I have the habit of creating addendum files for any project that I have worked on. Once an article is published for example, and I stumble across a relevant source document, I drop it in the appropriate file. For some projects, the files are rather large. In rereading some material, I thought that I would put up a couple of posts highlighting material that I think adds to anything previously published.
For this first post, I am sharing a document relating to deathbed blessings. This was a practice that is first documented around the time of the Nauvoo Temple’s utility and is now part of the folk liturgy of the Mormon church. In “Last Rites and the Dynamics of Latter-day Saint Liturgy” I discussed the history of this practice. At the time I published it, I was only aware of two examples of ritual performance before the arrival in the Great Basin.
What follows is an excerpt from Phineas W. Cooks journal describing the events in relation to the death of his seven-month old daughter, Eliza, in Winter Quarters, May 12, 1847:
she was a vary promising child and bid fair to mak an inteligent woman but I am resolved to not reflect any blame on anyone but leave the event with the Lord who is Judge of all about an hour before she died I went down and asked Brigham to come up and administer to her which he did, he dedicated her unto God but gave her up father Morley came in with him I went down to Brigham and asked him for some cloth for a shrowd which he let me have. I also asked him to let me take his carriage to go to the grave which he did and sent Alva Hanks one of his men to drive it (1)
This poignant excerpt is important for a number of reasons. Not only does this account increase the number of pre-Great Basin accounts of which I am aware by a whopping 50%, but it is the only such example (again, of which I am aware) that involves church leadership. While church leaders are regularly documented performing these rituals in Utah, this example, and the way in which it was written, suggests that it the ritual was fairly widely known before that period. There is neither shock, nor surprise, simply the reality of death, and church members’ approach to it. It is also interesting as it is a fairly early usage of “dedication” which generally increases in usage with time.
- Phineas W. Cook, Reminiscences and Journal, Microfilm of holograph, MS 6288, LDS Church History Library.