The Miraculous Sack of Flour

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By Martha Cragun Cox

In my great-grandmother's journal, she records a story that happened to her parents soon after they came into the Salt Lake Valley in 1848. I have found this account very instructive in many ways.

When poor saints came into the territory in those early days, especially if they were widows with families, they were apportioned to members of the ward as were able to assist, by the bishops. To my father's care was appointed a widow "Atkin" and four children. When times were hard on account of grasshoppers and other troubles and many were without bread, my father's family always had a little, and the widow's children shared equally with his own. My father was a freehearted, whole souled man who came very near loving his neighbor as himself.

One day there came a man to his door asking for a loan of flour, even a very small amount would be a boon to his children who had not tasted bread for three days. My mother, concerned for her own, as mothers usually are, was quick to make answer that there was but flour enough in our house for one small baking.

I remember how sad the man looked as he turned away, saying it was useless for him to try further. My father called him back as he reached the gate. As the man had talked with Mother, I suppose my father had been weighing the question of starvation of his own children in the near future, for he said to him, "My children can suffer no more than yours, my brother, if starvation comes, we will starve together. You may have half of the flour we have." And picking up the flour sack behind the door where Mother had put it, he dipped into the man's sack fully one half.

"Now, what will you think when you see our own children crying for bread," said my weeping mother. Father replied, "It would hurt his to cry of hunger as much as it would mine and he would feel just as badly about it."

The day soon came when the last dust of flour had been made into little cakes about the size of a pie plate, one each for the Atkin children and our own. Father went breakfastless to the field to plow while mother, also fasting, went out to look for the proper plants to furnish our usual dinner of "greens".

I love to think of my noble mother in those pioneer days. She was not naturally so generous as my father was, but she never resorted to that proverbial comeback, "I told you so," when she found herself in need of something of which he had made a prodigal division among his needy neighbors. My heart swells with pride in her when I remember the wheaten cakes made for the Atkin children were just as large as ones made for her own, and the half pint milk each had morning and evening was never stinted in favor of her own little ones. I wish I had the picture on canvas that I have on my brain of the dear little "Pied" cow that gave that wonderful pail of milk morn and night, milk that kept the children of two families in rosy health during those "tight times".

When my mother returned to the house with her pan and apron full of "lambs-leg," (I've forgotten the other name of this plant which furnished the delicious dinner viand), she called her little ones to her and asked hurriedly and excitedly, "Who came in while I was out?" "No one," was the answer. "Tell me who put flour in the sack behind the door." The children had seen no one. I remember holding fast to her skirts as I followed her across the fields to where my father was plowing. He had stopped for a little rest and was sitting on his plow beam with his head bowed in deep study.

I remember now the questions she asked, one after another as fast as she could speak. Whom had he sent to the house with Flour? What friend had he that would be able to send him flour? Who owed him flour? Was the Church distributing flour to the poor? I recall my father's answer when she had run out of breath and questions. "I know of no one but God who could provide us with bread at this time." "But the flour is there, the sack brim full behind the door," she said. "Then if that be true," he said, "Let us go down to the house and eat." And such a meal that was with all the bread we could eat and such good bread. The widow and her children came in, and we all feasted together.

My mother was worried about the mystery; she allowed no miracles. She kept probing the neighborhood slyly to find out the donor if she could until checked by Father, who said, "No matter by what hand it came, we will give God the glory for it, and we'll acknowledge His hand in our deliverance." That was a wonderful sack of flour indeed. The last dust was not taken from it until the wheat in the fields was ripe enough to be shelled out in the palms of the little children's hands.

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And, The Giving Continues

Julia Potts of Fort Worth, Texas wrote:

I loved reading about the wonderful sack of flour and wanted to relate an experience that I had the very next day after reading the account. I am a former home health nurse who has kept up with some of her patients. One of my patients who has since passed on left a rather large family of children and grandchildren. The father of these children is absent and the children's care is left up to the mother. She called me late two nights ago and asked if I could help her with food. She said that they were totally out. And, after she paid her rent of $250 per month, there was only enough money left for the electrical bill.

As you may have seen on the news, we have had a pretty cold and icy past few days. Anyway, I told her I would do what I could and I went through my kitchen, dividing everything that I had in half for this other family. After about an hour or so I came up with seven large sacks of food, everything from flour to rice to black pepper! Because I buy in bulk and put up for a rainy day, I was able to feed this family for at least two weeks. I am a firm believer in sharing and in buying in bulk. To me, this was the true experience of Christmas and will be remembered long after all the presents have been opened and the turkey eaten.

Thank you for sharing your story and reaffirming my beliefs that we must truly love each other as Christ has loved the Church and to love our neighbor as ourselves.