Elizabeth Brotherton (1816-1897)

Elizabeth Brotherton (18-)
Autobiography (1816-1897)
Source: The Woman’s Exponent, December 1, 1890, December 15, 1890, January 1, 1891
The incidents of my life while in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

30 years of my life I have been a member. I have been in peril by sea and by land and among false brethren, who denied the truth after receiving it And in affliction often, but out of them all the Lord has delivered me, I can truthfully say there has been no principle advanced by the leaders of this Church that I have ever doubted for one moment.

When I was sick and afflicted I have been raised up by the prayer of faith many times.

My parents were religious and members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, and they endeavored to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord. I was trained in religious habits and attended their Sabbath school in which I took great pleasure. I was connected with this school 18 years in my childhood as a pupil and as I became older I was placed over a primary class as teacher.

When quite young I often regretted that I had not lived in the days of our Savior and His Apostles and as I pondered over these things I became dissatisfied with that faith and mode of baptism. This caused my parents much uneasiness. I often went in private and prayed to the Lord to direct me aright and I always felt comforted.

I continued to pray and waited for several years believing that in time I should be directed aright. In the year 1840 a friend handed me a Pamphlet published by the Latter-day Saints which told of a Prophet being raised up and of angels appearing that the true gospel was restored in the fullness with all its gifts and blessings. I investigated those principles and became convinced of the truth so I found Pearl of Great A number of the Twelve Apostles were on a mission to England at the time and many received the truth through their teaching.

On the 4th of September 1840 Apostle Brigham Young, afterwards President, led me down into the waters of baptism; on the following Saturday I was confirmed. These ordinances were performed by men called to divine authority to preach and administer the kingdom, set up in these last days no more to be thrown down nor given to another people.

The Apostle Heber C. Kimball pronounced great blessings upon my head. I should be a great dreamer and warned of dangers and comforted in I received a powerful testimony of the truth which was a great blessing to me in the opposition I had to meet with from my relatives and past friends. Old associates turned their backs on me, but I rejoiced continually because I had received the Gospel of our Savior and had seen the gifts made manifest that were to follow the believer and confirm the word. Soon after I had joined the Church I was invited to where Apostle Kimball was to give a s blessing. He turned to me and asked if I did not want a blessing. I was overjoyed to receive one from an Apostle, as I had so often thought, Oh, that I could have lived in the days of the ancient Apostles and now indeed I am in the presence of one, endowed with the same poser and authority. He laid his hands upon my head after the order of the ancients, and gave me a s blessing. He said I should receive the gift of tongues which I did that night, and by my faithfulness my s family should all come into the Church, one after another come into the Church in three months my father being the last to receive it. He disposed of his property and we took our leave of our native land on the 21st of September 1841.

We sailed on the the ship “Tyrean.” Captain Jackson went by the way of New Orleans with two hundred and seven passengers bound for Nauvoo. As we wound slowly out into the river we sang “Lovely native land farewell.”

Joseph Fielding was the presiding Elder on board. I was very sick for five weeks and was nigh unto death, but was healed by the administering of the Elders, and the prayer of faith. We were seven weeks on the sea and did not arrive in Nauvoo until November (1841).

My father only stayed nine weeks in the Church after we came to Nauvoo, he apostatized and moved away to Warsaw with the family intending to return to England. They tried to persuade me to follow them and gave me one week to change my mind, but I stayed on the ship Zion which had brought me safely thus far on my journey. I returned to Nauvoo. I worked around from place to place; and nursed the sick, waiting on them for my board, for all were too poor to pay wages. The Saints passed through much poverty and sickness also persecution, but through all this they rejoiced in the truth, chills and fever were prevalent there. The Prophet would go from house to house and lay hands on the sick, and say to them In the name of Jesus Christ arise and Many of the sick had faith to be instantly healed. I was taught the law of Celestial marriage by the Prophet Joseph. I never doubted its truth and I felt in time to come I should enter into the holy order. In July 1843 I was sealed to Parley P. Pratt at Pres. Smith’s house. Hyrum Smith officiated. He brought the revelation on that order and read it. Sisters Mary Ann Young and Mary Ann Pratt were witnesses. Joseph was sick at this time.

When I was first introduced to the Prophet he held my hand and said “God bless you.” There was such an influence with his words I wondered how any one could doubt his being a prophet. We would meet to worship on the Sabbath day in a large bowery. He sometimes addressed the assembly for two or three hours. The Saints were rapt in profound attention by the words of inspiration that fell from his lips. I felt that I could listen to his teachings and not get tired. Oh, what a blessing to mankind to hear a true Prophet’s voice, only think was a thick vale of darkness would cover the minds of the people, when there was such a famine of the word of the Lord. For He says in Sacred That He will do nothing except He revealeth Himself to His servants the He laid the plan of salvation on the rock of revelation, he brought to light the true Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, by his own word, not a confused mess of creeds, opinions and ideas of man, but one faith and one Lord and one baptism, which makes the Latter-day Saints one in mind, spirit and action. The Savior Except ye are one, ye are not By the oneness of the people we know they have the true Gospel. In it there no schisms, wherever the Saints are located, they believe the same Gospel, they practice its tenets and the elders of the Church among all people set forth the same principles as Christ and His Apostles did eighteen hundred years ago.

After my father and our family apostatized and went away I felt very sorrowful. One evening when going to bed. I was feeling cast down and my sister who had been dead a number of years came to me and called by my name and said, “be comforted you are all right. You have a work to do for me.” I wished to inquire what she meant, but she was gone. In two days after this, the Prophet preached on the baptism for the dead.

[Woman’s Exponent, 19, no. 12 (December 1, 1890): 94-95]


As soon as the font for baptism was ready, I officiated for my sister as she had requested. The year Joseph and Hyrum were taken to jail was the most trying time the Saints ever experienced. They had to endure sickness, poverty and a stream of persecution. The Prophet and brethren in authority had to hide up from mob violence. On the 27th of June 1844 the Prophet and Hyrum his brother were murdered in Carthage Jail. Those who took him as prisoner pledged their word and honor that he would be safe from violence. When word came to Nauvoo of their cruel deaths it was a day of mourning, weeping and sorrow among all the Saints, for they loved the man of God who had laid down his life for the s sake even the atmosphere and trees seemed to mourn the fate of the murdered dead. I saw them when they were in their coffins and they were just as I saw them in a dream before I knew they were dead. This prepared me for the shock as I could not have believed it, as the Lord had preserved his life so many times. In 1845 the Temple was sufficiently built to administer in the ordinances, many thousands received their endowments. I was among the happy number.

The quorum of the Twelve and others all ministered in the Temple night and day until early in the spring. February 14th 1846 we left our homes in Nauvoo and crossed the Mississippi river and camped on Sugar Creek. The first night we camped here we had a snow storm. I took down with the ague and chills till I thought I shook the ground. Mr Pratt administered to me and I had them no more. We commenced to travel after the companies were organized and continued to through rain and mud. In crossing the Mississippi bottoms, when one wagon got through the cattle were unhitched and hitched on to the next one, the road became so muddy that it was up to the hule and had to take the strength of several yoke of cattle as they were weak, and only had the boughs of trees to subsist upon. We often had our bedding and clothing wet through. After traveling one hundred and fifty miles, we camped on Grand river, but the brethren planted a farm to supply those who came after and named it Garden Grove. We left here and traveled on till we came to a beautiful grove that Parley named Mt Pisgah which was also planted to vegetation and enclosed with a fence and houses built to accommodate our friends who were left behind. Next we came to the home of the Pottawatome. This was called the Indian Village. We found them very sociable. While there we had a dance. Mr. St. Clair had his home there and traded with them. He had two wives squaws, his daughter by his first squaw was well educated, her name was Ellen and she was very graceful on horseback. We traveled many miles from the Village with our wagons, this place they called Cutlers Park. In July we arrived at the Missouri river near Council Bluffs.

Here the Mormon Battalion was mustered. Col. Kane came to see about our affairs and finding so many people homeless and wanderers not knowing where to find a resting place, his heart was drawn out in sympathy for our untold sufferings and he became a true friend to our people and ever remained so. We camped on the west side of the river and called it Winter Quarters. The brethren built log cabins and dugouts for their families to screen them from the winter blasts. Here the people were taken sick with the scurvy for the want of vegetables and the common comforts of life, and some died and laid down their bodies there, till the call comes “awake come forth.” As soon as we had camped for the winter Mr. Pratt, Bro. Hyde and Bro. Taylor were appointed a mission to England and we were left camping in our wagons and tents and as our best men were called away to Mexico that made the labor harder on the men left in camp. We were fifteen in family. We had our teamster with us to do all the work. Parley Jr. was only nine years and four months old and not very strong. We had a log room built to cook in and crowd into in the daytime, we had to sleep in our wagons all winter.

We suffered with cold, hunger, and sickness. Our bread was corn meal ground on a hand mill and not much to go with it. Mr. Pratt returned from his mission in April after being gone over seven months. In his absence our cattle and horses died and some were lost. When Mr. Pratt returned President Young and a company were camped on the Elk Horn River twenty miles west, ready to start out as Pioneers to the Mountains. After a little rest Mr. Pratt began to prepare to go with a company that was going to start in June. There were five hundred wagons, and being short of teamsters the women had to drive. I drove an ox team a good part of the way and walked a great many miles.

After traveling a long distance we met the Pioneers returning from the Valley and camped with them one day. We continued our journey and after many losses, trials and hindrances we arrived at our place of destination in September 1847. This then was a barren, desolate looking place, but we were thankful to be where we could have a rest from our enemies, have peace of mind and worship the true and living God without any to molest or make afraid. We renewed our covenants, had a short winter and very mild one. Early in the Spring we commenced to plant our gardens and were blessed with early crops. We appreciated this very much as we had been on short rations all winter. We had to work hard to raise it, as then we did not understand irrigation. The crickets were troublesome, and many of our people suffered for the want of food. We had lost nearly all our cows and the few left were dry.

[Woman’s Exponent 19, no. 13 (December 15, 1890): 102]


I worked all summer on the farm planted, hoed and weeded, although I did not know a week from a plant until Mr. Pratt showed me the difference. We were much in want of some articles of clothing. I had no shoes to wear, and I took some old cloth and made me a pair and put rawhide on them for soles. But we did not long want, as Bro Kimball had prophesied that there should be a plenty although there was no prospect at the time, and he said afterward that he could see no way that it would come true, but his words were literally fulfilled.

One of the Mormon Battalion boys discovered gold while in California in the year 1848 and on their return to the City the news soon reached the States, and gold seekers made ready their teams, chattels and goods, not having knowledge and wisdom they loaded too heavily and had to throw out part of their burdens by the way. When the emigrants reached here they traded with the people for things they needed and supplied our wants with groceries, bacon and clothing. Some of them staid with us through the winter. In this, we could see the hand of the Lord.

March 19 1851 Mr. Pratt was appointed on a mission to the Pacific Coast to organize and set in order the Saints that had gone there not knowing where the church would locate. They went in the ship Brooklyn. I went with him to San Francisco, we traveled in company with A. Lyman, and C.C. Rich when they were going to San Bernerdino with a company of Saints. After a tiresome journey we arrived in San Francisco. Mr. Pratt remained there and rebaptized quite a number in about two months time. He than appointed an Elder to preside and sailed to Chili Sept. 5th 1851 on another mission. I remained in California with the saints, they employed me to do their family sewing which was quite a help to the family living at Salt Lake in Mr. Pratt’s absence. He returned in May 1852, we left San Francisco and visited San Bernerdino and arrived at home Oct. 1852.

April 9th 1853 at the Conference the corner stone of the Temple at Salt Lake was laid, it was a solemn and glorious time long to be remembered. On the 6th of April 1854 Mr. Pratt was appointed on a second mission to California. On the 5th of May we bade farewell to home and friends and arrived in San Francisco on the 2nd of July. My health was very poor; on this mission we hired a house large enough to accommodate the Elders going and returning from their missions. Mr. Pratt traveled about and organized branches at San Jose, Santa Clara and St. John’s preached the Gospel and held discussions.

In March 1855, Mr. Pratt received a number of books, Church works, from England and we opened a store in San Francisco; this we kept but a short time as we soon left for our Valley home. I became acquainted with some sisters in whose society I spent many happy days and as they had not the privilege to come here, and have passed into eternity, I have done a work for them in the Logan Temple. I knew this was their wish, I have also officiated there for my own relatives.

Sept 11th 1856 Mr. Pratt bade adieu to his home to go on the last mission he ever took in this present life. He received great blessings from Pres. Young and Pres. Kimball, but still he appeared to doubt his safe return. While on this mission he wrote his poem; my fiftieth year. He had only been gone from home seven months when his life was taken in Van Buren, Arkansas May 13th, 1857. He left nine widows and thirty children, fifteen boys and fifteen girls. The most of those children were very young and born within ten years time after we came to Salt Lake.

When I look back to those days, I wonder how we got along as well as we did under such trying circumstances, as we had nothing to depend on but our labor. The next winter Johnston’s army came on and our boys were out in Echo Canon the most of the time. In the spring we left our homes not knowing that we should ever return to them again. Our family and a number of others spent the summer in Provo. In the fall the word came, “To your tents O Israel.” Then we returned and were rejoiced to find things as we had left them. Through the many lies and exaggerated reports about the Saints that had been driven to this wild region of the mountains, through religious persecution and mob violence the U. S. troops came here.

This army was sent from the government to wipe us all out of existence. To save trouble and bloodshed, Brigham Young counseled all the people to leave the city. They made the sacrifice and all ended in peace. We have been driven from our homes, bereft of our dear ones, suffered sickness, poverty and hunger, we have been annoyed with insects, the crickets, grasshoppers and worms, and with all this, we have been sustained and greatly blessed of the Lord.

In 1857 we sold our old homestead and divided the means and there was enough for each one to get a home of her own. Since then four of Mr. Pratt’s wives have died, there are five yet living, there are twenty four children; six having died, one hundred and twenty-four grand children, and a great number of great grand children. I can testify Pres. Kimball’s words have come true in regard to my being blessed with dreams, from that time I have been comforted in my night visions. After Mr. Pratt’s death we had to struggle along the best way we could, sometimes I would feel almost discouraged, at such times I would dream of Mr. Pratt and would think that he was just returning from a mission, and it would appear to me that he was not dead.

My dead relatives often visited me in my sleep, always reminding me to do a work for them, they gave me no rest until I did.

I was not much inclined to look at the dark side of a picture, although I had to pass through many trying scenes.

I married into polygamy and believed it to be a divine principle, and those who enter into it with this knowledge and are faithful to its requirements will inherit the same kingdom and glory that Abraham does, the friend of God and the father of the faithful. I have tried to keep pace with Church organizations, and be faithful to its duties as required by it members. I was a member of the first Relief Society which was organized in the fourteenth ward of this City. Sister Phebe W. Woodruff was its president; we had good meetings and we did considerable straw work, we made a great many hats for both men and women, many nice quilts and useful articles for the poor. This society was started before the Church moved away from the city.

I now testify that I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet and this is the true Church of Jesus Christ that should be set up in the last days, spoken of by Daniel through the gift of prophecy. Those who have held the presidency have walked in the footsteps of their leaders and carried out the mind and will of God in every respect, I will make mention of the noble servants of their heavenly Father, Pres. Brigham Young who succeeded the Prophet Joseph Smith, he was the great pioneer to the people’s home in the west, he gave counsel and assisted to build up and improve the waste places, he did this by untiring travel from place to place encouraging the people to make better their condition in life. Pres. John Taylor gave himself as a sacrifice for those principles that will never tarnish, nor die, and his integrity will stand as a monument to his name forever. Pres. Wilford Woodruff is left to guide the Church and like the star of Bethlehem which if its members follow will guide them to Jesus the great Redeemer, “Peace on earth good will to mankind.” And while his life is preserved he will give us the word of the Lord. When we read of the ancient Saints going astray we are led to marvel that they were so often tempted to stray from the path of righteousness; or that the children of Israel should make a golden calf. But when we examine ourselves in our day we are too weak, like them we have too many idols and so many weak points to overcome, it keeps us busy watching ourselves. Yes and we do often sing:

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall be

My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply,

The flame shall not hurt thee I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Salt Lake City, Dec. 9th 1890

[Woman’s Exponent, 19, no. 14 (January 1, 1891): 110-111]