Question: What organization was created in the Church because Aurelia Read Spencer Rogers suggested the Church start an organization for children?
Answer: Aurelia Read Spencer was born on October 4, 1834 in Deep River, Middlesex, Connecticut to Orson Spencer and Catherine Curtis. The family moved to Saybrook, Connecticut where Orson started his ministry as a Baptist Minister. In a very short time he gained the respect and admiration of many as his ministry. He supported his family quite comfortably.
In the year 1840, a most unexpected turn in the lives of him and his family occurred when Orson’s brother, Daniel, came to visit with astonishing news. He had found the one and only true gospel of salvation, had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was eager to share it. After much study and contemplation of what joining the Church would mean to them and their family, Orson and Catherine made the decision to be baptized. At this time Orson and Catherine had five living children, including six-year-old Aurelia.
Aurelia wrote, “The next consideration was how to gather with the Saints who were then settling in Nauvoo, Illinois. Father must give up his means of making a livelihood, meet the scorn and derision of old friends, etc. But once convinced that he was right nothing could turn him from his purpose.”
Consequently, Orson, Hyrum and Daniel, took the steps necessary to move their families to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they could gather with the Saints. They arrived there on Saturday, September 4, 1841. Here they lived for about five years, where Orson was involved in the many things occurring in Nauvoo at that time, including the building of the Nauvoo Temple. Here also, two more daughters, Lucy (1842) and Chloe (1844) were born. Chloe died in September 1845.
In February 1846, more than three thousand Latter-day Saints fled Nauvoo, crossing the Mississippi River into Iowa. One of those Saints was Aurelia Spencer. When her family had traveled only thirty miles, Aurelia’s mother died. The grieving family returned to Nauvoo to bury her before continuing their journey west. She was buried by the side of her youngest child, Chloe, who had died about six months before. Her first child had died at age two in Connecticut.
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Excerpts from Aurelia’s Story from The Friend Magazine 2001)
Aurelia stood on the bank of the Mississippi River and looked back across it. Never before in her eleven-and-a-half years had she been west of the wide river, and now here she was in Iowa. She shivered in the February cold and tucked one hand into her coat. With the other, she held George’s hand. He was only six and was her responsibility. Ellen, thirteen, and nine-year-old Catherine walked ahead with seven-year-old Howard; little Lucy rode in the wagon with Mama, who was still very sick. But Aurelia and George stood and looked back across the river to Nauvoo.
Nauvoo! How could they bear to leave their beautiful home? All was cold and gray across the river, but Aurelia remembered how the city had looked when she first saw it. It was already a bustling, growing city when the Spencer family arrived...Her family had rented a room until Papa could build a house for them. He had chosen a lot on a hill above the town, a little northeast of where the temple was being built. Their lot, like most in Nauvoo, was big enough to plant a large garden and some fruit trees...But the Prophet Joseph was dead, and soon his beautiful city would be deserted.
George had been too young to remember the first time he and Aurelia met the Prophet. Aurelia remembered it clearly. She had met a real, living prophet! He had come to their home to visit, and he limped very slightly when he walked, just like Papa! Papa told her later it was caused by the same illness that had caused his limp—typhus fever, which had settled in his leg.
Lucy was born there, and when Joseph saw her, he exclaimed, “Oh, what a little black head!” Even as a baby, Lucy’s hair was thick and dark. Joseph had laid his hand on Lucy’s head and blessed her. Aurelia had loved the Prophet from that moment. He was God’s own prophet and the most important man in Nauvoo, yet he loved little children.
Aurelia shivered as she remembered the terrible day two years later, when Joseph and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob in the nearby town of Carthage. Aurelia could scarcely believe that anyone could be so wicked as to kill a kind man like the Prophet. Aurelia’s Papa had taken her to the Mansion House to see Joseph’s body. A great crowd was there, all crying and crowding to look. Aurelia couldn’t see, so Papa had lifted her up to the window from where she could see Brother Joseph one last time. That had been nearly two years ago.
Aurelia squeezed George’s hand and pointed to show him the temple across the river. Even on this cold, gray day, the tall building seemed to shine on the hill...Just two months ago, Mama and Papa had gone to the temple to be sealed together. Mama said that was the hardest part of leaving Nauvoo—leaving the temple they’d worked so hard to build. Aurelia murmured, “Farewell, Nauvoo,” and turned with George to face the west. It would be a long journey to the Rockies, but she had her family and the true gospel. She was ready.
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Aurelia’s father, Orson, was called to preside over the Church in Great Britain, so Aurelia, her three sisters, and her two brothers spent the next winters in Winter Quarters with only kind neighbors to keep an eye on them. The children left for the Salt Lake Valley in May 1848 with President Brigham Young’s company. In the Valley, they lived in a log room their uncle built for them, until their father’s return.
In 1851 Aurelia married Thomas Rogers. They settled in Farmington, sixteen miles north of Salt Lake City. There Aurelia gave birth to twelve children, only seven of whom lived to adulthood.
In Farmington, Utah, many years ago, Bishop John W. Hess was concerned about the behavior of the children in his ward. He called the mothers of the ward together and talked about the importance of guiding the minds of young children. Aurelia Spencer Rogers listened, and then discussed it with Eliza R. Snow, who visited Farmington in 1878. Sister Snow in turn met with Church President John Taylor, who authorized Bishop Hess to form an organization for children in his ward. The Farmington Ward Primary Association was formally organized on August 11, 1878, with Sister Rogers as president.
Aurelia died at age 87 on August 25, 1922, in Farmington, Davis, Utah, and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Source: FamilySearch.org, Primary Celebrates 135 years; Friend Magazine, 2001; Orson Spencer (1802-1855), Written by Elaine Spencer Smith from Aurelia Spencer Rogers’ “Life Sketches” and Seymour Spencer’s “Life Summary of Orson Spencer;” FindAGrave.com.