Book of Mormon Testimony
by Pearl W. Moriarity
I am Pearl W. Moriarity. I live in Independence, Missouri. This is my testimony of how we came to accept the Book of Mormon.
I cannot say when our Cole ancestors began their friendly relations with the Indians. My grandfather Oren Cole said, "They kept no record, but he knew that as for back as their leaving Vermont, soon after the revolutionary war, that his people had been friends with the Indians."
One Luther Cole brought a large wagon train to northeastern Ohio, Portage County. There they found many Indians, and they made friends with them at once. There grew to be an especially fine relationship among the women. One Cole writer, I think my grandfather's grandmother, was an expert midwife and nurse. She, more than any other, won the confidence of the Indians. Sometime very late in the seventeen nineties, measles broke out among the Indians. They had not the least immunity in their blood, and they died like sheep die in the cold, wet weather. At first the Indians depended on their medicine men, but early in the scourge the head medicine man got the disease and died. The chief of the tribe finally came to the settlement and asked Mrs. Cole for help. Having daughters who could take over the home, she went with the chief to do whatever she could. For six weeks she nursed the sick and helped the putting away of the dead. While she worked with the stricken Indians, the settlement constantly supplied medicine, food and other necessities.
She learned many things about the Indians that none of the white people had ever heard. She came home with a deep conviction that Indians were of direct Hebrew descent. Four things she had learned, in that six weeks she had been so intimately associated with them, were to her absolute proof.
First, never did the Indian women and children eat with the men. The men were fed first. The women and children ate what was left. A Hebrew custom.
Second, when an Indian boy came to puberty, he must pass many requirements with bow, arrow, scraping, nut scalping and knife. He must know much woods lore -- fishing, making a canoe and many other things -- before he could be admitted to the warriors of the tribe through a very solemn ceremony. Also, he must know a great amount of history of his people, as they kept their history. The Jews, who have the very same thing to this day, call it the bar mitzvah. The Jewish boy has then come to man state in their church. With the Indians, from that ceremony on, the boy was a warrior. He no more played with the children and always ate with the men.
Third, when a woman conceived there was no more marriage relation, not until after her child was weaned at three years old. A Hebrew custom.
Fourth, a menstruating woman was unclean and isolated as much as she possibly could be from other women, and entirely from men. That also was a distinct Hebrew custom. See the 12th Chapter of Leviticus for uncleanness of child birth, also in Luke 2:2 concerning the mother of Jesus. And for the uncleanness of girls, Esther 2:12.
Being a Bible student and knowing a great deal of Jewish customs, this ancestress of ours was so sure the Indians were descendants from the Hebrews that her belief became a tradition handed down through our generations.
When my grandfather Oren Cole went to the Northwest shortly after the Civil War, again they were among the Indians -- many tribes up there -- and some who had recently been of the war path. Chiefly they were associated with the Idaho Indians. I was born on the edge of that reservation. So my early years were spent in association with Indians to a considerable extent.
When I was eleven, my parents moved to Kansas. Our home was in a border county to the Indian territory. We saw many Indians of many tribes. White men had married Indian women, and our schools had a great number of children of mixed blood. We had more than one family of neighbors who proved upon their head right in the land division in the Indian territory.
I taught school and there were so many pupils who were part Indian, a few full bloods. They were all such good, well behaved children and so intelligent. I was astonished. I would rather teach Indians anytime than white children.
We had an uncle and his wife who reared a Creek girl who had been left an orphan when she was very small. She was a very great blessing to them all of her life and that girl had a most remarkable mentality.
Later, my husband and I lived in a town on the Oklahoma-Kansas border, just after the territory was made apart of Oklahoma and admitted as a state. There we found more Indians, some very wonderful people. I learned much of their ways and history from several of them, but most of all from one She was the youngest daughter of a Roanoke mother, whose people had been driven on "The Trail of Death;" as the Indians still call it. That was when the United States government scattered tribes from the eastern states to the portion that was named The Indian Territory, land thought to be good enough to raise a few cattle and sheep. Soldiers were sent to move them from the land that had been their home for hundreds of years. I have been told the story of that dreadful march by more than one descendant of those who were in that move, and everyone in great bitterness of heart related how the soldiers, on horse back, herded the Indians along. Many were old and unable to stand the strain of that long, hard march. When they gave out and could go no farther, they were shot down and left unburied.
I have read that the government stoutly denied that report. This little neighbor of mine told me of her mother's people being on that march. She said, "It was absolute truth that the sick and helpless were shot like animals. Her grandmother had been witness to that."
My neighbor's grandmother, on her father's side, was quarter French. His father was all Indian, but I never learned the tribe. They were from Canada. There were five girls in that family as different as five sisters could possibly be. They were nearly four years apart, for the family had been planned by Hebrew custom.
The eldest girl lived in the same town. She was a typical squaw. One lived up in the hills close to the father and mother. She, too, could have put on beads and skin clothing and passed for a squaw a hundred years before. I never saw the next one . Then, once in awhile the next daughter came to town. She had gone back to her father's French ancestors for her looks. There was no Indian features about her. She was beautiful, exactly like an old daguerro-type her father had of his mother when his tribe lived at Toronto, Canada. The youngest was my little neighbor Mary Jo. She didn't show her Indian blood in her looks. She was small. Her hair was brown, a light brown, and she had deep hazel eyes. She had never been a strong child and was never able to make the long walk to the school where her sisters went. So she had grown up in the woods, learning from nature as the Indian children always had done. None of the girls got much education, except to work and to do that work well.
From my first acquaintance, Mary Jo seemed to like me and came to our house a great deal. She could neither read nor write. I offered to teach her, but she wanted to learn more about cooking, homemaking and sewing. She had the most marvelous memory. I could read a recipe to her once and she could repeat it and remember it. I never had to explain anything but once. She simply absorbed knowledge about any kind of work.
She had a baby boy, Brent. There I helped her greatly in teaching her child care. Some months latter another baby was coming. I was always mother, as well as teacher to her then. Her husband was part Choctaw, some Cherokee and some very bad white. Never was he the bright, intelligent being that she was. Because his work took him away long hours, she spent most of her time at our place. He did not provide anything but the meagerest of living, and she wanted so much a home, nice and clean, with good furniture. She wanted good up-bringing for her children and was eagerly learning how to do the things best for them. She was no moocher. She brought things for our table from their small garden, of something she had baked, of fruit from her father's farm up in the hells.
She never spoke of religion. She was very aloof when we talked of Sunday School and Church. Sometimes I offered to take her with me to our women's meetings or to church, but she always shrugged off the offer.
Her baby girl come in the fall. All winter I helped her with the babies, constantly helping her in housewifely arts. One day in the spring, I brought up Sunday School again. I said to her, "I wish you would let me take Brent to Sunday School. I could take care of him as well as I do Henry. I help with the little ones all the time."
She said, "No!" more emphatically than was necessary, I thought. I insisted, thinking it was clothes. I even offered to help her make a Russian suit, that was all the style for little boys then. She said, "No." We went on with our work and when it was finished we ate our lunch. Then we took up our sewing, and I came back to Brent going to Sunday School.
Finally she said, "No, Pearly. I do not want my children to go to your church. I want them to grow up in the Indian religion." In astonishment I exclaimed, "Mary Jo, I didn't know the Indians had any religion except what the missionaries had taught them." "Oh, yes. We have religion that goes far, far back before the white man ever come to this country. Our great parents came out of the Holy City." (You will find the reference to the Holy City in I Nephi 6:9.) I was simply dumb founded. When I could command words, I asked her to tell me about it. I had read Prescott and Bancroft so I knew about the tradition of the Indian's great white teacher. "No," she said. "We never tell people. They do not believe, so we keep our religion to ourselves. That is why father and mother took my sisters out of the Catholic school on the Creek nation. The nuns made the Indian children learn their religion. Father came up to Kansas. The girls went to school up there in the hills. Kansas does not make the children learn the catechism, Pearly, and that is why so many Indians came up to Kansas." I wanted so much to know and insisted that she tell me. Finally she said, "you will laugh at me." I did not think there would be anything to laugh about, and I said so. At last she agreed to tell me. Here is her narrative, straight forward and right to the point -- brief, as an Indian always talks.
"It was hundreds of years before the Christ (you call him) was born, that the Great Spirit brought our fathers out of the Holy City, men who were to go to another land that had been promised us through one of our fathers long, long before. The Great Spirit showed them the way through the wilderness until they came to the great sea. They suffered many hardships, but they believed in the Great Spirit. They were in the wilderness quite awhile. The Great Spirit taught them how to build a big boat and to make ready for a long trip. He directed them over the great waters until they came to the promised land -- this land that came to be America. He gave it to them for their home, forever. They had brought the law, Psalms, and much of the prophets, and they had the history of their people back to the first father and mother. They grew strong and were a great people, but some of the sons would not believe the teachings of their father, and they broke away. In time, two great nations existed. They could not live in peace, and the bad ones fought the good ones and there were many wars. They grew so wicked and so many were killed, that at last the Great Spirit put a dark color on them to punish them. That part of those people are called Indians, and we are their children.
We had many prophets sent among us to teach us. Some of the prophets were killed, because the more wicked part of our people did not believe them. Then, the greatest prophet was sent to us. He told us that to save us from our sins, the Great Spirit would send his son to be born as a baby. He would die to take away the sins of all men who would repent. He told us there would be signs when that son was born in the flesh. There would be a day and a night and a day, with no dark between. We would see the sun go down, but no night came. We would see it come up. We were to know that the son of the Great Spirit was born, a man child. He told us another sign would come to us when the son was put to death on the cross. Terrible things would happen. Storms such as we had never seen. The earth would rock, and in places open and take in land and water. Mountains would be shaken down. Cities would sink under the sea along our coasts. People would be carried away, and no one would ever see them again. There would be great sorrow and wailing. After a time, the son, who was our great teacher, would come to this land and teach his people. People were so angry at this prophet that they threw stones at him and drove him away. He went out and they never saw him again. But, in a few years came the sign he had told us about. Two days with no darkness between, just as he had said. Many believed and turned away from their sins, but most did not, and they still laughed at what the prophet had said.
A good many years went by and then, just like that (she snapped her finger sharply), came the awful things he had said would happen.
A fearful storm came in and the earth rocked like a ship out on the big waters. People were caught up in huge black clouds and were gone, and no one ever knew what became of them. And in many places the earth did open; and trees and fields and people and cows were swallowed up, and the earth closed again. Mountains came sliding down and filled valleys. Oh! It was terrible! Almost three days it lasted. And it was dark, so dark that we could not even light a fire. Then, when it was over, we began to find our own families and try to live again. After awhile, the great white teacher came. He was very like our men, except he wore a beard. Our men never had beards. He had a clear, piercing voice, never loud, but more like the sound of an arrow as it flies. He taught us. Many believed at once. They come to listen. They gathered from all around to hear him. He laid his hands on the sick, they were well. He touched blind eyes, they could see. He touched deaf ears, they could hear. The lame could run and walk. He laid his hands on one that had died, and he rose up and lived. He went about helping, as much as teaching. Crowds come to learn from him, and people who really didn't care to hear him brought their sick."
Right there I stopped her to ask, "Mary Jo, where did he live while he was doing all this ministry?" She did not understand, so I had to change my question to, "Where did he stay at night?"
"Oh! When night was coming, a pale mist gathered around him like a thick fog and the fog lifted up. When the mist floated away, he was gone."
I laughed right out loud, and instantly I was sorry. Mary Jo gave me the strangest look and without a word turned to the bed where her baby slept, took her in one arm and Brent under the other, and without a backward glance for a word went home. I apologized earnestly after her as she left. I was so sorry.
Next day she did not come, nor the next, nor the next. The morning of the fourth day, I took my children and went over to Mary Jo's. Opening the kitchen door I said, "Mary Jo, I have come to hear the rest of your Indian religion."
She glared darkly at me and said surly, "I'll not tell you any more." I sat down and waited and waited. After awhile I said, "Mary Jo, if you don't tell me, I won't help you anymore when the baby has the colic." I waited. At last she said, "Oh, Pearly, I couldn't stay mad with you." So we sat by her small kitchen stove and she went right on with her history, exactly where she had left off.
"He told us how to live. That we must repent of our sins. We should teach our children to worship the Great Spirit. People came in crowds, and they sat on the grass to hear him. Once he fed the people who had come a long way and had no food. After awhile he chose twelve men who were to take care of teaching the people when he went back to the Great Spirit. He called them disciples. He taught us why we must be baptized, to take our sins away."
I said, "Mary Jo, what do you mean by baptized?" "He said, 'To be buried under the water and raised up again was to mean how we would be raised up after death by being buried in the ground.' It was like your church baptizes, Pearly. One day when our men understood all he had been teaching about it, we went down to the river. All people went. The man who was to be the chief of the twelve disciples went down into the river. He was laid under the water and lifted up again, and we saw no man with him."
I was simply overwhelmed by her story and questioned her. "Didn't the great white teacher baptize him?"
"No. He was not there then. The man who had been baptized then baptized the other eleven disciples. Then they baptized many others, and we had great rejoicing. It was then the great white teacher came walking among us again. At once he began teaching us again. He blessed the babies and little children, and he said, 'They are of the heaven and need no baptism, and it is a sin to baptize a child until he could tell right from wrong.' See why my people could not take the nuns teaching down there in the Indian territory? He taught the men that this was his church, and they who had had hands laid on their heads in blessings were to take care of it. He gave all who were baptized bread and wine, just like your church does. And these men were to keep that custom until he came again, for it meant his body and his blood.
Oh! Everyone lift their work and come to hear him, and the people believed. We came every day. Then one day after teaching and reminding us to live cleanly and pray and watch, he said, 'I go away, but I come again. If I find you watching, I will take you to be with me in a place made ready for you.' He began to be lifted up. This time there was no mist, we saw clearly. Some of our men tried to lay hold of him, but he was out of their reach. We saw him going up and up until he was a tiny speck. He was gone."
Mary Jo simply lived her story. On this part she dramatized, reaching up with the most indescribable look on her face. At "He was gone," her hands dropped neatly into her lap. It was the most surprising thing I had ever heard. After a long silence, I asked, "Mary Jo, how long was he here?" Instantly she lifted up one finger and said, "One moon." Another silence, in which I was trying to get in my mind the strange thing she had told me. At last I asked, "Did he ever come back?" "No! But, Pearly, do you see why our people greeted the white men when they first came here as they did? They thought the great white teacher had come, as he said he would."
"Mary Jo, were there any records left by your people?" "Not that I know of." "Well how in the world have you kept this history so perfectly from mother to daughter?" "Mother began teaching us just as soon as we could understand. Every day she told us, and we learned to keep to ourselves about it, for white folks do not believe."
She was quite conversant on the flood, the Egyptian bondage, the exodus, the years in the wilderness, the tabernacle; but of the people in this land, she was eloquent. She seemed to know only of the colony that had come out of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. After many questions, I finally came to this, "Mary Jo, why did the Indians never tell this history and religion to the white people? Why didn't any of them tell that you come from the Holy City?"
For a long time she did not answer, but she sat seemingly far away in memories. I noticed she was filling with emotion as a child about to cry strongly. At last she looked up right into my eyes; and as she did, I saw my dear little neighbor change into savage. If she could have had feathers and paint, she would have made a grand warrior. As she spoke her lips drew back from her teeth and her eyes glowed with a fearful light.
"Why should we tell them anything? When they came to our home, we brought fresh water and fruit and meat to them. We treated them kindly. What did they do to us? They took some of out men on their boats to look around. They shut them up. The boats sailed away, and we never saw our men again. They beat us. When our people refused to do their dirty work, They chopped their hands off and sent them home to show the bleeding stubs or arms to their people. They raped our women and even our little girls. They shot our men at their work. They stole our lands, our homes that had been given us by the Great Spirit long, long ago. And they drove us out of our homes. Why should we tell them anything?"
Written words cannot express what her face and voice did. I was afraid of her. For a long time we sat. She was struggling hard to quiet the storm of hate and anger that to the Indians the white face represented everything that was low, mean, lying and dishonest. What could I say to Mary Jo?
At last she spoke, and it was Mary Jo's soft musical voice again. "Oh, Pearly, I shouldn't have said all of that. You are not to blame. Forgive me."
I told her I knew she spoke the truth, for my people had always said how terribly wronged the Indians had always been. I asked her if she thought her mother could tell me anymore about their people. Instantly she replied, "Oh, no. She would not tell you anything. She doesn't know you like I do. She would be very offended if she knew that I had told you. We are never to talk to the Gentiles." That was a great shock to me. As I started home she said, "Pearly, I do not talk again. Do not ask."
I wish I had written then all I heard from her, but I didn't and much of her Indian phraseology has faded from my mind; but the facts, as she told me, are clear in my own language as the day she told me.
After we went to Texas and I was going to West Texas State Normal College, a Book of Mormon came into my hands. After I had my lessons for the next day, I would spend the time reading in the Book of Mormon. At first I did not care so much for it. Often I felt irked at 'And it came to pass'; but when I got over to III Nephi, I could see so much that Mary Jo had told me. I was interested, and I really studied that as I read. Then I came to the place where they all went down into the water and was baptized. Read the account in III Nephi 9:11. Mary Jo had told the circumstances so perfectly, and she was an uneducated Indian girl who could not read or write and did not know any record had been kept. Of course, I believed. It was one o'clock in the morning, but I awoke our household to tell them what I had found and that the Book of Mormon was true.