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BISHOP I. L. ROGERS.
THIS chapter consists of the biography of Bishop I. L. Rogers, the only presiding Bishop ordained during the period of time covered in this volume.
Israel L. Rogers was the first Bishop of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He "was born April 4, 1818, in Renssalaer County, New York, being the eldest of fourteen children born to David and Betsy Allen Rogers. All these children lived to maturity and had families, the total of sixty-two children being born to them.
"The family of David Rogers being in humble circumstances, and so many to be fed and cared for, therefore Israel, the oldest one, thought best to start out for himself. Thus, when he was eighteen years old, he purchased his time from his father, agreeing to pay him $100 for the three years. Then he labored hard in the stone quarries and on the canal and paid this debt to his father.
"Before he was twenty-one years old (on February 24, 1839) he married Miss Mahala Sailsbury, of Chenango County, New York. They were companions in life for over fifty-two years, until her death, September 22, 1892.
"In 1841, when he was twenty-three years old, he became satisfied that he could find better opportunities in the then new western states than existed in New York. So he and his family moved west through Chicago into the Fox River country of Illinois, into the very neighborhood where all his life since then has been passed.
"He first hired out to Benjamin Darnell, south of Sandwich, and the next spring he rented of him a farm on shares. Next he preëmpted land, and by hard and faithful labor and good management, he early laid the foundation of the competence he for so many years enjoyed."-Sandwich Argus.
On April 7,1860, he was chosen Bishop, at Amboy, Illinois, and the same evening was ordained under the hands of William W. Blair, Z. H. Gurley, and Samuel Powers, members of the Quorum of the Twelve. He continued in this office for twenty-two years, resigning at the Annual Conference held at Independence, Missouri, April, 1882. 1
Though it might be too much to say that Bishop Rogers during his term of office gave universal satisfaction, yet it is but just to say that he gained the confidence of the church generally. His generous and sympathetic nature was recognized by all, and he will ever retain a warm place in the love of those who knew him.
William Aldrich and Philo Howard were chosen his counselors, April 11, 1866, but for some reason were not ordained to that position. Philo Howard died January 25, 1869, and William Aldrich resigned April 9, 1873.
At the Annual Conference, April, 1873, Elijah Banta and David Dancer were chosen and ordained his counselors. Elijah Banta resigned September 22, 1874; and was succeeded by H. A. Stebbins, who was ordained April 11, 1875.
1Thinking you would expect a report from me, I will give you a few thoughts as they may come to me. My mind is turned back twenty-two years, when my house would have held the whole church and more. I could feed the whole, and took pleasure in doing so, and that feeling has not gone from me yet. But when I follow the church from year to year, I can take pleasure in stating that it has been a steady growth, although the weather has looked cloudy sometimes, but thank God the clouds are breaking away and the sun begins to shine. May the clouds that darken the past never be permitted to darken in the future, but the light may grow brighter as we advance from year to year, till the perfect day. This I hope to ever be my prayer.
For the last six months I have been looking at the importance of the work, and feel that the time has come when the church must have men to represent her according to the spirit of the gospel. The law says let every man learn his duty, and I have examined myself, and I find that I should not be in the way, or be a stumbling-block to the great work of the last days. Believing that the Bishop's office should be near the printing press, and as I am in my sixty-fourth year, and not willing to begin anew to build me a home, I therefore offer this my resignation as Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ. Praying that the Spirit of God may be with you in all your deliberations, and teach you his will in the different quorums, that all may work together for the good of the cause and the glory of God, and hoping to be engaged with you in helping to carry on this great work, I subscribe myself your unworthy laborer.-Saints' Herald, volume 29, page 130.
Elders Stebbins and Dancer resigned in 1882, at the same time of the resignation of Bishop Rogers.
At the solicitation of the Historian, Bishop Rogers wrote of himself as follows:-
"SANDWICH, Ill., Nov. 7,1896.
"In answer to your request for items of my life of historical interest, I submit the following, which you may use as you see fit.
"I was raised under Baptist influence. In 1840, while working on Black River Canal, in Boonville, New York, I first heard of the latter-day work by overhearing some of my fellow workmen talking about it. I only heard a sermon or two when I became convinced of its truth and was immediately baptized by Elder Joseph Robinson.
"In 1841 most of the branch came west, many going to Nauvoo, but I seemed to be led to stop in DeKalb County, and settled on a farm not far from Sandwich, Illinois. My house was always a home for representatives of the different factions which sprung up after the disorganization of the church. Many efforts were made to convert me to their way of thinking, but without success.
"About the year 1850 I heard that William Smith, brother of the Martyr, claimed to be president pro tem of the church, until young Joseph (as the present president was then called) should take his father's place. I went to Amboy to see him, and united with his cause, and was ordained his counselor, but did not continue with him long, as I soon discovered he was teaching the spiritual wife doctrine, which I knew was false. Those were dark days. I was denied the privilege of church fellowship after this until the year 1859, when Bro. E. C. Briggs and W. W. Blair visited me. I received them coolly. My wife, however, became interested in the teachings of these young men and treated them kindly.
"Soon after this I received a visit from Bro. William Marks. I was greatly cheered by his visit. He requested me to accompany him on a visit to young Joseph to see him about taking his father's place at the head of the church. I suggested that Bro. Blair accompany us, and it was decided that I should visit Bro. Blair and bring him with me.
Here a rather remarkable incident took place. While Bro. Marks and I were talking in the depot the train suddenly pulled out and left me. Of course this worried me greatly, as I was very anxious to see Bro. Blair that day so that he could accompany me on the morrow. While I stood wondering what I should do, to my astonishment I saw the train returning, backing right to the station; this enabled me to jump aboard. When I inquired the cause of the train returning, I was informed that it could not get over the grade. The second time, however, it went over the grade without trouble.
"I found Bro. Blair at home, attending his sick nephew. He had failed to receive Bro. Marks' letter, therefore was quite unprepared to accompany me. He consented to go, however, and preparations were hurriedly made; but long before we reached the station we heard the train whistle. We continued with all speed possible and, though we reached the station fully fifteen minutes late, to our joy we found the train still there, apparently waiting for us. This enabled us to meet Bro. Marks at Burlington, according to appointment, and we proceeded by boat to Nauvoo. I met Bro. Joseph on the street, and, though I had never met him before nor seen his picture, I knew him, but we did not make ourselves known to him. Joseph's mother, Emma, received us kindly, and sent word to her son to come home as soon as convenient. He sent word back that he would be home in the evening. Upon being introduced, Bro. Marks addressed Bro. Joseph and stated to him the object of our visit. Bro. Joseph replied; after which Bro. Marks then said, 'We have had men-made prophets and devil-made prophets, and don't want more of those sorts; if God has called you we will be glad to receive you.'
"Arrangements were finally made for Joseph to meet with the Amboy conference to be held April 6, 1860. Our visit was sometime in March.
"On the 4th of April, Bro. Wilsey came for me to accompany him to the Amboy conference, but I was taken ill very suddenly and, much to my disappointment, was forced to remain at home. I told Bro. Wilsey to go on alone, and if I
was needed the Lord would heal me so that I could be there. I passed a very bad night; but the next day, about noon, while in prayerful meditation upon the events about to take place, a most peaceful feeling came over me which seemed to penetrate my entire being, filling me with a joy unspeakable. All pain immediately left me, and I cried out: 'Ma, what time is it? I am healed, and we will go to conference yet.' I immediately made arrangements to start on the next day; but though I was completely healed, it was no easy matter to get away. We were in the midst of sowing wheat. We had a lot of horses and cattle that needed our attention; and, to make matters worse, by some means the granary door was left open that night and the horses filled themselves with wheat. This meant death to my horses, unless the utmost care was taken. As soon as I heard of it, I exclaimed: 'This is another trick of the Devil, but I'll go if every horse has to die.' And go I did, in spite of every opposition, leaving my horses to the care of a trusty man, who followed my directions, so they escaped serious injury.
"When I arrived at conference I found that Bro. Joseph had taken his seat and, to my great surprise, I found that I had been chosen Bishop of the Church. My first exclamation was: 'This will never do, I am not the man for such a responsible position.'
"That night when I retired to rest, such a happy feeling came over me. I was filled from head to feet with a power I recognized to be the power of God. My eyes were as a fountain of tears, my heart was full of joy, my entire being seemed completely immersed in a flood of light so that I could see and understand not only the present but look into the future as well. This continued through the entire night, and yet I felt that I could not accept the office placed upon me. I did not dare to positively refuse, but thought to shrink from the responsibility by requesting the conference to wait and defer my appointment.
"I met with the conference next morning. Bro. E. C. Briggs led in prayer, and he was greatly blessed by the Spirit, and the Spirit seemed to permeate the entire assembly
so that when I was asked what I would do, I forgot the little speech I had prepared in my mind and all I could say was: 'The Lord's will be done.' I afterwards asked Bro. Briggs why he had mentioned my name in prayer in connection with the Bishop's office (for he had prayed in the spirit of prophecy). He replied: 'Because I saw your name right before me in letters of gold.'
"Soon after my ordination a sister approached me and, handing me ten dollars, said: 'I want to give this money to the Lord.' This was the first money I received. I have been greatly blessed in my office and calling. I could relate a number of instances where special need for money was manifest and immediately the supply was equal to the demand. As to why I resigned, I have this to say: A short time before I sent in my resignation, I received a letter from President Smith, stating that the Bishop's office should be located at headquarters, and urged me to move to Lamoni. . . . I, therefore, decided to give the church an opportunity of appointing another in my stead by tendering my resignation. If the church accepted it, all right, otherwise I would move my family to Lamoni if in doing this it shall be found that I did wrong, I am sorry, for I did it for the benefit of the church. But if I have done right I am thankful, for I am relieved of a heavy burden. I have always felt, as I now feel, anxious to do all in my power to advance this glorious work, and I only regret my inability to do more than I have done. I have the fullest confidence in the ultimate triumph of the latter-day work."
Elder H. A. Stebbins, of Lamoni, Iowa, for many years an intimate acquaintance, and for a time Bishop Rogers' counselor in the Bishopric, wrote of him as follows:-
"Looking back over the life-history of Bro. Israel L Rogers, the first Presiding Bishop in the Reorganized Church, it seems a certainty that he was one of the men who was raised up, in the providence of God, to assist in its establishment and its progress. From the time of his acceptance of the gospel in 1840 his course seems to have been directed. Certainly he was prospered and blessed
with a fitness to occupy in the place he did from 1860 onward. No other of those who took active and earnest part in the early days of the Reorganization was so prepared with temporal good, and, at the same time, with willingness. He could not preach, but he had a generous soul within him, a noble heart; and he found and occupied a wider field of usefulness than some who were well gifted with fluency of speech. He had that free nature, that natural hospitality in word and deed which made people welcome in his house and at his table. He caused them to feel at home, even when all the space under his roof was filled to overflowing; for, during the early conferences of the church, he freely turned his hay barn into a dormitory for the brethren and for the 'stranger within his gates.' All were looked after and cared for without any charge.
"And it appeared that he did all that he could, in that important time, to advance the cause of truth and to build up its interests. The elders started out with zeal and devotion to preach Christ's gospel, and to declare that which was good news to many; namely, of the successorship of 'young Joseph' to his father's place, as had been prophesied. And, largely so, they went out without means, chiefly traveling afoot, to reach the scattering sheep of the flock, those who wandered far and wide after the dispersion from Nauvoo. In that time of scant means Bro. Rogers paid out, either from the small treasury of tithings and offerings, or from his own private funds, that which sustained, to some degree, the families of the ministry in their absence.
"In 1866 the General Conference ordered the preparation and publication of the Inspired Version of the Holy Scriptures. Special contributions and subscriptions were called for, but these did not equal the expenditures. However, Bro. Rogers continued to meet all demands, and when the conference of 1870 came around, it was found that the account was overdrawn about four thousand dollars. Then he arose in the assembly and said that he would balance the debt by giving it to the church. In that day this seemed a large gift; and, indeed, it was a very important matter, a
very valuable gift at that time. He carried the church through in the day it needed financial help, not only then but also at other times. (See p. 569.)
"And his disposition to aid worthy individuals in their necessities is witnessed by his giving from his own funds when be thought the occasion proper or right. He laid the foundation of his competence by frugality, industry, and an indomitable perseverance, and he did not like to foster either laziness or fraud, but was ready to give freely to the suffering and to those who had done all they could. And he did not like to take favors from such without a return of good. Thus, on various occasions when he chanced to dine or stay over night at the houses of those in poor circumstances, whether saints or others, he would leave a dollar or two under his plate or elsewhere, for them to find after he had gone away.
"Among his neighbors, the surrounding farmers and the business men of Sandwich, his views and ideas had weight and influence in the conduct of affairs, because of his known integrity and his kindness of heart to those in trouble. Though he sought no office yet he helped to shape public opinion in morals and towards the development and progress of material things in town and country; and, when he died, his presence and his counsel were missed by the saints and by the world.
"Bishop Rogers was at one time one of the heaviest stockholders in the Sandwich Enterprise Company factory, and for many years and at the time of this company's assignment he was its president. He also was the main factor in building the city of Randalia, Iowa, and was known to invest large sums in property in that locality. Thus he has always been an energetic and enterprising man throughout his entire life.
"To Bishop and Sister Rogers were born six children, five of whom are living; namely, George W., Independence, Iowa; Mrs. Mary M. Darnell and Mrs. Harriet A. Sprague, Randalia, Iowa; and Louis Israel and Mrs. Delia Wallace, Sandwich, Illinois; Martha L., who was married to Melvin Howard in 1861, died in 1870. Twenty-five grandchildren
have been born to Bishop Rogers, of whom eighteen are living.
"In October, 1893, he married Mrs. Rachael Trout, (widow of George W. Trout,) who has been his constant attendant during his last years of failing health. Although Bishop Rogers had been in feeble health for some time, he continued to be active in attending to his vast interests of business, but on returning from a visit in Chicago the latter part of September, 1899, he took to his bed and gave himself up to medical aid, but no improvement was noticed in his condition, and after six weeks of suffering, his work and life on this earth was ended Wednesday afternoon, November 8, 1899.
"All the surviving children and their families besides numerous relatives were in attendance at the funeral, which was held at his late home, Friday afternoon at two o'clock, conducted by Elder H. A. Stebbins, of Lamoni, Iowa. The remains were laid to rest in the Dickson cemetery."
A TRIBUTE TO THE CHARACTER OF LUCY SMITH.
Who ever heard, since Martha's ancient day,
Of one who gained such friendship with the Lord
As Lucy Smith attained along her way-
That path of ruin and that fine accord?
A right to speak to God was what she claimed,
And by his angel to be gently led;
Yet this was deemed a blow at churches aimed,
Though it was what the Savior sometimes said.
Talk not to me of Bunker Hill again,
Nor Lincoln's message to the Afric slave,
For we shall turn our eyes from freedom's train
To her whose actions much excelled the brave.
How startling was that life of warlike storm
Whose darkness scarcely showed a silver trace
Upon its waves of fire, a woman's form
Defied the doom that dwelt before her face.
When brethren all were faint, and in a throng
Would please their wives, and fly to comforts dear.
Then Lucy fed them all the way along
And preached the later truths to saint and seer.
When brethren doubted what was best to do,
And even said, "Let preaching be deferred
Till brighter days, and till this fuss is through,"
She spoke still firmer of the later word.
The mobs despoiled her homes and drove her hence,
Until from courts and prisons grim she saw
Beside this legal seeming and pretense
An angel presence, to expose the flaw.
In later scenes the presence of the Lord
Restored her oft from deadly ills, and foes
Till she, alone, could face Missouri's horde
Which Satan thought no Mormons could oppose.
Upon her head the crown of thorns was worn,
At which she murmured not, nor turned away;
The later word found in her heart an urn.'
'Mid panoramic ruins, day by day.
Such was the servant of the modern light
By whom our room to think and speak was bought.
Her aims were quite above our common sight;
Yet her simplicity we count for naught.
This woman's last bright years all calm with peace,
Were spent by waters clear, near heaven's plane;
And balmy was the hour of her release
From earthly ills and human hatred vain.
True servant of the Just, thy path of fire
Inclines my soul to shun the mortal state
And court the fair abode of mansions higher
With Lucy Smith, and Alvin1 pure and great.
J. M. HOLADAY.
COUNCIL BLUFFS, 1897.
1See this work, vol. 1, pp. 16.,17.
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