SAN JUAN MISSION
THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
UTAH FOUNDERS DAY SESQUICENTENNIAL
1847 - 1997
By Stanley Warren Bronson, Branch President and Tribal
Historian / White Mesa Avikan Utes
(c)1986/1987 Stanley Warren Bronson
Second Printing / Revised Edition (c) 1999
The Following is an account of the appearance of Jesus Christ to four Avikan Ute Indian men near the "Mormon" Community of Bluff, Utah, in about the year 1920, Together with other stories related to the role of the Ute Indians and other Native Americans in the establishment, nurturing, and preservation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - Day Saints in "The Tops Of The Mountains." This account relates specific Ute Indian legends and experiences which this writer believes helps to verify the importance of the role of the Church's San Juan Mission to the Lamanites which was established according to the spirit of Prophecy and Revelation April 6, 1880. The acount is written under the supposition that the reader has at least some understanding or awareness of the Book of Mormon, and of the church's role in the Restoration of the Descendants of the Book of Mormon people -- The Native American Indians. This account is respectfully submitted to Elders M. Russell Ballard and Jeffery R. Holland of the Quarm of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - Day Saints in compliance with a request from the Church's Native American Utah Founders Day Sesquicentennial Committee.
THE NAME "UTAH" is a Ute Indian word meaning, "The Human Family, or, The Family of The Human Beings."
Utah's Founders Day Sesquicentennial is celebrated by American Indians, together with non Indian people from all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds who have become a part of the heritage of Utah's great Family of the Human Beings. Utah's Native Americans are the Host nation to all people who come to the "Tops of the Mountains" for refuge.
There are many stories of American Indian contributions to the success of the purposes of the original Mormon pioneers who entered the Salt Lake Valley July 24,1847. Standing out among these stories is the account of the Native American's role in the establishment and fulfillment of The Church's San Juan Mission to the "Lamanites" (American Indians), founded in Bluff City, Utah April 6, 1880.
Ute Indian oral histories by Avikan White Mesa Jim Mike (Chee Maik), his daughter Pochief, and his son Billy are believed by this writer to be significant in supporting the aforementioned premise. The histories state that in August, about the year 190, Jesus Christ appeared to Jim and three other Ute men as they traveled on horseback from their camp at southeastern Utah's Sand Island on the San Juan River to buy watermelons from the settlers in the liggle Mormon town of Bluff, headquarters of the San Juan Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The account, told in its entirety to this writer in 1986 by Pochief and Bill Mike, states that Jim Mike, his son Harry, his son-in-law Jack Fly, and another unnamed son, were approaching Bluff when they met a bearded man with long un-braided hair walking barefoot toward them in the sandy roadway. The man spoke, calling Jim Mike by his secret Ute name. Jim responded, saying, "You must be Jesus." The man smiled and pointed to himself. Jesus Christ was known to have been a somewhat frequent visitor among the Ute people; therefore, as the four men dismounted from their horses they were anxious to begin asking questions which members of their clan had been told to ask the next time any of them saw Jesus. During the ensuing conversation with the Creator, Christ held his hands out to the four men, showed them the Marks of the Crucifixion, and declared in the Ute language, "I want you to know -- you would not have done this to me here."
This writer has been closely associated with the White Mesa Avikan Utes since 1952, and has served as tribal historian since 1983. As a result of his long association as friend and historian, as well as having served as a Missionary in the White Mesa Ute Branch of The Church in various capacities over the past fifteen years, this writer has been privileged to be a first-time recorder of some of the Avikan Ute people's most sacred stories. Many of these stories, when considered in light of Mormon theology, add to the justification of Christ's appearance and marvelous declaration to Jim Mike and his sons at the outskirts of Bluff city on that hot August day in about the year 1920.
Since the beginning of the "Fourth World" (World of the Present Day), the Utes (Nuche) or "Human People," have known and worshiped Jesus Christ, the Creator God, who in their language is named Sinawav, meaning, "He Who Leaves Footprints Of Light." in recent generations, Jesus Christ has appeared to the Ute People in the Four Corners Region on a number of different occasions. In ancient legendary accounts, Christ is said to have come on a White Horse, appearing to the people at a place called Poturnuche, The "Heart of the Earth." Poturnuche, literally translated, means "the Human Beings as the Center of the Sphere." Here at the Center of the Earth the Creator would bless the people and give them instructions. However, in all of the accounts of Christ's appearances to the Ute People, no message is more profound than the testimony which Christ uttered to Jim Mike and his sons as they stood in the hot, sandy, roadway at Bluff, Utah, and heard the Lord, himself, declare that the people "here," in the traditional Ute lands of "Avikan," would not have crucified him.
Again, one might ask why Jesus Christ, the Great Jehovah, Creator of Heaven and Earth and Redeemer of all mankind, would take occasion to appear to four Ute men near the little Mormon town of Bluff, show them the prints of the nails in his hands and then state this marvelous declaration, ".......yo would not have done this to me here." One might also wonder as to whether or not this profound declaration was intended for these four men only, or if the message was meant to bear record to a greater audience.
Historical documentation regarding the westward trek of the Mormons and their subsequent colonization of the Rocky Mountain and Great Basin areas affirms that the Utes and other Native Americans played a major role in establishing and protecting the people of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in "The Tops of the Mountains." Still, no known essays have been printed on just how important and effective that role has been in insuring both the temporal and spiritual survival of The Church and its people in America's western regions. Neither has there been much printed stating the influence the Native Americans have had in the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah and Daniel regarding the gathering of Israel in the Last Days. It might be considered significant, that many tens of thousand of Mormon missionaries who have declared the Restored Gospel throughout the Four Quarters of the Earth have come from pioneer families who were protected, nurtured, and in some ways endorsed, by the Utes and other Indian people with whom they have been raised up.
The Book of Mormon, a gift from the ancestors of today's American Indians, is in and of itself enough to substantiate the claims being made in this writing of the significance of Native Americans in the mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This recorded history of the ancient ancestors of the American Indians, which is being carried forth into all the world by The Church's missionaries, substantiates the stories of the New Testament which bear testimony of Christ's appearance and ministry in the Americas following his crucifixion and resurrection in Jerusalem.
Truly it could not be denied that the successful establishment of the Mormon communities throughout the west, and the allowance of the fulfillment of the mission of The Church, is owed in part to the tolerance and assistance offered by the Native American People. This writer, himself, is eternally indebted to some of these Children of Lehi, as he is a descendant of Mormon Pioneers whose lives were saved by Ponca Indians during the winter of 846 as the 500 people of the Bishop George Miller Wagon Company, the first wagon train sent from Winter Quarters by Brigham Young, found themselves lost, stranded, and freezing, and without food. The Poncas brought meat, and taught the Mormon men how to hunt the strange wild cows called buffalo, thus saving their lives. They helped the Mormons fortify themselves for the winter, and also helped to deter marauding bands who sought to prey upon the people of the wagon train. The George Miller Company remained in Indian territory for 9 months before being instructed to return to Winter Quarters.
As the Mormons settled the Great Salt Lake Valley, the Ute people and other Natives, including the Shoshone Utes, in many instances came to have close and fruitful associations with Brigham Young and other Mormon settlers. however, in the beginning, as the first wagon trains entered the Salt Lake Valley showing intent to settle permanently the Utes were alarmed at the potential threat presented to their way of life, to their hunting grounds, and to the known destiny of their sacred lands in the Rocky Mountains. As the Ute Warriors came down upon the Mormons, intent on removing this threat by forcing them to move on, angels appeared as "Spirit Warriors," Standing between the Mormons and the Utes. The Spirit Warriors told the Utes that they were not to harm the Mormons, but rather, that they were to protect and assist them.
There are numerous events which verify that the Ute people took the instructions of the Spirit Warriors seriously. From 1847 until the decline of the westward migrations, the Utes gave tens of thousands of Mormon immigrants safe passage into Ute lands. When The Church was building the Salt Lake Temple and was in great financial debt, Ute, leaders gave Brigham Young gold taken from the Uintah Mountains with which The Church paid debts and adorned the Lord's great Temple.
Although, throughout the years, there were sometimes misunderstandings and disagreements between Utes and Mormons, still, in the overall perspective, the relationship between the two groups has remained good and purposeful. Throughout the history of southeastern Utah's San Juan Mission, to which we will now return, not one Mormon was ever killed by a Ute.
from early on in Utah history, Brigham Young, President and Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had in mind the settling of southeastern Utah as a part of his colonizing plan to secure the stronghold of the Latter-day Saints throughout the territory, and , of course, to deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the descendants of the Book of Mormon people -- the "Children of Lehi" known as Lamanites. In 1853, the Church established the Elk Mountain Mission where present day Moab sits beneath "Pari Kaav" (Ute name meaning elk Mountain, now known as LaSal Mountain). Within the first few days following the establishment of the Elk Mountain Mission, the Missionaries baptized all of the Avikan Ute people living there who were eight years of age and older. All men, age eighteen and older, were ordained Elders in the priesthood. Later, in 1854, because of an unfortunate misunderstanding which occurred between the Missionaries and the Utes, when the men from the elk Mountain Fort mistakenly drove their cattle and horses to graze on sacred and forbidden Ute lands on Elk Mountain, The Church was forced to abandon the mission.
Over the years after 1854, Brigham Young discussed the founding of a mission further south, on the San Juan River, but he passed away in 1877 before his plan could be carried out. However, in 1879 his successor, President John Taylor, issued a call to 250 Latter-day Saints from Parawon and Cedar City to establish a colony on the San Juan River in fulfillment of President Young's vision. Following a treacherous journey which took these 250 missionaries, their 84 wagons, and 1800 head of livestock, through some of the most rugged territory in North America, the "Hole-In-The-Rock" pioneers founded the colony of Bluff City, Utah April 6,1880. The little town, which rests on the banks of the San Juan River between the gigantic sandstone bluffs after which the community is named, was established at the site of a most significant spiritual landmark known far and wide among Native American people. The action of the Mormons in establishing their community at this particular sight was observed with great interest by Utes, Navajos, Hopis, and others.
The mandate set forth by President John Taylor as he sent the San Juan Missionaries eastward to the Four Corners region was that the Saints would teach the Gospel to the Lamanites (the Ute and Navajo Indians) of that region. Some of the Utes who watched the coming of the Mormons, though unknown to the colonizers, were actually members of The Church -- even holders of the Priesthood, having been baptized and ordained at he the Elk Mountain Mission in 1853. Utes and other Indians watched with a confirming interest as the Mormons built up their little community in the heart of the land known to
Native Americans as the "Red Earth Motherland of the People."
According to the ancient legends of many tribes throughout the Americas, a landmark known as the "Spiritual Cross" symbolizes the Center of the Migrations, or Journeys, of the People. In actuality, the Spiritual Cross is marked where the Ta`vaya Kimtux Pa`kwit, "The River Which Follows The Sun" (now named the San Juan River), crosses through Tuvwup Oaov, "Mother Earth's Backbone" (now known as comb Ridge)> This Giant Cross represents the center of both the temporal and spiritual migrations of the people. According to legend, this mark was made by the Creator as a symbol which would return the Family of the Human Beings to the center places of the Motherland. This Motherland is the great Land of Promise referred to by the Utes as Avikan, meaning "The Homeland Where The People Rest." The Navajo Indians refer to Avikan as Dinetah, "Homeland of the People."
For reasons foreordained of god, the Mormon pioneers who had been called to found the San Juan Mission were blinded to rational planning as they prepared for their eastward journey further into Ute and Navajo country. Because of this they did not travel to their destination by way of the more proven road through Tuba City, Arizona. Instead, they cut straight across Utah Territory, from Cedar City and Parawon, and crossed the Colorado River Gorge in some of the most foreboding country known in all the earth. The journey took the people six months to complete, rather than the six weeks which was expected, or which it would have taken for the wagon train to go by way of the southern route. Why did the Mormons do such a seemingly foolish thing? In the course of the journey it was necessary to dynamite hundreds of ton of rock at the top of the Colorado River Gorge in order to widen an already existing crack in the canyon wall and make it possible for wagons to pass through. This widened crack was named by the pioneers, "Hole-In-The-Rock." A road was then built which clung to the sheer canyon wall. The grades of descent in some places were perpendicular drop offs over which the wagons were lowered and then eased on down to the river which roared through the red rock canyon a mile below the Hole-In-The-Rock.
Albert R. Lyman, first settler of the San Juan Mission's town of Sidon, now known as Blanding, believed that the Hole-In-The-Rock people were like the Children of Israel, being purged and refined in the wilderness of Sinai. He claimed that if the people had come by way of the easy road, then many of them would have departed by the same route, due to the extreme hardships the people were faced with in carrying out the Mission. "We had too much invested in this mission to abandon it." said the man who served for half a century as San Juan Stake Patriarch.
As the Mormons blasted their way down through the Hole-In-The-Rock, the Utes who lived on the Kava Karus ("Standing Alone Mountain," now known as Navajo Mountain), Watched and listened with interest. Among the curious ears and eyes were those of eight-year old Jim Mike, who would later stand as a grown man before Jesus Christ at the outskirts of Bluff City as a witness to one of the greatest known utterances of Christ in the New World.
The remainder of the Mormons' journey across the Utah wilderness was no less difficult than was the perilous descent through the Hole-In-The-Rock. Utes and Navajos watched from a distance as these determined pioneers mad their way westward through the most uninviting terrain ever traversed by any colonizing party in the history of the settling of the American West. As the pioneers continued on , their wagon train became trapped by Grand Gulch, an impassible chasm in the earth, which forced the party northward to the foot of "Bears Ears Mountain" (Elk Ridge). The San Juan Missionaries then continued eastward, only to be diverted by "Mother Earth's Backbone," the 800 foot high wall of red rock known to the Pioneers as Comb Ridge, which extended both north and south beyond where the eye could see. Scouts for the wagon train informed the people that in order to reach their final destination at Fort Montezuma to the east, they would have to follow Comb Ridge south to the San Juan River, then travel eastward along the river for another twenty five miles.
The first week of April 1880 found the Mormons camped at Mother Earth's Backbone on the banks of the "River Which Follows The Sun" (San Juan River). The bedraggled pioneers did not know that they prepared their meals and made their beds on the most significant site on the face of the entire earth to many tribes of Native American people throughout the hemisphere. Neither did they know that because they had come by way of the Hole-In-The-Rock route, rather than by way of Tuba City, their very presence at that site was already bearing testimony to the truthfulness of the message which they , as missionaries, would soon begin to deliver among the Native People. And so because of the seemingly foolish route selected by the Captains of the trek, the Mormons had unknowingly migrated to what the Indian people know to be the azis of the migrations of the People, even the very Center of the Earth.
Some of the Hole-In-The-Rock pioneers climbed that the difficult ascent up Mother Earth's Backbone, named by the Mormons "San Juan Hill." was the most physically demanding part of the entire journey. Utes and Navajos quietly watched as Mormon men, women and children, strained, stumbled, slipped, and fell, leaving the flesh and blood fro their scraped legs, elbows and hands on the rocks as they pushed and pulled their way up the steep rocky trail. Hair and blood from livestock was also left upon the rocks as they struggled up the steep incline. Upon arriving at the top of the hill, the Mormon Captains announced that the party would not continue on to Fort Montezuma, as planned, but that they would build their own town between the bluffs of the San Juan River Gorge next to San Juan Hill.
The people of the wagon train were tired and worn out from the long and arduous journey. Many of them welcomed the news that they would not be traveling the additional 25 miles to Fort Montezuma where the Davis and Harriman families had been left by the original scouting party in the spring of 1879 to prepare for the coming of the main body of the saints. Others questioned why they should not continue on as planned, to the open spaces of Montezuma Creek where they could establish their farms and homes along side their friends who had faithfully waited for almost a year for their arrival. But , the decision was made. And so, on April 6,1880, at the very center of the migrations of the Native American People, Bluff City, Utah was founded as the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' San Jan Mission to the Lamanites.
Most Utes and other Native Americans will not openly discuss beliefs and experiences of a spiritual nature. This is due primarily to the fact that they consider such things to be sacred and personal. Therefore, they quietly leave the fulfillment of their traditional prophecies to the design of the Great Creator. As a result, though the Ute's use of the symbol of the "Spiritual Cross" was well known to non Indians during the late 1800's, still, until recently, the Utes remained silent as to the legendary significance of the sight upon which the Mormons had established their mission headquarters.
Following the coming of the Mormons in the year 1880, eight-year old Jim Mike and his father, "Big Mouth" Maik, were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tuba City, Arizona. Although the Maik family frequently camped near Bluff City, it was not known to the people of Bluff that Jim and his father had been baptized. Just prior to, and during this same period of time in which Jim and his father were baptized, Hopi Elders debated as to whether or not the Mormons were the "Bearded White Brothers" who were prophesied would come among them Bering the "Great Gift" (Priesthood). Moenkopi leader Tuvai (Tuba) declared that indeed the Bearded Mormons were the prophesied White Brothers. He asked to be baptized, because , as he said pointing to his heart, "It tells me right here." Still, the opinion held by most Hopi Elders was that it was premature to join with the White Brothers, as this should not be done until certain Hopi prophecies and events had come to pass. To this day, even though there are Hopis who state that the Book of Mormon is the sacred record of their people, still, many Hopi Elders discourage their people from joining The Church prior to the fulfillment of those prophecies.
When Columbus landed in America, after having been "wrought upon" by "The Spirit of God" to make the journey to the "Land of Promise," history records that the "Indians" bowed down before him as though he were a God. The truth is that the Natives knew very well that Columbus was not a God, owing partly to the fact that his shipmates had been selected by voyage organizers from among the most hardened criminals from the prisons of Spain; and, it is recorded that in many instances they behaved accordingly. However, because Columbus bore the symbol of the Migrations, the Spiritual Cross, upon his breastplate, sword, and helmet, and also upon the flags and sails of his ships, the Native American "Children of Lehi" (descendants of Book of Mormon prophet, Lehi) knew that he had been sent by the Creator to fulfill the prophecies concerning the Great Gift as foretold by the ancestors.
It is reasonable to believe that the Native Americans could have easily annihilated the Spanish if they had chosen to do so, particularly in the early days of Spanish occupancy of their lands. However, because of the symbol of the cross which the Spanish so commonly displayed upon their clothing, jewelry, and tools, and also upon the cover of their Holy Book, the explorers from Spain were not only allowed to remain, but also , for the most part, to have their own way with the descendants of The Book of Mormon people. As mentioned, some of the people who accompanied the early Spanish Conquistadors and Catholic missionaries, as well as some who later came with other Christian denominations, including the Mormons, have sometimes imposed great hardships upon the Children of Lehi since Columbus first landed in the New World over 500 years ago.
Of all the Christians who came professing to teach the American Indians of Jesus Christ, the only ones who made their way to, and who actually established themselves exactly upon the Spiritual Cross -- the very center of the Migrations of the people, were the San Jaun Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is interesting to note that the LDS Church is the only church which professes to bear the Great Gift of the Priesthood blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Readers of this document must determine for themselves whether or not the call of the Mormons to the San Juan Mission, the route taken, and the founding of Bluff City April 6,1880 at the Spiritual Cross of the Native People, are foreordained and therefore significant events. Readers must also resolve whether or not the appearance of Jesus Christ to Jim Mike and his sons at Bluff is related to the overall fulfillment of The Church's San Juan Mission.
Let us now review some examples of the Utes helping to preserve the Mormons in the San Juan Mission in order to further substantiate the claim that Native Americans have played a significant role in the establishment and preservation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the "Tops of the Mountains." In June of 1887, warriors from a then unfriendly neighboring tribe came to Amasa Barton's trading post on the San Juan River and shot him in the head. A Ute boy named Posey, along with his father Old Chee Poots, who had witnessed the event, rode quickly to Bluff to bring help for Amasa's wife, Parthena Hyde Barton. Amasa's wound proved to be fatal, and Posey and other Utes remained at Sister Barton's trading post to protect her property while she was attending to her husband's funeral in Bluff. When Sister Barton returned two weeks later, she acknowledged that not only had the Utes saved her and her childrens lives, but in addition, not one item was missing from her store. Much later, in 1923 at the age of 60, chief Posey died from a gunshot wound which he received in a skirmish known as the "Posey War." This battle took place between the Utes and a Mormon posse which was attempting to arrest Posey for allegedly assisting the jail break of two Ute boys who were in trouble for killing some Mormon livestock near the town of Blanding.
This writer ahd the privilege, in 1985, of visiting the site of chief Posey's burial along with the Ute leader's nephew Meyers Kamawach Cantsee, and Mormon pioneer Lynn Lyman. Both men have since passed away. Lynn Lyman was the man who had driven the Model T Ford which transported U.S. Marshall Ward to bury the body of Posey following his death. As the two men talked, Mr. Lyman posed a question to Mr. Cantsee regarding the incident. He said, "There is something I have never been able to understand. After the posse had wounded Posey and was following the Utes up Comb Island, why didn't your boys shoot and kill the posse members instead of only shooting around their horses feet?" He continued, "You had the advantage, and could have easily killed our boys." Mr. Cantsee answered the question by saying that Posey had told the Ute men not to shoot any of the posse members, because, ".....the Mormons are our friends."
Following the Posey War of 1923, the United States government finally admitted defeat in its futile 55 year battle to remove the Avikan Ute clans to the Colorado Indian reservations. The government allowed the Utes to select allotments in their most treasured heartlands of Avikan. When the Ute ladies, men, and children, who had been incarcerated in a temporary prison in Blanding during the Posey War were released following Posey's death, women from the Mormon community rushed to throw their arms around their Ute lady friend and embrace them, saying, "We don't want you to go away. You are our friends. We want you to stay here."
During the period from 1880 until the present day, apostles and prophets from The Mormon Church have told the people of the San Juan Mission that the Lord had a great purpose in mind when he directed the founding and continuance of the mission. Hole-In-The-Rock pioneer Albert R. Lyman said that when a discouraged man -- years ago in Bluff -- Asked Brigham Young, Jr. (then president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) if it were not just a happen-so that the people settled in Bluff, he was asked by President Young -- "And was it just a happen-so that Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray?" When dedicating the Bluff Chapel, February 23,1895, Brigham Young, Jr. Said "This building is the forerunner to another important building to be built in this country on day." The people of the San Juan Mission have always believed that President Young alluded to a temple."
The Avikan Utes are now the host people to the all tribes "Great Avikan House," a 400,000 square foot international native American historical records center planned to be built on a sacred plot of Indian ground halfway between the Ute Reservation and the town of Blanding. Elders from the Hopi Priesthood stated on September 22, 1990 that an existing 75 foot by 90 foot ancient Anasazi ruin which sits on the site where the "Great Avikan House is to be built is".....an ancient Hopi Temple," named "Standing Rainbow."
This writer, who has been told several different stories of Jesus Christ appearing and ministering personally among the Ute people of Avikan, both in olden and modern times. has never found anything in either ancient or modern history which would indicate that the Ute people, as a nation, have ever been anything but a righteous people. By The Book of Mormon definition, they are "Nephites," as they have always believed in Jesus Christ (Sinawav --"He Who Leaves Footprints of Light") and they have always dignified themselves by adhering to principals of righteous living. When United States agents from Washington were conducting treaty negotiations with the Utes in Colorado during the 1860's, the agents stated that the white people had come to teach the "heathen savages" of the Christian beliefs. Chief Ouray replied, "If you want to know if the Ute people belive that there is a God, we can tell you that we know it." Then he added, "If you want to know if we believe that man has a soul, we can tell you that we know it." One white scribe at those treaty negotiations noted that the Ute leaders, the "so called savages," had "more forbearance," and lived "lives more akin to Christianity," than did the people who had "come to enlighten them."
Some of the certainty among the Utes of the existence of God undoubtedly came as a result of the ongoing visits of Jesus Christ among them. The stories of these events, both ancient and modern, verify that the Utes have always had an understanding of the Creator -- an understanding which is compatible with Holy Bible accounts of Christ's ministry and teachings in the Old World, as well as with the story of Christ's appearance to the Nephites (the ancestors of the American Indian) as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
In order to verify the claim that the Utes have always had a clear understanding of the Deities who organized the Earth, and of the Plan of Salvation set forth by those Deities, let us now read the following excerpt from an ancient Ute legend:
In the Beginning there was nothing but the Gods -- Ta`vwach, the Old God, and Sina`wav, the young God. Ta`vwach is Old. He is always Old. "Man Forever," is his name. Sina`wav, the Young God, "He Who Leaves Footprints of light," dances around the Sun and runs errands for Ta`vwach. One day Ta`vwach said to Sina`wav, "It is time for you to create Tuvwu`p, the Earth, as a place for the Spirit People to live upon." Sina`wav called upon Mo`5o5ach, the Hummingbird, and Tapa`soach, the Swallow, to assist him.
Following the creation of the Earth by Sina`wav, Mo`totach, and Tapa`soach, the Old God Ta`vwach assembled all of the Spirit People and ask them what they wanted to be when they went to live upon Tuvwu`p. Some of the Spirit People told Ta`vwach they wanted to be Bird People, some wanted to be Fish People, and some wanted to be Four Legged, or Animal People. The remaining Spirit People argued amongst themselves, unsure as to what they should ask to be. Finally a group of them answered the Old God, saying, "We want to look like you, Ta`vwash. We want to be like you." This pleased the Old God very much, and she said, "Very Well, we will make you into the Nuche (Utes) -- the Two-legged, or Human People."
This legend, when told in its entirety, not only speaks of the pre-existence of spirit beings and the creation of the Earth, but it also tells of the war in heaven, the Fall of First Man and First woman, and the Great Flood which introduced the Human Family into the Fourth World -- the World of Present Day.
According to legend, each time the human people became out of harmony with the order of the world (state of existence) in which they lived, as set forth by Ta`vwach and Sina`wav, then the Gods necessarily allowed the destruction of that state of life through some sort of natural disaster. Following the destruction of a particular world, the people whom the Gods had selected to survive were then introduced into a new world -- a new state of existence, wherein they could live according to the way they had chosen.
It was the disagreement amongst the last group of spirit people as to what they should be when they went to live upon Tuvwu`p, the Earth, which caused the First World to be destroyed by Fire. As a result of that disagreement, Apugat, the evil one, brought his warriors with fire sticks and fought against Sina`wav and his warriors. Apugat and his warriors lost the battle and were then cast down by the Gods to live upon Tuvwu`p. All of the other Spirit People were also sent to live upon Tuvwu`p, including the Bird People, the Fish People, the Four-legged People (Animals), and the Two-legged People (Humans).
When the Bird People, the Fish People, the Four-legged People, and the Two-legged People were placed upon Tuvwu`p they were told to eat only grass, leaves, and berries. It was Apugat's tempting of Yo`govuche the Coyote, to eat Ta`vuche the Rabbit, that caused the Second World to become out of harmony, eventually bringing its destruction by Ice. The Third World was destroyed by Water -- a great Flood. This Great Flood came because Apugat taught the Human People to dig gold and silver and to hord riches and food, making it so that some people had too much of the essentials of life provided by the Creator, while others did not have sufficient for their needs.
The order and law of each successive world was lower than that of the preceding world. The order and law established for a particular world, or state of existence, was a natural by-product of the choices made by the Two-legged or Human people who lived in that world. In each of the worlds, the disharmony which would ultimately destroy the world was introduced by Apugat, the evil one.
According to legend, after the Great Flood, and at the beginning of the Fourth World, "Sina`wav brought the first Nuche (Ute or Human Person) up out of a hole in the ground to view the blue sky and green forests." To this very day, the Utes refer to these ancestors as Wiinuche was Mo`kuche, or "Owl Uncle," along with his family. The name Mo`kuche means, "My Father's older brother with eyes like an owl." Mo`kuche is the name by which the Utes still refer to their Hopi cousins.
Following the Flood, Sina`wav, the Creator, led the Utes and the Hopis up the Aka Pa`kwit River (Colorado "Red River") gorge to the place named Potu`rnuche, the Heart of the Earth. Potu`rnuche is a great red rock butte or mesa wich sits in the valley of the Gods, a Short distance west of Bluff City. The Utes and Hopis were told by Sina`wav that Potu`rnuche, together with all of the land situated among the "Four Sacred Mountains," or between the "Two Great Rivers," was to be their inheritance. But, before the inheritance could be made permanent, the People were required to do two things for the creator. First, the People were to claim the Four Quarters of the Earth for Sina`wav. This could only be accomplished by migrating through each quarter of the earth until the People had literally traversed the entire hemisphere, even the entire planet. Although the Utes, and some others, have made their way home from the Migrations, still, most of the People have yet to return. Second, the People were to acknowledge the Creator's hand in the blessings provided in the Earth's Four Quarters -- Food from the Warm Summer of the South, Water from the Thunder Clouds of the West, Light from the Rising Sun of the East, and Fresh Air from the White Cleansing Clouds of the North.
Again, the land which was promised as the inheritance of the People at the beginning of the Fourth World, and which is basically the same geographic location as was the original boundary of the San Juan Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is known to Native Americans as the Red Earth Motherland. And, as also before stated, the Utes call the inheritance Avikan -- The Homeland Where The People Rest. Avikan is the land to which it is known that the People will one day return to receive the Great Gift promised by their Creator.
As previously stated, the Ute People have an important mission to perform with regard to the restoration of the Great Gift, the Gift of the Priesthood Blessings, to the House of Israel. For the most part, the Utes as a nation have conducted that mission with dignity. Many of the Utes have been righteous enough to be personally ministered to by the Creator, himself, as was the case with Jim Mike and his sons as already told in part at the beginning of this writing. In 1970, while interviewing Jim Mike, this writer had the privilege of hearing the century-old Ute Indian member of the "Mormon" Church testify, saying, "I saw Jesus, and he called me by my Secret Ute Name." Jim Mike had also seen Jesus a number of years earlier, when as a young boy he was in a group of Utes who saw Christ at Cross Canyon, near Sleeping Ute Mountain, Jesus told all who saw him at that time that they would live to be 105 years old and that then they would pass away. Jim Mike died in 1977 at the age of 105.
In 1983, this writer was asked by the White Mesa Avikan Ute people to serve as their historian. Then, in 1986, nine years after the passing of Jim Mike, the Old Holy Man's daughter Pochief, along with his son Billy, related to this writer the previously untold part of their experience. The account was told by Pochief, through an interpreter, with Billy concurring. As mentioned earlier, the incident related in the following story took place in August, sometime around the year 1920. The story goes:
"Our Father, Jim, our Brother Harry, my husband, Jack Fly, and our other brother ( when questioned by this writer about the other brother, Pochief and Billy both said that they could not remember the other brother's name) were traveling on horseback from Sand Island where the Utes were camped, to Bluff City to buy watermelons from the Mormons. Just before they came to Cottonwood Wash, they met a man walking toward them in the sandy roadway. The man had long, un-braided hair, and a beard. He wore a robe with un-hemmed sleeves, and his feet were bare.
The man spoke, calling Jim by his secret Ute name. Jim answered, "You must be Jesus!" The man smiled, and pointed to himself. Jim and the other men dismounted from their horses and started asking Jesus questions. They asked, "Where do you live? Where do you sleep? Jesus pointed toward the sky. They asked, "Where are you going? " Jesus gestured down the road in the direction from whence the men had come. They asked, "What food do you like to eat?" Jesus did not answer. They asked, "Do you like watermelon and corn?" Jesus spoke in the Ute language and said, "Yes I do."
The men were fascinated by the feet of Jesus, because they were very smooth and clean, like pearly white, even though he was walking barefoot in the sandy roadway. They asked "Doesn't this hot sand burn your bare feet?" Jesus said, "It is not hot to me."
Jesus talked about other things, and then he held his hands out toward the men and showed them his crucifixion scars and said, "I want you to know -- you would not have done this to me here."
Jesus then went on his way. The men mounted their horses and rode on toward Bluff. As the crossed Cottonwood wash they met a Model T Ford, traveling in the same direction as Jesus.
The men bought their watermelons and rode back to Sand Island and told their wives about talking with Jesus. We (Pochief and the other women) said, "We want to see Jesus too! Let's go and find him!" We saddled our horses and followed the men up to the road where we found Jesus' tracks. We followed the tracks until we say where he got in that Model T Ford, so we followed the car tracks. We saw where he got out of the car and left the road and started walking cross-country. We knew it would soon be dark, so we galloped our horses as fast as we could go, following Jesus' tracks. Jesus was going so fast that he must have been flying, but still leaving footprints, because we knew that no one could walk over that much ground so fast. When it got dark, we camped and got up the next morning and followed his tracks some more. The footprints came to a little stream of water and crossed to the other side. As Jesus' tracks went across a small sand dune on the other side of the stream there was one last footprint and the tracks disappeared. Jim said, "Jesus walked up into the sky." We circled all around the area for a long time trying to pick up his trail again, but we couldn't find any more tracks, so we went home disappointed.
About two weeks later, Jim was out on Douglas Mesa (by Monument Valley) talking with some Navajo friends, and he told them about seeing Jesus. They said, "We saw him too. He came into our camp while we were having a 'sing' for our sick brother." The Navajos told Jim that at first they didn't know that the man was Jesus. They asked the man if he wanted something to eat, and he said "No -- but I can help this sick man if you want me to." The Navajos said that they wanted him to help their brother, so, Jesus put his hands on the sick man's head and said a prayer. Then Jesus told the people goodbye, and left the camp. The man got well, so the Navajos knew that it must have been Jesus who had come, so they followed his tracks trying to find him. They came to one last track and the footprints disappeared.
This writer believes that Christ's appearance and testimonial to the Ute Holy Man Jim Mike, and to his sons, naturally serves as a powerful confirmation to Native American people everywhere of the important role that the Children of Lehi play in the fulfillment of the work of the Great Gift of the Priesthood, which Gift is yet to be received by Lehi, as a nation. It also seems apparent that Christ's declaration, "....you would not have done this to me here," would bring great comfort to Native Americans, considering that they are also descendants of Mulek, a Jew, whose nephew-descendants in Jerusalem may have actually participated in the condemnation and crucifixion of the Lord, those of whom the Lord had said in reference to the marks of the Crucifixion, "These are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." This writer further suggests that the experience of Jim Mike and his sons might also have implication regarding the relative importance of the San Juan Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the fulfillment of the Covenant which God made with our common father, Abraham at the beginning of the Fourth World -- the promise that all nations of the earth would be blessed with the blessings of the Priesthood through Abraham's literal descendants.
Since the dispersion of the blood of Abraham was necessary in delivering both the literal seed of Abraham, and the doctrine and promise of The Covenant, into the Four Quarters of the Earth, it should follow that the scattering of the seed of Lehi, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, through Joseph's son Manasseh, would also stand as a significant part of the process of The Covenant. The Fact that The Covenant of Abraham is now going forth by way of the tribe of Joseph, through Joseph's son Ephraim, and the fact that it is going forth from Salk Lake City which owes its survival, in part, to Utes and other Indians, might also be considered significant. Furthermore, the fact that the San Juan Mission, a Priesthood commissioned function of The Covenant, was established on the very site to which the New World's branch of the tribe of Joseph through his son Manasseh is being gathered, should also stir a great interest relative to the Abrahamic Covenant.
The fact that the Hole-In-The-Rock pioneers were carefully diverted and guided by God in such a way that they established their Mission at the very Center of the geographic Spiritual Cross which is known from beyond pole to pole and sea to sea among the Children of Lehi, should serve to lend some satisfaction among San Juan Missionaries, past and present, that their sacrifices in missionary service are not performed in vain. Furthermore, it might be considered significant to San Juan Missionaries, past and present, that they are numbered with a people of whom Christ himself has declared would not have crucified him. Yes, it seems that this inclusion should serve to be of comfort to those who have sacrificed so much in order to prepare the way for the day of the Lamanite -- even the day of the restoration of Ephraim's brother Manasseh, in the San Juan Mission and elsewhere.
Should not the fact that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established its San Juan Mission on the Native American geographic Spiritual Cross, next to the spot known by The People as the "Heart of the Earth." serve as a welcome witness to Children of Lehi, everywhere, as to which church it is which is ordained to fulfill their ancient prophecies regarding the delivering of the Great Gift of the Priesthood Blessings according to the Promise of their Forefathers?
In light of these considerations, it should not be of any wonder why the prophet, seer, and revelator, Brigham Young, jr., would state the importance of the fore ordination of the San Juan Mission in comparative terms with the reality of the foreordained event of Joseph Smith's First Vision. Neither should it be of wonder that other prophets, seers, and revelators, including John Taylor, Heber J. Grant, and Boyd k. Packer, would also make prophetic statements concerning the important role of the land sand the people of The Church's San Juan Mission.
Albert R. Lyman, the "Old Settler," stated that no one enters the boundaries of the San Juan Mission by chance. He said that everyone who would come, would come to fulfill a foreordained purpose, no matter their race, profession, or religion. This writer believes that in celebration of the Utah Founders Day Sesquicentennial, it would be well if all Utahans would acknowledge the goodness of the people of all races and religions who are a part of Utah's great "Family of the Human Beings." Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should consider the significant role played by the Native Americans in the establishment, protection, and nurturing of The Church and its people in the Tops of the Mountains. It seems that Church members should easily relate to the tradition of the migrations of the Native Americans, which goes hand in hand with the Abrahamic tradition respecting the scattering and subsequent Gathering of the Tribes of Israel, of which the Native Americans, according to Church doctrine, are known to be a significant branch.
It is apparent to this writer that it is not possible to separate what early Pioneers in Church history accomplished from the faith which led them to accomplish it. It therefore follows that, as inheritors of that faith, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should not only pay allegiance to the Prophets and Apostles who entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, but they should think even more seriously upon following Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and the other Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, of The Church today; for these are the Lord's living anointed servants who hold in their hands the Sealing Keys of the Everlasting Priesthood Covenant, and who so aptly carry on the work of redemption through gathering the Tribes of Israel in our own day.
This writer believes that as we celebrate the 1847 founding of the territory now known as the state of Utah we are, in actuality, celebrating the "Stone which is cut out of the mountain with out hands" spoken of by the Old Testament Prophet Daniel. Yes, we are celebrating the master plan through which the "Great Gift" of the Priesthood Blessings will continue to "roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth" according to the Covenant which God made with our father Abraham. And again, this writer believes that Native Americans do indeed play a major role in the fulfillment of The Covenant wherein Abraham was promised that his literal seed ".....shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations," and, that through that seed ".....shall all families of the Earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal."
Based upon many years of observation of the Ute, Navajo, and other Native Americans, this writer sees evidence which indicates that the great day of the restoration of the Children of Lehi, as a nation, is close at hand. It is this writer's opinion that two things will occur, or be completed, before Joseph's son Manasseh and the other tribes of Israel, besides Ephraim, will fully gravitate to the Great Gift of the Priesthood Blessings of The Abrahamic Covenant. First, the elect in Ephraim will be gathered out from the Gentile nations of Earth's Four Quarters, including from among the American Indian nations. Second, Ephraim will acknowledge his brother Manasseh as his equal, being willing to share with him the blessings of The Abrahamic Covenant. Ephraim will also share the responsibilities of the Priesthood in the specific manner prescribed according to revelation given through the Foundation of Christ's Church, which Foundation is the living Prophets and Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Indeed it is proper that we pay homage to the pioneers of 1847. It is also appropriate that we pay homage to other Mormon colonizers and missionaries who have been sent into various territories to deliver The Covenant of the Holy Priesthood, such as the Hole-In-The_Rock pioneers of 1880. And, once again, let us like wise pay homage to the earliest Avikan pioneers, the Utes and others from the Family of the Human Beings, who were led to the Rocky Mountains at the beginning of the Fourth World in order that they might play their foreordained role in the establishment of The Covenant throughout the Four Quarters of the Earth. Yes, it seems appropriate that we remember the remnant of the Covenant People who were commanded by Sina`wav (Jesus Christ) to migrate throughout the Western Hemisphere in order to properly place those who were foreordained to fulfill Book of Mormon prophecy by welcoming Columbus and others who later migrated to the American Continent seeking religious freedom in preparation for the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ -- the church which would go forth and deliver The Abrahamic Covenant throughout the Earth. Truly it appears that Native Americans have had some awareness all along of the role which they are foreordained to play in the work of the spreading of The Covenant.
And now, once again in summary, it seems appropriate that the Lord Jesus Christ would choose to nurture His Church and Priesthood among a people of whom He, himself could declare, holding his wounded hands out to Jim Mike and his sons at Bluff, Utah in about the year 1920, saying, "I want you to know -- you would not have done this to me here."
And now, from the folklore of the San Juan Mission springs forth the:
"SONG OF PROMISE"
(c) 1986 Sparrow Boy/Sa`Pari
Wherefore is Avikan come to pass without Ephraim; and Lehi is prepared for the advent of Sidon!
And the day is now at hand wherin the Sheep of Lehi's remnant shall hear the Master's voice!
For Lehi is gathered to Avikan, which is the center of her Nation, to await the coming of Sidon; and she hath crossed many winters in hope; and Lehi's patience is greater than Job's.
And she sitteth with her eyes to the East and waiteth upon her Lord; for He hath covenanted with her that He would return with the Dawn Star.
And she is not weary, for she is full of hope. And she is full of Hope because her Grandfathers have witnessed that the Lord kept ten hundred covenanted appointments with them, and broke not one; and this one shall He also keep.
And if the Lord cometh not with the Dawn Star, then sendeth He the Sun, and a New Day in His stead;
And Lehi is grateful; and her hope bringeth her unto the New Day;
For She knoweth that the New Day bringeth life unto al things, even that which is dead; for, all things live in He Who Shall Return.
And He Who Shall Return is marked, and He is named the Prophet -- Lord Of Wind And Water; and Lehi knoweth that the Prophet is her Good Shepherd and that He cometh quickly.
And Ephraim, the Lord's servants, have wandered about, seeking Lehi here and there among the cliffs.
But the day is now at hand wherein Ephraim shall open up the mouth to speak, and the Sheep shall hear the voice of the Good Shepherd come out from the mouth of Ephraim, and a Nation shall come forth in a day.
And the Nation shall walk upward i beauty, for she knoweth her Lord; and she shall come to the river's edge at Sidon to greet Ephraim.
And Ephraim, with an ear to the ground, shall say: What meaneth this, for there is thunder in the Earth?
And the Nation shall answer,saying: Behold the Sheep commeth to partake of the Lord's Ordinances at they hands.
And Ephraim shall look and behold, and it shall appear as it were a forest of trees, marching, being in number tens of thousands.
And Ephraim shall be terrified and shall say: What is this? Have ye come to invert the Lord's Ordinance? Why need I not seek ye out from among the Cliffs?
And the Nation shall answer again, and her voice shall be as the voice of the Good Shepherd, and she shall say: Why art thou troubled, Ephraim? Knowest thou not me? Hast thou not yet learned, Ephraim, that thou, theyself, art not the Ordinance, but art only the bearer of the Ordinance? Thinkest thou that thou canst replace the Ordinance with theyself?
Then shall the haughty of Ephraim, those who have given themselves unto vanity, say: Surely this be the hosts of Satan who do come to pollute the Lord's Holy Ordinance by the baptism of this filthy river. Then shall the haughty of Ephraim turn and flee unto their own treasury, and unto that reward which they have there prepared for themselves.
Nevertheless, the lowly of Ephraim shall say: Surely we have heard the voice of our Lord, and we see His face among the Trees.
Then shall Ephraim fall upon the breast of Manasseh, and shall cry out with great joy, and shall say: Truly I have found thee, my brother, as thou hast come unto me to partake of the Lord's Ordinance at my hands.
Then shall Ephraim touch the Hollow, and shall put his hand under the thigh of Manasseh, and shall say: The Ordinance of the Lord's house five I unto thee, and the Scepter of His Righteousness. And now is Joseph, our father, fulfilled -- for the Last is restored again unto the First, and the First is restored unto the Last, and God is just.
Then shall Ephraim bow down before Manasseh and shall say unto him:
Master, regardeth me, thy humble servant.
But Manasseh shall say unto Ephraim: Arise, my brother, for thy charity hath suffered long. And let us now go forth together and worship the Master of Heaven and Earth, and Honor Him.
And in that hour shall a man receive the Lord's baptism, and ordination to the Holy Priesthood, within the space of two breaths;
And he who is baptized and ordained shall then, in turn, with his own hands, baptize an hundred sheep into the Fold within that self - same hour.
And the rivers shall be replete; and those about the banks shall press forward tightly, in eagerness, toward the water's edge. And the Daughters of Lehi shall make a joyful noise i anticipation of their deliverance.
And in that day shall Manasseh be fulfilled -- but the Joy of Ephraim shall be unspeakable.
Sit is, and so shall it be. Amen.
(c) 1997 /1999
Stanley Warren Bronson
No Duplication or Use in Any Form Without Written Permission of Stanely Warren Bronson.
Published to The Native American Sesquicentennial Committee of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In the General Priesthood Session of the October 1997 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shortly after the first printing of this booklet, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced The Church's first 'mini-temple' to be built in Monticello, Utah at the foothills of Blue Mountain.
Monticello was founded in 1888 by San Juan Pioneer missionaries called from Bluff by Church leaders to establish communities at the headwaters of North and South Montezuma Creeks. This writer's great-grandfather Parley R. Butt and his wife Ence were among the founders called in 1887. The writer's great-grandfather Wilmer W. Bronson and his wife Marion became Monticello founding settlers when they were called to leave their home in Huntsville, Utah to become a part of the new colonizing endeavor. They arrived in the Blue Mountain Mission in the spring of 1888. SWB.
(copie shared with Stephen Huls (Ani Yunwiya 'The Principal People' or Cherokee) by chance meeting with Winding River Village (Lenni Lenape), Monroe Utah about 2008 Used with permission of Stanley Warren Bronson)