Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Stand in Awe of Faith Like This

My wife's 5th-great-grandfather was the first native Italian convert to join the Church in Italy, baptized by Lorenzo Snow's companion. I share this only to share the power of his immigrant story.

His ancestors had been religious dissenters for hundreds of years. They had been killed and driven from their homes by the Catholic Church numerous times, and each time they waited until their ancestral valley was unoccupied and quietly "moved back home". Due to this intense persecution, their writings are full of sacred oaths to never leave that valley and settle permanently somewhere else.

When this particular man joined the Church, he had no idea he would not die in that valley. When the call was made to join the Saints in America, he packed his belongings without a word of complaint, said good-bye to his extended family and left his sacred valley for good - simply because a man whom he had never met but whom he believed to be a prophet of God asked him to do so. ("For the Strength of the Hills" was written not only about the Rocky Mountains but also about the hills surrounding his ancestral home - a hope that the hills within which the Saints settled would be for them what the Italian hills had been for his ancestors.)

I stand in awe of that kind of testimony and conviction and dedication.


Anonymous said...

Very inspirational story and a wonderful heritage for your family to draw upon.

It's a good reminder to take "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" as a theme in my life.

Kevin said...


Were your wife's ancestors part of the Cathar's that were persecuted as heretics by the Roman Church? I've read a little about that, and it's a pretty awful time. There were some interesting things in their theology when compared to the church today.

Papa D said...

Great tie-in, Researcher. That song has special meaning to us, specifically because of this ancestor.

Kevin, I will ask my father-in-law. He is the expert on that line. Perhaps I can get Ardis to dig a bit for an interesting angle.

Most people have no idea of the atrocities perpetuated by the Roman Catholic Church outside of the Inquisition. It's appalling when you encounter them for the first time. This man's ancestor's certainly suffered greatly for their heretical beliefs, and they certainly paved the way for his own acceptance of the Gospel even while being labeled a heretic by his own people.

Stephen said...

That is a great heritage.

Anonymous said...

Ray, I've done a little poking around in that time and place -- if you want to email me with the name of the ancestor (in case other families have claimed to be first), I'll be glad to share whatever I might find.

Papa D said...

Thanks, Ardis. I will do that. I'd like to get it verified by an independent source, although my FIL is meticulous in his research.

Anonymous said...

Which companion? My husband's great-great grandfather was one of Lorenzo Snow's companions in Italy.

I love the connection between "For the Strength of the Hills" and the story of those people in the Italian hills. It gives the hymn deeper meaning for me.

Papa D said...

Amy, Elder Stenhouse was the one who helped heal the little boy whose recovery inspired the subsequent baptisms. The healing was in September 1850, and the baptism of John Daniel Malan and his family was Feb. 25, 1851.

I will ask my father-in-law if he has anything else that lists who actually performed the baptism. In January, Elder Jabez Woodard was left in charge of the work, so he might have been the one who actually performed the baptism.

Papa D said...

Amy, my father-in-law said that Elder Toronto also might have been involved in the baptism. The individual I am referencing was John Daniel Malan.

Papa D said...

My father-in-law responded and said it was Elders Stenhouse and Woodard. He also added the following correction:

"JDM wasn't the first "person" baptized in Italy in this dispensation. (Another fellow, whose name I now don't recall either, was baptized the day before--and not mentioned again in branch/mission records.)

The Malans were the first FAMILY baptized..., and JDM was the first man ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and office of an elder in Italy in this dispensation."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for finding that out, Ray. My husband's related to Elder Toronto, so it's fun to hear about these connections. Even if he didn't perform any ordinances, he probably still knew them.

Thanks again.

Papa D said...

Just an update, for Amy and anyone else who cares:

A family moved into our ward a couple of months ago - the Cardons. They found out that Mama is a Malan and immediately asked about her ancestors. Their first member-ancestor had been baptized in Italy by Elder Toronto during the same period as John Daniel Malan. It was amazing to talk with them and share stories.