RALEIGH, N.C. On June 24 two historical events came together as the Raleigh North Carolina Stake presented "The Promised Land" an original pageant based on a true story about a North Carolina family who fought in the Revolutionary War and whose descendants moved to Missouri and joined the early saints.
This connection between Independence Day and Pioneer Day combined drama, inspirational music and costumes giving the cast and crew of more than 200 the opportunity to testify of the blessings of truth, peace and freedom as seen through the eyes of the Joseph Taylor Sr. (1728-1808) family an ordinary family that lived through extraordinary times.
"We wanted to use the story of a common family one that could represent any of our ancestors who had the bravery and conviction to fight for our future and to bring us the truth and freedom God intended His people to have," said Judy Downey, pageant producer and descendant of the Taylor family.
Despite the views of his father who was loyal to the crown, Joseph Taylor II (1760-1818) enlisted in the Continental Army in 1776. Few battles were fought on North Carolina soil but in 1781 at Guilford Courthouse, the troops of American General Nathanael Greene clashed with British forces led by Lord Charles Cornwallis. The first line consisted of North Carolina militia. Joseph Taylor II was among those men and was wounded in the head. When Joseph returned from battle, he married Sara Best also a native of North Carolina; they had 12 children. Their first son was William Taylor (1787-1839), born on the Taylor plantation in Edgecombe County, N.C. William moved from North Carolina to Kentucky where he met and married Elizabeth Patrick; they had 14 children. Later, they moved to Missouri near Fishing River where William was introduced to the Church. He believed himself to be the first person baptized into the Church in the State of Missouri.
From the time he joined the Church, he became a dedicated Latter-day Saint following the Prophet Joseph Smith and the others through their historic persecutions. Like many of the early saints, he was forced to give up one home after another, his property was stolen and destroyed yet never did their faith falter. In 1839, they left Far West for Illinois after receiving word of the extermination order set by Governor Boggs. Just before arriving at Commerce (Nauvoo), William Taylor became ill and died.
After losing her husband, Elizabeth was given a parcel of land by Joseph Smith and built a house. Elizabeth and her children worked for 24 cents per day to provide for the family. Every tenth day, they helped build the Nauvoo temple.
On Feb. 8, 1846, Elizabeth and her children crossed the Mississippi River on the ice when they were once again driven from their homes after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and joined the saints on the historic trek to Utah. In 1850, they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.
After auditions, Sister Downey was surprised to find that other descendants of the Taylor family lived within the stake and decided to join the cast.
Terri Jaskolka was one of those cast members. "I have known about this (Taylor) family for some time, but really only had an outline of facts about them, not much with which to make a personal connection. I got a chance to become better acquainted with their times and circumstances and gain a deeper appreciation for what they had done for me."