Girls helped preserve pages of sacred book

When the Church acquired a press in Independence, Mo., plans were made to publish in book form the revelations Joseph Smith had received, which numbered more than 60 at that time. That book, the Book of Commandments, was a forerunner to today's Doctrine and Covenants.

Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer left Kirtland, Ohio, Nov. 20, 1831, with manuscript copies and arrived in Independence Jan. 5, 1832. In April Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and others went to Independence, taking with them paper for the press.On July 20, 1833, when the first five signatures comprising 160 pages of the book had been printed, a mob of men swarmed into the printing office where William W. Phelps had his press. They threw the press and type out an upper story window and proceeded to tear down the building.

Mary Rollins, 14, and her sister, Caroline, 12, watched the mob action. About 70 years later, on Feb. 12, 1902, Mary Rollins Lightner wrote of the event in the Deseret Evening News:

"When the mob was tearing down the printing office, . . . driving Brother Phelps' family out of the lower part of the house, they brought out some large sheets of paper, saying, `Here are the Mormon commandments.' My sister . . . and I were in a corner of a fence watching them.

"When they spoke about them being the commandments, I was determined to have some of them. So while their backs were turned, prying out the gable end of the house, we ran and gathered up all we could carry in our arms.

"As we turned away, two of the mob got down off the house and called for us to stop, but we ran as fast as we could, through a gap in the fence, into a large corn field, and the two men after us. We ran a long way in the field, laid the papers on the ground, then laid down on top of them. The corn was very high and thick. They hunted all around us, but did not see us.

"After we were satisfied they had given up the search, we tried to find our way out of the field. The corn was so tall we thought we were lost. On looking up we saw some trees . . . . We followed them and came to an old log stable, which looked like it had not been used for years.

"Sister Phelps and family were there, carrying in brush and piling it up on one side of the stable to make their beds on. She asked us what we had. We told her and also how we came by them. She took them and placed them between her beds. Subsequently Oliver Cowdery bound them in small books and gave me one."

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