- Dec. 26, 1620 – Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Harbor
- Plymouth, Massachusets
Persecution in EnglandThe Pilgrims diligently followed the commandments of God and taught that the former Church had become corrupt. Those reformers who saw the evil of these things [religious apostasy], and whose hearts the Lord had touched with heavenly zeal for his truth, shook off this yoke of anti-Christian bondage and as the Lord’s free people joined themselves together by covenant as a church, in the fellowship of the gospel to walk in all His ways, made known, or to be made known to them, according to their best endeavours, whatever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them.2 Persecutions then followed. The leaders, both political and religious, continued a severe persecution of those that were true followers of the Lord. Finally: . . . at length they began to persecute all the zealous reformers in the land, unless they would submit to their ceremonies and become slaves to them and their popish trash, which has no ground in the word of God, but is a relic of that man of sin. 3As time progressed the persecution became so intense that the Pilgrims had no choice but to separate themselves from those that desired their destruction. Many of the histories are graphic in detail of the persecution and torture. They were hunted and persecuted on every side, until their former afflictions were but as fleabitings in comparison. Some were clapped into prison; others had their houses watched night and day, and escaped with difficulty; and most were obliged to fly, and leave their homes and means of livelihood. . . . For these reformers to be thus constrained to leave their native soil, their lands and livings, and all their friends, was a great sacrifice, and was wondered at by many.4
Attempts of escape to Holland
Decision to Leave Holland“After they had lived here [Leyden] for some eleven or twelve years . . . the grave mistress, Experience, having taught them much, their prudent governors began to apprehend present dangers and to scan the future and think of timely remedy. After much thought and discourse on the subject, they began at length to incline to the idea of removal to some other place; not out of any new-fangledness or other such giddy humour, which often influences people to their detriment and danger, but for many important reasons.”8William Bradford, in the book Of Plymouth Plantation, listed the reasons that moved the congregation of Pilgrims in Leyden to settle in Ameria. The last these stated: Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least making some ways toward it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work. Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.9
ThanksgivingIt is likely that our Pilgrim Founders invited the Indians to the famous Thanksgiving feast because of the instruction in Deuteronomy to invite the “stranger”. Perhaps it was also because they felt a common kinship with this other remnant of the house of Israel.
Eye-Witness Accounts of the Thanksgiving:The Thanksgiving Story as Told By William Bradford Our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.The Thanksgiving Story as Told by Edward Winslow Our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.
Drought MiracleIn 1623, three years after the arrival of the Pilgrims, a severe drought was destroying their crops and survival. The Plymouth magistrates called the people together for a day of prayer and fasting. Edward Winslow recorded the miracle that followed:
To that end a day was set apart by public authority, and set apart from all other employments, hoping that the same God who had stirred us up hereunto, would be moved hereby in mercy to look down upon us, and grant the request of our dejected souls. . . . For though in the morning when we assembled together, the heavens were as clear and the drought as like to continue as ever it was; yet (our exercise continuing some eight or nine hours) before our departure the weather was over-cast, the clouds gathered together on all sides, and on the next morning distilled such soft, sweet, and mild showers of rain, continuing some fourteen days, and mixed with such seasonable weather as it was hard to say whither our weathered corn or dropping affections were most quickened or revived. Such was the bounty and goodness of our God. . . . And although it be not always so plentifull as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want. . .” 10
Nephi’s VisionPresident Benson stated, “God revealed to his ancient American prophets that shortly after the discovery of America there would be peoples in Europe who would desire to escape the persecution and tyranny of the Old World and flee to America. (1 Nephi 13:13-16)”11 Taken from 1 Nephi 13 “And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church. “And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity. “And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. “And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; . . . “And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain. “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.” 12
Inspired Mission and StatementsMay not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: “Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and he heard their voice, and looked on their adversity, etc.” Let them therefore praise the Lord, because he is good, and his mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, show how he hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry, and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord his loving kindness, and his wonderful works before the sons of men.”13
Character of PilgrimsNineteenth century historian James Thatcher, co-founder of the Pilgrim Society, stated that the Pilgrims “held the bible in estimation as the basis of all laws; and the precepts of the gospel [to be] the rules of their lives and the fountains of their dearest hopes. It was the interwoven sentiment of their hearts that the sovereign power resides with the people, and this was the fundamental axiom upon which their government was reared.” (Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson, The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings, New York: Harper & Row, 1963: 181; Calvinism and the Political Order, edited by George L. Hunt, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965: 185; Thatcher, History of Plymouth: 81.)
Etymology of the word “Pilgrim”The first use of the word pilgrims for the Mayflower passengers appeared in William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation. As he finished recounting his group’s July 1620 departure from Leiden, Bradford used the imagery of Hebrews 11:13–16, about Old Testament “strangers and pilgrims” who had opportunity to return to their old country but instead longed for a better, heavenly country. Bradford wrote: So they lefte [that] goodly & pleasante citie, which had been ther resting place, nere 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on these things; but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits.
Presidents of the Church
Ezra Taft BensonIt was a divine way in which this nation began. The rules of conduct were taken from the Decalogue, from the Bible, from the Gospels and other scriptures. They kept a sacred Sabbath. They maintained other high standards. They frowned upon profanity and other vices. They prohibited gambling. They encouraged people not to keep bad company, to repeat no grievances. They emphasized the spiritual values.14 You may also be interested in:
- American Israel
- 1746 Miracle at the Old South Meeting House
- Thomas Mayhew
- Christian Foundations of American Universities
- Samuel Sewall
- John Eliot
- Roger Williams
- John Winthrop
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 569
- Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 7
- Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 5
- Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 8
- Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 11
- Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 11
- Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 11-12
- Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford, 1647, pg. 19.
- Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford, 1647, pg. 21.
- Puritans and Puritanism: 642; Edward Winslow, Good Newes from New England: A True Relations of Things Very Remarkable at the Plantation of Plimoth in New England, London: William Bladen and John Bellamie, 1624:29; Adams, “Thanksgiving,” 1:248-249; Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 10:301; Thatcher, History of Plymouth: 153; Mourt’s Relation: 133.”
- Ezra Taft Benson, CR Sept 30, 1961
- 1 Nephi 13:4-5, 13-16
- Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford, 1647, pg. 66.
- Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 576.