Susannah Webley...1812-1878 Reading up on the Mormons this wet and dismal afternoon...I knew nothing about them, but for seeing smartly dressed, earnest young men going about in twos during my time in Birmingham.
The tree I'm researching now has many early Mormons in it...most of them went to America, where they faced arduous journeys across the plains in covered wagons...
I suppose belonging to a relatively 'new' belief system gives you a sense of belonging which might well be absent in your life...but the woman who triggered my interest...'cos she died after a long journey fraught with difficulties...she had family in England when she decided to travel with others to a new life...though a couple of her daughters followed on after her.
Perhaps there was also a real sense of adventure...leaving a small farm in the countryside to face rattlesnakes and hungry coyotes on the dusty plains of Utah probably beats collecting the eggs and going to the market once a week...but I keep coming up with 'buts'...
Mormons do allow blood transfusions, which was a relief to read, but they don't partake of tea, coffee or alcohol...or tobacco...or recreational drugs. And they encourage modest dress among young women which immediately put out the red flags for me...skirts which are too short or Levi jeans give out the 'wrong' message to the young men and that sort of statement makes me want to bash my head on the nearest hard object...that's just me though.
Beards and long hair for men are also heavily frowned upon because they 'give the impression that the person wearing their hair long...and a beard...' is a rebel or a hippy who is really only thinking of themselves...and I thought of how Christ is usually portrayed. He wasn't his local barbers best customer.
Going back, to trailing across the dusty plains with an escort of armed out-riders to guard the little procession from errant Indians and the odd bad-tempered rattlesnake, rather begs the question of however did those women manage to remain modest in their habits...for heaven's sakes...they must have had to pee and poo...the young ones would have had periods...the men could hardly shave every day, it'd have taken up too much time...if there was an opportunity to wash their knickers, where did they hang them to dry, out of sight of all those lustful blokes?
Neat whisky would have been the anaesthetic, not only of choice but because there wasn't anything else...so did these stalwart people refuse to drink a tot before someone cut off a squashed finger or dragged them out from beneath an over-turned wagon with broken ribs and one leg at a funny angle?
I don't intend to be flippant...and I have always had respect for other peoples beliefs...but I'm finding it difficult to reconcile the words of a man, who in 1833, heard God speaking to him and giving him the advice about clothing and stimulants.
Susannah died after five years of being harried from pillar to post by people who couldn't or wouldn't accept the Mormons in their midst...she travelled thousands of miles under circumstances we would baulk at...she was just over sixty years of age when she died, but looks a good ten years older.
I find the rules and regulations of being a 'good Mormon' difficult to reconcile with a religious belief...but have the utmost regard for the Susannah's of this world.