Twenty-two-year-old Caroline Tippets sat in the congregation listening to her brother Alvah Tippets address the branch in Lewis, New York, USA, over which he presided. As with her fellow branch members, she had come to this meeting in September 1834 in fasting and prayer to hear an important message from Alvah. He read from a revelation that the Prophet Joseph Smith had received in December 1833 about how the Saints could redeem land lost when Church members were expelled from Jackson County, Missouri, a few months earlier:
“Let all the churches gather together all their moneys; let these things be done in their time, but not in haste; and observe to have all things prepared before you.
“And let honorable men be appointed, even wise men, and send them to purchase these lands.
“And the churches in the eastern countries, when they are built up, if they will hearken unto this counsel they may buy lands and gather together upon them; and in this way they may establish Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:72–74).1
Alvah then opened the meeting for discussion about how the Saints in Lewis could fulfill this commandment. They decided that members should contribute whatever they could. Caroline’s brother Joseph Harrison Tippets and their cousin John H. Tippets would then take the money to Missouri and give it to Church leaders there.2 As Caroline heard these words, she decided that she would contribute what she had. As a single, 22-year-old woman, she wanted to do her part to fulfill what the Lord had asked, and she gave almost $150 as her donation.
Although $150 does not sound like much to us today, it was a significant sum of money in 1834—the equivalent of about $4,000 today.3 Who was this young woman who contributed so much money?
Caroline Tippets was born on October 21, 1812, to Joseph and Abigail Tippets in Lewis Township, New York, where her family had lived since 1805. Along with her older brother, Alvah, she had an older sister, Permillia, and a younger brother, Joseph Harrison. In 1826 their father died, and she and her siblings went to live with their cousins William and Abigail Tippets in Lewis.
In March 1832, John H. Tippets, who was working about 12 miles away, heard about the Book of Mormon, likely from Amasa Lyman, William E. McLellin, and Jared Carter, who were preaching in the area. He shared the news with his cousins. There is no record of how Caroline responded, but she must have gained a testimony of the book and the man who translated it—Joseph Smith. In May or June 1832, Caroline and the rest of her family were baptized.4
Caroline’s brothers worked in sawmills, but there is no record that tells us how she earned money. Perhaps she sewed clothing or worked in the homes of others in the area, both of which were common occupations. Whatever the case, she saved the money she earned, and her $150 contribution was about 20 percent of the branch’s total contribution ($850) in 1834 for the purchase of lands in Zion.5
After the branch decided to consecrate the money and have Joseph and John take it to Missouri, Caroline expressed a desire to accompany the two. The three left Lewis in October 1834, and in November they arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, where Joseph Smith was living. Because it was late in the season, the three decided to stop in Kirtland and counsel with Joseph Smith and the Kirtland high council as to whether they should continue on to Missouri or stay in Kirtland for the winter. On November 28, Joseph and John met with the high council, with Joseph Smith presiding. After discussion, the high council told Joseph and John that they should stay in Kirtland for the winter. Since they wouldn’t need the money for Missouri land purchases until the following spring, the high council asked them if they would be willing to loan some of the money to Church leaders in Kirtland to help with debts, some of which had been contracted as part of the construction of the Kirtland Temple.
According to the minutes of the meeting: “It was ascertained by the council [that] Sister Caroline Tippets held $149.75 of the money. … She was accordingly called into the council and expressed a willingness to loan the same. A note … in favor of Caroline Tippets of $150 [was given] due April 15, 1835, [and] signed by Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, and F[rederick] G. Williams.”6
Caroline’s willingness to loan the money was a great blessing to Joseph Smith and the Church at that time. The day after the meeting, November 29, Joseph and Oliver knelt in prayer and gave “thanks for the relief which the Lord had lately sent” through the Lewis branch and Caroline.7
The following spring, having been repaid, Caroline, Joseph, and John departed Kirtland for Missouri with the money. Later that year, Caroline married William Plummer Tippets, her first cousin and John Tippets’s brother. In 1836 she died giving birth to their first child, who died as well.8
Caroline’s life was short, and she is not well-known by most in the history of the Church. In many ways, she is like millions of other members who go about their lives quietly serving without recognition and without fanfare. At a time when the Lord asked Church members to contribute what they had for the redemption of Zion, she heard Him and followed His direction. Her willingness to listen to the Lord’s word through the Prophet Joseph and then act on it helped the Church in a time of need and helped her contribute to the work of the Lord.