear off the roof of the brick part amidst awful oaths and howls that were terrible to hear; all of a sudden they left and all was quiet. Soon after, I saw Bishop Partridge tarred and feathered, also Brother Charles Allen.

“The mob renewed their efforts again by tearing down the printing office, a two story building, and driving Brother Phelps’ family out of the lower part of the house and putting their things in the street. They brought out some large sheets of paper, and said, ‘Here are the Mormon Commandments.’ My sister Caroline and myself were in a corner of a fence watching them; when they spoke of the commandments I was determined to have some of them. Sister said if I went to get any of them she would go too, but said ‘They will kill us.’ While their backs were turned, prying out the gable end of the house, we went, and got our arms full, and were turning away, when some of the mob saw us and called on us to stop, but we ran as fast as we could. Two of them started after us. Seeing a gap in a fence, we entered into a large cornfield, laid the papers on the ground, and hid them with our persons. The corn was from five to six feet high, and very thick; they hunted around considerable, and came very near us but did not find us. After we satisfied ourselves that they had given up the search for us, we tried to find our way out of the field, the corn was so high we could not see where to go. . . . Soon we came to an old log stable which looked as though it had not been used for years. Sister Phelps and children were carrying in brush and piling it up at one side of the barn to lay her beds on. She asked me what I had. I told her. She then took them from us, which made us feel very bad. They got them bound in small books and sent me one, which I prized very highly.”

—Mary Elizabeth Rollins

(Autobiography of Mary E. Lightner, Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, vol. 17 (1926), 193­–96)