Caroline and Mary Elizabeth Rollins
March 1990

“Caroline and Mary Elizabeth Rollins,” Tambuli, Mar. 1990, 12

Caroline and Mary Elizabeth Rollins

Even though it was a hot July day, Mary Elizabeth Rollins and her sister Caroline lay shivering on top of several large pieces of paper. The thick rows of 150- to 180-centimeters-high corn hid the two girls from the angry men who were hunting for them. The girls held their breath, praying for the men to stop their search and leave the cornfield.

It was 1833, and there was a lot of unrest in Independence, Missouri. More and more converts had settled in the area, and nonmember neighbors wanted the Saints to leave Jackson County, Missouri. Instead, the little community was growing. There was even a printing press in Brother William Phelps’s house, and the whole town knew that he was printing revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith and preparing them for publication.

It was some of those same revelations that the girls were lying on. A mob of angry men had become outraged at an editorial written by Brother Phelps that was printed in the Church newspaper. Fifteen-year-old Mary Elizabeth and thirteen-year-old Caroline had watched as the men broke into the Phelps’s home and threw the printing press and the printed revelations from the second-story window to the ground below. When Mary Elizabeth saw the papers hit the street, she knew what had to be done. She knew that those revelations and commandments came from the Lord and that it was important that the Saints have copies of them.

Even though they were frightened, both girls ran and gathered up as many of the large papers as they could carry. When members of the mob spotted them from the window and yelled at them to stop, the girls ran to the nearby cornfield, lay down on the sheets of paper, and prayed for protection.

It seemed like hours before the men grew tired of looking for the girls, but finally they left. Mary Elizabeth and Caroline waited longer before gathering up the sacred papers and creeping out of their hiding place.

The revelations were returned to Brother Phelps. Shortly afterward, those salvaged pages were combined with other pages that had been saved, and a tiny book called the Book of Commandments was printed. Two years later those same commandments and revelations were combined with additional revelations from the Lord and printed in a new book. Whenever they read the Doctrine and Covenants, Mary Elizabeth and Caroline remembered the part that they played in the coming forth of this sacred book of scripture.

My scriptures shall be given as I have appointed, and they shall be preserved in safety (D&C 42:56). (Illustrated by Clark Kelley Price.)