Sunday, March 28, 2010

Latter- Day Miracles: The Seagulls and the Crickets

Sherrie Johnson, “Deseret,” Liahona, Dec 1997, 10–11

"As the Saints began to settle the Salt Lake Valley and to prepare for others to arrive, Brigham Young named the new territory Deseret, a Book of Mormon word meaning “honeybee” (see Ether 2:3). He wanted to encourage the people to turn the wilderness into a “hive” of activity. It turned out to be a very fitting name.

The first of the 10 pioneer companies of 1847 arrived in July. Soon an adobe fort and 450 log cabins were built, and 2,078 hectares were cultivated.

By the next spring, provisions were dangerously low. Clothes were wearing out, food supplies were diminishing, and more settlers were arriving. Each person was limited to about a quarter of a kilogram of flour per day. To survive, families ate crows, wolves, thistle tops, wild berries, bark, roots, and sego lily bulbs while anxiously awaiting the growth of their crops.

In May and June, however, hordes of black crickets, some as big as a man’s thumb, began devouring the crops. All who were able took sticks, shovels, brooms, or whatever else they could find and battled the intruders.

The Saints dug trenches around the crops, drove the crickets into them, and tried to drown the pests. Still they came. Brigham Young later joked that when they killed one cricket, two more came to bury the first.* It must have seemed that way to the hungry Saints.

For over two weeks they fought the crickets while praying for help. Finally, on the Sabbath, while Charles C. Rich was preaching during church, huge flocks of gulls flew in from the Great Salt Lake and began to devour the crickets. The gulls ate until they were full, vomited what they had eaten, and ate again, repeating this strange behavior for many days until they had saved much of the crops.

The Saints were humbled and knew that God was watching over them."

'President John Smith of the Salt Lake Stake called a special fast day, and the people all fasted and prayed and then continued to fight the crickets. They knew God would have to help them if they were to save the harvest. Their prayers were answered on a clear afternoon when seagulls began to appear in the sky. John R. Young described the event:

“There must have been thousands of them. Their coming was like a great cloud; and when they passed between us and the sun, a shadow covered the field. …

“At first we thought that they, also, were after the wheat and this thought added to our terror; but we soon discovered that they devoured only the crickets” (Memoirs of John R. Young, as quoted in William E. Berrett, The Restored Church [1961], 285; see also 283–84)." (Gospel Art Picture Kit)

"Susan Noble Grant, who was sixteen years old at the time, described what then happened :

“The answer to our fasting and prayers came on a clear summer afternoon.

“We were fearfully alarmed, for all of a sudden, circling above our … fields, appeared great flocks of screaming gulls. ‘A new plague is descending upon us,’ was our first thought. Down the gray and white birds swooped in hundreds, then in thousands, uttering shrill … cries as they pounced upon [the crickets]. … Then a strange thing happened. As soon as they had gorged themselves, they sailed over to a nearby stream, took a few sips of water, disgorged [vomited] and returned to join their screaming companions. All our people stood in wonderment! Our prayers were answered”( “Lesson 41: The Saints Settle the Salt Lake Valley,” Primary 5: Doctrine and Covenants: Church History, (1997),238') (quoted in Grant, p. 446).

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