“The Spirit of God”

D. Kelly Ogden, Andrew C. Skinner

The Pilgrim Fathers, also called Puritans and Separatists, sought to break away from the political and religious oppression in the British Isles and continental Europe. They migrated, driven by the “Spirit of God” or the “Spirit of the Lord,” and settled the “land of promise,” at the same time scattering the descendants of ancient Book of Mormon peoples, whom they called Indians.

The Gentiles, who included the Pilgrims and America’s Founding Fathers, “did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.” Doctrine and Covenants 101:80 says God established the Constitution of the United States of America “by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose.” His power, of course, would then be with them.

In the mid-1970s, Brother Ogden learned that the Church was going to close the St. George Utah Temple for two years for major remodeling, so he traveled to St. George to attend the temple in one of the final sessions before closing. After the session, he stopped at the temple recorder’s office, explained who he was and what he did, and asked if he could see the temple’s records of the visit of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the United States’ presidents, and other famous men and women. The recorder went immediately to a specific volume on a particular shelf in a relatively small room with wall-to-wall shelves and many big, handwritten ledgers of a hundred years of temple work. He said that Brother Ogden could look and remember all he could, but he was not permitted to make copies of the pages. (These records were later moved to the Church archives in Salt Lake City.)

Glancing through the book, Brother Ogden saw that temple president Wilford Woodruff and assistant president John D. T. McAllister had done the ordinances for all the signers of the Declaration, except John Hancock, whose work had already been done by his descendant Levi Hancock; all the United States presidents up to that date except three—Buchanan, who sent Johnston’s Army to Utah in 1857; Van Buren, who said, “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you”; and Grant, who was then living; and other renowned men, such as Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci (Americus Vespucius), John Wesley, William Makepeace Thackeray, Washington Irving, Michael Faraday, David Farragut, Louis Agassiz, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster, William Seward, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun. Wilford Woodruff’s diary records that the ordinance work was also performed for the following: Napoleon Bonaparte, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, William Wordsworth, and Sir Walter Scott. 36 Sister Lucy B. Young helped do the work for Martha Washington and seventy other eminent women of the world.

Verse by Verse: The Book of Mormon: Vol. 1