The Thomas Marsh back-story makes Section 112 pretty interesting. Here was a guy who converted to the Church in the earliest days and rose to preside over the Quorum of the Twelve. He has an interesting relationship with Joseph Smith, taking him on when he thought Joseph was too hard on the Twelve (see Rough Stone Rolling at 298). He flees Missouri during the conflict between the Mormons and the Missourians, and eventually testifies against the Prophet, accusing him, essentially, of trying to set up his own theocratic kingdom on the American frontier. Somewhere in the midst of this is the famous cream strippings story (his wife holds back the cream form some milk she shared with a neighbor, which leads to conflict, Church courts, appeals to the First Presidency, etc). Thomas leaves the Church for almost 20 years, but later rejoins the Saints in Utah and reconciles with the brethren.
To me, this story makes some of the passages in Section 112 especially interesting, even poignant. For example, the Lord tells Thomas that “there have been some few things in thine heart and with thee with which I, the Lord, was not well pleased.” D&C 112:2. The Lord counsels Thomas, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand and give the answers to thy prayers.” D&C 112:10. “Exalt not yourselves; rebel not against my servant Joseph; for verily I say unto you, I am with him, and my hand shall be over him; and the keys which I have given unto him, and also unto youward, shall not be taken from him till I come.” D&C 112:15.
The one verse that really strikes me is 13. After telling Thomas to teach and admonish the Twelve, he says, “And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted and I shall heal them.” I wonder if Thomas had any sense in 1837 how this verse might play out for him, how the Lord might feel after him. Twenty years later, after leaving the Church and the Saints, then making his way west, he met with Brigham Young and asked if he could rejoin the Church. A few days later, Brigham Young asked him to address the Saints in a meeting on Temple Square. Thomas said,
My voice was never very strong, but it has been very much weakened of late years
by the afflicting rod of Jehovah. He loved me too much to let me go
without whipping. . . . For if he had not cared anything about me he would
not have taken me by the arm and given me such a shaking. . . . I know
that I was a very stiff-necked man. . . . I want your fellowship; I want
your God to be my God. . . . I have learned to understand what David said
when he exclaimed, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to
dwell in the tents of wickedness."
Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book 1997.
Thomas Marsh lived through an amazing, difficult, complicated time. The events around him challenged his faith and led him on a tortuous journey. In the end, it appears that the Lord felt after him and brought him home. Can we hope for anything more?
Does the story of Thomas Marsh make the lesson material more meaningful for you? Or does it just not fit this week? Does Section 112 fit in the lesson this week?