Wednesday, July 10, 2013

George and Ann Prior Jarvis and "The Windows of Heaven"

Last week my family and I visited St. George, Utah. We had an enjoyable time seeing the Temple, the Tabernacle, Brigham Young's Winter Home, the Jacob Hamblin Home in Santa Clara, the red bluffs overlooking the city, and the site of the Jarvis home, now apartment buildings.

Visting the Tabernacle was curious for two reasons. 

First, George and Ann Prior Jarvis's youngest child, "Willie" was killed by lightning on the front steps of the Tabernacle on April 5, 1881. It was a great and lasting tragedy for the family. They lived a couple of blocks from the Tabernacle and attended meetings there the rest of their lives, so their memories of the event would have had changing meanings throughout their lives.

Second, walking into the Tabernacle was like walking into the set of the movie "The Windows of Heaven," since part of the movie was filmed in the Tabernacle. Here is a short version of the movie, to see the renovations done since the movie was filmed. (Skip ahead to about 10:15 for the Tabernacle footage.) Most obviously, the paint has been stripped from the woodwork and the interior changed from blue to yellow.

Just today I saw a discussion online about tithing and I wondered about the historical sources for the story presented in "The Windows of Heaven." A quick Google search found that one of the first places to find information is on the George and Ann Prior Jarvis Family website page, "Pres. Snow's St. George revelation on tithing." The page mostly consists of LeRoi Snow's account of the story, but the webmaster also included this note:
Note: This story is included here because of its importance in church history, it happened in St. George, and it seems reasonable to assume that George and Ann and members of their family were present in the St. George Tabernacle when it occurred.
Were George and Ann Jarvis there? How would we know? Attendance rolls were not kept for meetings like that. We would only know if one of the family members kept a diary. Once of the family members did, but by 1899, Ann Prior Jarvis had been in very poor health for many years and her diary keeping had become rather sketchy. I will pull it up and see if she recorded anything.

Here is the page, and she does have an entry for May 17, 1899, the day the conference began.

Here is a transcription of the entire page.
I had a letter from my Sister
I answered it and sent her
Maggies Photo and Alberts Photo
Sister Brown has died
I received a letter from my Sister
May 17
We have the Apostles and [Presiding] Bishop [William B.] PrestonSeymour B Young and many others at Saint George  I went to meeting one day and it was a pleasant change and a treat for me. I heard Lorenzo Snow talk his son LeRoy, Bishop Preston, [William B. Dougall], Br [Abraham O.] Woodruff, Joseph F Smith. Their discourses were on Tithing.
We thank the[e] Oh God for a Prophet.
I have had a letter from [granddaughter] Maud Jarvis and her Card
Weather Cool and Windy Sister Sylvester paid me a visit on Saterday
Heber [and Susan Smith Jarvis] had a Son born on the 22 of Sep. 1898
Named him William Prior. We the good people of St George had the Brethren from S L C
I went one day to Listen to their Instruction
I felt grieved I missed any meetings
[May] 21
I went on Sunday and partook of the Sacrement of the Lord. And went to Em Cottam's they had a party I suffered very much coming home. They tell me it is seven years since I was there before I was glad to see them so comfortable
Br Lytle was the Speaker on Sunday
Rose Mother Sylvester Miss Walker and many more has gone to S L City.
Sister Larson died Owen Woodbury died several young Children died I had letters from St. Johns and answered them
So that answers the question. Yes, Ann and undoubtedly other family members were present at the historic conference. Ann seems to have attended meetings on Wednesday, May 17, and Sunday, May 21. Her line "We thank the[e] Oh God for a Prophet" is her usual laconic way of commenting on the historical nature of the conference. Even in better years she would not have said much more.

[See also: A Note on the Sources for the Lorenzo Snow "Windows of Heaven" Story]


  1. Nice bit of family history sleuthing! How wonderful to even have those fragments of her life recorded.

  2. I have a question for you, dear cousin - I just received a patriarchal blessing for Mary Elizabeth Goddard Whitehead, my 2nd gr. grandmother, (Married to A.R. Whitehead) and it was given to her by George Jarvis! I was so excited to see that my hubby's 3rd gr. grandfather blessed my ancestor! Anyway, there is no date on the blessing. I wondered if you knew what years George Jarvis served as Patriarch for the St. George area (where she received her blessing) so that I can have an idea of the time frame of her life this was. She has another blessing on file from 1870 - and sadly this blessing has no patriarch's name listed, so I have no idea who gave it to her. Anyway, if you know when he was patriarch that could really help me. By the way, it is a beautiful blessing, one of the most stirring I've collected so far. If you'd like to read it I'd be happy to send you a copy. George Jarvis was very eloquent in his speaking.) Thanks, Amy! -- Mary Ann Overson

  3. Wonderful! I'd love to see that! I'm not sure what years he served. I'll have to keep my eyes open as I go through Ann's journal to see when that happened. I'd guess the 1890s or very early 1900s.

    His history does say, "...later, [he] was ordained a Patriarch, and gave hundreds of Blessings. He expressed himself as more pleased with that calling than if a million dollar legacy had been given him."

    If the 1870s blessing was given in St. George, it's probably by William G. Perkins, and you can find a detailed delightful account of how he gave patriarchal blessings in Elizabeth Kane's book "A Gentile Account of Life in Utah's Dixie, 1872-73."