|Grandsons of Arthur and Margaret F. Conkey|
Margaret Ferguson Conkey left Ireland for the new world. All of their children crossed the sea with them. All except their oldest daughter Mary and her husband John Greer, who for unknown reasons decided to stay behind. We don't know the personal stories as to why the family chose to leave their homeland, but one letter from the Campbells (another family line settled in Ontario) shows that the prosperity of the new land came quickly to those that worked hard. (Canadian Conkey Family History A-7).
As I read these first few verses in 2 Nephi I about Lehi's family leaving Jerusalem, I was reminded of my own Conkey family's history. I wondered how many of the circumstances might be compared?
|The moving of a barn across the prairie.|
I wonder how many of the children understood Arthur's vision? I wonder how many of them complained (vs 2) and even exhibited a bit of that Irish stubbornness. We know that their eldest daughter's husband chose to keep his family in Ireland. Mary Conkey and John Greer did not travel in 1842 with Arthur to the "promised land" of Ontario. They chose to forego the uncertainties of the new world and take their chances in Ireland's rocky soil and political unrest.
In addition, Mary Ann Gourley married William Arthur Conkey (Arthur & Margaret's eldest son) while they were still in Ireland. She was one of the daughter in laws who like Lehi's daughter in laws might have complained. Her obituary tells of some of their hardships.
"in the times when only a blanket was hung up over the entrance of the humble dwelling ot protect the inmates from the fierce blasts which whistled through the trees, and from the dreaded wolves which howled close by, she, with undaunted courage took hold and mastered her share of the toil in making a home." (Canadian Conkey's Family History)Lehi and Arthur would have had to remind their families of the Lord's good mercy to them. No Conkey children died in transit to the new world. No children of Lehi died (that we know of ). The Lord's hand of mercy is extended to all who listen to his counsel.
Both families chose to leave their homelands at a crucial time. We know that Lehi had spiritual warning and direction. Did Arthur too heed a spirit that moved him across the waters? Consider that Lehi's exodus came a few years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. Arthur Conkey's exodus came but six years prior to the great potato famine that took some 750,000 Irish lives.
I have to wonder about the heartache Margaret and Arthur must have felt at leaving their eldest daughter's family behind. Mary and John Greer and their four young children did not escape the sorrow of destruction as the children of Lehi did. John at age 38, a young daughter, and a son named James did not survive the famine. After burying her husband and two young children, Mary migrated to Ontario in 1850 with her two sons John and William to tell their tale. (vs 3, 4) What joy they must have felt to be reunited with their family. What perspective their story must have given to the new Canadian Conkey's faith. (vs 4)
I wondered what moved over Arthur and Margaret to leave Ireland? Is it improbable to believe that he too felt the power of the Lord directing his family to move where his family could find prosperity, protection, and freedom? Arthur did not need to see a vision to know of the devastation he had saved his family from. The loss of grandchildren and a son in law proved newsworthy enough. I believe he was aware of God's spirit guiding him. As Presbyterian's in a dominant Catholic country, I believe they must have suffered some form of persecution. One has only to look at the history of Northern Ireland to understand the strife that still surrounds this land. It could have been that like Lehi circumstances piled against the family and worked to drive their desire to leave?
Nephi speaks in verse 5 of a covenant with God in the obtaining of the land. He speaks of how the land is "choice about all other lands." It is to be a land for his children, and to families like the Conkey's
"who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord."
I know that my Conkey family was led by the hand of the Lord to this land. I believe the prophet Lehi when he testifies that "there shall be none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord." Though four generations have come since the coming of my father's people to this "promised land," I know that the Lord's hand is still actively guiding us. To my own father he gave the power of prayer that helped him leave his homeland and adapt to the jobs of the changing world.
When my Conkey family left Ireland in 1842 they used their faith in God and family to find direction. They were in the practice of serving God. The cemetery where the Conkey family rests lies within the churchyard of the Presbyterian church, a church that sits on land donated by the first Canadian Conkey's, Arthur and Margaret Conkey. Leaving Ireland meant exerting faith over the many fears they had to face, but somehow I believe they knew, like Lehi, that in this promised land of the Americas, "the righteous shall be blessed forever." (vs 7)
So as I read and consider how the Lord worked with Lehi to preserve his family, I am reminded of how he covenanted with Abraham so that he too would have a covenanted land. Clearly there is a connection between land and preservation of seed, between living a life filled with God's revelation and direction and finding a land where one can find prosperity through the blessings of hard work.