Over 130 missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are saying thank-you to the people of Quincy, Illinois, by filling sandbags to protect the city that once protected Mormon pioneers.
Wednesday morning, missionaries from the Peoria, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri, missions arrived in Quincy to help prevent potential damage from a key levee that broke Tuesday night between Quincy and Warsaw, Illinois. Heavy rain in the Midwest has left entire towns inundated and thousands of people homeless in the last week.
Dirt is being dumped at the Civic Center in Quincy where missionaries are spending long hours preparing the bags, which are then taken by truck to the areas in most need. The relief effort is being organized by local Latter-day Saint leaders, who are working closely with John Springs, the mayor of Quincy.
The help given by these missionaries reflects the kindness extended by the people of Quincy to early members of the Church escaping religious persecution in Missouri. After walking close to 200 miles in the winter early in 1839, the Latter-day Saints arrived at the banks of the Mississippi, the same river that threatens Quincy today, only to see chunks of ice floating down the river.
In the March 1839 edition of the Quincy Whig newspaper, the editor wrote that “if they (the Mormons) have been thrown upon our shores destitute … common humanity must oblige us to aid and relieve them all in our power.”
Quincy took in more than 5,000 refugees, almost three times its population in 1839. The citizens organized rescue efforts, provided shelter, created jobs and gave members of the Church protection from those wishing to harm them. Shortly afterwards, Joseph Smith, along with other Church leaders, arrived in Quincy and led the Mormons 40 miles north to establish the city of Nauvoo.
In 2002 the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed for the people of Quincy as a gesture of gratitude for the kindness extended by their town in 1839.