December 10, 2022

“Miracle of the Quail”

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Photo Credit: Sandra Rast

Sometimes we need to be reminded of all the amazing miracles our Heavenly Father has given us in this world. What is a miracle? Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk in titled “Miracles” in May of 2000. In his talk he said the definition of miracles is: “a beneficial event brought about through divine power that mortals do not understand and of themselves cannot duplicate.” Elder Oaks also goes onto say that “Miracles happen every day in the work of the Church and in the lives of it’s members.

“Miracle of the Quail” is not a miracle that has been recirculated for a bit, maybe I just had not heard it. When reading about the life of Mary Fielding Smith it mentioned that she was in the location when this miracle happened. Looking a little deeper and finding out why so many people were on the other side of the Mississippi River made this story even more impactful. The Saints had to go through so much so if you have not heard of this amazing miracle, you are not the only one! Studying the life of Mary Fielding Smith is what brought this miracle to my attention!

Nauvoo Exodus

From the very start of the Restoration of The Church members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had been run out of their homes on multiple occasion, and Nauvoo to Salt Lake City was the last great exodus for the early members of the Church. Many members were not prepared to leave their homes and their town, but after the Prophet Joseph Smith died and his brother Hyrum Smith tensions grew and members were forced to leave. Many would leave with little to no money or provision, being forced to leave because of the Battle of Nauvoo. Brigham Young and a large group of Saints started making their way west earlier in the year, but many saints like Mary Fielding Smith did not have the money to start the journey west. The mob was hungry to get all the members of the Church out of Nauvoo. Tensions got higher and hight and culminated in the Battle of Nauvoo.

Battle of Nauvoo

The Battle of Nauvoo occurred after many of the Saints had left Nauvoo. In the summer of 1846 the members of the Church still in Nauvoo were poor, sick or not able to make the trek to Utah. The tensions of mob violence grew in Nauvoo with whippings and kidnappings happening around town. The State Militia was called in to calm the area, but it did not work and tensions mounted. There was even a treaty signed by both parties in hopes to avoid bloodshed, but that did not work either.

The mob wanted the Saints to leave immediately and took matters into their own hands to make sure it happened.

Thomas Brockman was the mob leader. He led 1,000 men to advanced against the saints left in Nauvoo. There were only 150 men from the Saints that were able to try to defend their families. This little band of 150 men were able to defend themselves for one week of the advancing mob, that’s pretty good considering what they were facing. They had little to no guns and ammunition, because most had left with the other saints. These men did their best to protect their family and their city from the mob take over. In the end they were largely outnumbered and the sick and poor families of Nauvoo were driven out of the city by the vicious mob.

During the Battle of Nauvoo, three members of the Church died and many on both sides were wounded. On Sept. 16, 1846 a church leader by the name of Daniel Wells concluded that this, small band of men, could not hold the city. They retreated to spare more lives from being taken. A treaty was signed where the city was turned over to the mob men, and the members of the Church were required to leave Nauvoo. Like the treaty that was signed before for peace, the treaty did not mean much to the movers and even with with the treaty signed the men of the mob did not leave the members of the Church alone to gather their belongings and leave.

The mob continued to harassed the men and women preparing to leave with their families. They would ransack their houses, the mob men would go through their wagons as they were trying to leave town, they went to the temple, up to the tower and rang the bell, yelling at the remaining members still in Nauvoo. Some people were even pushed out of their beautiful city by gunpoint.

Remember, these are the members that were too sick, or too poor to leave with the members that left earlier. The members had no choice but to cross the Mississippi River, camp on the other side and wait for help to come.

One of the members that was pushed out by mob violence is the heroic Mary Fielding Smith. The recently widowed Mary Fielding Smith had to gather her family and belongings and move on, ready or not. Mary was with the group of Saints there to witness “the miracle of the quail”.

“The Miracle of the Quail”

It was just across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo a town called Montrose Iowa near Potters Slough where the Latter-Day Saint refugees made camp. Many of these people only had food enough for the day, they had no shelters, many used quilts as tents. This group of Saints were in bad shape. The fear of the mob in Nauvoo, no food, no shelter, not knowing what to do next would have been terrifying. The Lord knew of their hardships and sacrifices and blessed them with the miracle we now call the “Miracle of the Quail.”

On Oct. 9, 1846 a flock of quail landed on the camp of these exhausted, and hungry members of the Church. The quail landed everywhere from the tops of their wagons, right in front of them and some quail even went inside tents of the refugee saints. These struggling, hungry Saints were able to catch and eat these birds for food for their starving families. About 650 people were fed that day as a gift from God.

This was a reminder to these suffering saints that the Lord is with them. He had never left them and would help. This miracle has been compared to the Old Testament story in Exodus 16. Just like the God took care of the Children of Israel, and the Saints being exhaled from Nauvoo, He takes care of us today!

Elder Holland said about the Lord watching over us:

“God is aware of our burdens and will strengthen us to strengthen others. This does not mean your problems will always disappear or the world will suddenly be at peace. But neither do your prayers fall on deaf ears. Heavenly Father hears the prayers of the widowed, the divorced, the lonely, the overwhelmed, the addicted, the ill, the hopeless—everyone.

Places to Visit With This Story:

Nauvoo, Illinois

Nauvoo Temple, Nauvoo Illinois

Montrose, Iowa

Winter Quarters Temple

Church Museum at Winter Quarters

More on Mary Fielding Smith


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