History of Leonidas Moses Worthen Mecham
Compiled by Diane Rawlins Mayo
This history includes excerpts from the Journal of Lucina Mecham Boren, and "How Beautiful Upon the Mountains".
Leonidas Moses Worthen Mecham was born July 22, 1804, at Canaa, Grafton County, New Hampshire, son of Joshua Mecham and Permelia Chapman. He married Elvira Derby on November 28, 1827. She was born in Graf ton County to John Derby and Sarah Currier on November 6, 1811.
Shortly after their marriage, Moses and Elvira moved to Mercer, Pennsylvania. Here seven children were born. Then they moved to Kendrick, Iowa, where their child America was born. The glowing reports of the Oregon country started them westward.
In Iowa he engaged in the mercantile business, being very successful and prosperous. During 1839 he learned that his father, Joshua, and his family had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Moses became much worried, for he had seen what bloodthirsty mobs had done to the people of that faith where he lived.
He studied hard the LDS belief to see why his people had joined, but it seemed he could not obtain a testimony to the truthfulness of their beliefs. One night he startled the members of his family by speaking in tongues. They had never heard such a thing before and supposed that he was delirious. While speaking in tongues he took the old family Bible and read from it, still speaking in tongues. His wife understood and started reading the passages to the family as he turned from one section to another in the Bible, all dealing with the restoration of the gospel. This experience convinced them that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was true and they decided to apply for baptism. They traveled to Columbus, Adams County, Illinois, and early in March, 1839, he and members of his family were baptized by Elder James Tomlinson at Nauvoo, Illinois.
Moses described his conversion in his own Journal as follows:
"My Father and Mother belonged to the Methodist Church, but for years I had not really believed in any creed or religion of being of any consequence as there was to my knowledge, none that held to the principles contained in the scripture. I had heard about the deluded Mormons, but nothing good. My cousin Elain Mecham was going to hold a Mormon meeting and asked me to come, but I would not as I would be ashamed to let people know he was a relative of mine. He left a Book of Mormon with me and asked me to read it, I told him if I got time I would. Soon after I was too sick to go to the store to work, so I thought I would see what was in the Book, but before I started I kneeled down and prayed that I might know if there was any good in it. I read all day, at bed time my wife went to bed, and I read on until 1 AM. The next morning, when I awoke my wife to tell her that I knew the Book of Mormon was true, when I spoke it was in tongues. It frightened my wife and she sent two of the children to her sister and my brother one and one fourth miles away. When they came they were very pleased, said I was speaking in tongues. They had already joined the Church. I was convinced of the truth of Mormonism. I thought I would never speak in my own tongue until I was baptised. I applied to Brother Snider for baptism, but he refused on account of so much excitement caused by the mob, but about the tenth of March 1839 my wife and I were baptised by Elder James Tomlinson and confirmed by Elders James Tomlinson and John Strokes. I was perfectly convinced of the cause of this remarkable occurrence. On April sixth we attended Conference at Ouince, Illinois, and I was ordained a Seventy under the hands of Brother Joseph Young and others. In a short time, I started on a Mission in company of my brother Lewis Mecham to Montrose, Iowa where my brother was ordained a Priest by Elders John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff. We traveled from there to Burlington, changed our course Westward, preaching till we came to an Indian village on the Des Moines River, about 125 miles from its mouth. The Indians were of the Saukee and Fo nations. We were treated very kindly by the Indians." (This is all that remains of his personal writings.)
After Joining the Church, Moses and his family returned to Lee, Iowa. During this period he met persecution along with the rest of the saints, losing his mercantile business and other possessions. He, along with his father, Joshua, and his son, Clinton, had the privilege on several occasions to act as a bodyguard for the Prophet Joseph Smith. He served as Church Police for three years and was also a member of the Nauvoo legion.
On December 30, 1845, Moses and Elvira were sealed to each other, along with other members of their family, in the Nauvoo Temple. They moved to Van Buren, Iowa, then to Council Bluffs. In 1853, with their unmarried children, they moved to Utah Valley, settling at Lehi, were Moses had charge of the toll gate at Jordan Narrows for about a year. Their last child was born there. From Lehi they moved to Provo, where Moses taught school several years.
One evening Moses and Elvira were invited to a meeting at the home of Sister Bigelow. She asked Moses to speak. He spoke in tongues and Sister Green gave the interpretation. He told of the sufferings and deaths in the handcart company that was on their way to Utah. All that were present wept to hear what those people were going through. Some of the handcart company came to Provo to live and from the stories they told, they knew that all that Moses had said that night was true.
Moses had his feelings hurt through a misunderstanding with a leader in the Church, which he couldn't bring himself around to forgiving. This caused him to loose the gift he had been blest with from the time of his conversion, that of speaking in tongues. He quit teaching school and moved to the mouth of Provo Canyon as toll keeper. Here he planted an orchard and garden. The young trees just started to bear when a flash flood cut a channel through his little farm and destroyed most of it. This experience humbled him and gave him the spirit of forgiveness, thus helping him to become happy again.
His health was very poor the last years of his life. A few nights before his death he told his daughter Martha that she could speak in tongues if she desired, which she did immediately, strengthening the testimony of the family. He died July 22, 1868. His daughter Lucina was with him a few days before and didn't want to leave. He told her that if he lived he would do everything he could for her, and if he died, and there was any chance of the dead helping the living, he would sure help her. In her Journal she says she knows he kept his promise because she had felt his presence many times.