Warren M Johnson-Faithful through Extreme Adversity
From "The Strength of Sacrifice," William W. Slaughter, April 1997, LDS Ensign
Faithful through Extreme Adversity
Many early Saints sacrificed nearly all they had for the gospel. Their lives stand as an offering to the Lord for the gospel’s sake (see D&C 97:8). Warren Marshall Johnson lived such a life. In 1875, 36-year-old Warren was called to a remote section of the Colorado River, where he and his family ran Lee’s Ferry for 21 years. His life was one of giving and obedience, but perhaps his most poignant sacrifice came between May and July 1891.
Warren tells of the experience in a July 1891 letter to President Wilford Woodruff: “A family residing in Tuba City [Arizona], came here from Richfield, Utah where they spent the winter visiting friends. At Panguitch, they buried a child, and without disinfecting the wagon or themselves, not even stopping to wash the dead child’s clothes, they came to our house, and remained overnight, mingling with my little children, and the consequence was [diphtheria], in four days my oldest boy … was taken violently ill with fever and sore throat.
“We knew nothing of the nature of the disease, but had faith in God, as we are here on a very hard mission, and had tried as hard as we knew how to obey the [commandments]. … But alas in 4 1/2 days he choked to death in my arms. Two more were taken down with the disease. … We fasted sometimes 24 hours and once I fasted 40 hours, but … both my little girls died also. About a week after their death my fifteen year old daughter Melinda was stricken down and we did all we could for her, but she followed the others … and the end is not yet. My oldest girl 19 years old is now prostrate with the disease and we are fasting and praying in her behalf today.”7
Warren’s oldest daughter survived, but the loss of four of his children devastated him. He wrote to a friend in August 1891:
“There are unseen influences around us that are trying to cause me to lose faith in God and to make me feel that there is no use to continue to pray. … You can imagine how I feel, as you know how I have tried to live, and the implicit faith I had in the gospel and the promises of God.
“However … there are other spirits or influences around us that say to me, that God is the Father of the spirits of my children, and that He loves them as well as I do, and that he knows definitely better than I do what is best for them and us. God has said that ‘He would have a tried people in the last days,’ and those who desire to do right will have to pass through greater trials than those who are not trying to reach the highest glory. … I feel well when I look at it in the above light and especially when I think of the influences we have felt when my children died. It did not seem like death, and even when they were breathing their last, we could not feel bad, there was such a heavenly influence in the room. And also the looks of the children after death, almost a smile on their lips. … I know they are happy now, and I hope I shall not give way to the spirits of evil, but that I might live so that bye and bye I can go and dwell with [my children]. I can assure you, however, that it is the hardest trial of my life, but I set out for salvation and am determined that it is through the help of my Heavenly Father that I hold fast to the iron rod, no matter what troubles come upon me I have not yet slackened in the performance of any of my duties.”8
The blessings to Warren Johnson and others who are willing to offer their all are clear: “I would that ye should come unto Christ … and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and prayer, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).