Source: “Laid to Rest,” Provo Daily Enquirer 11, no. 77 (4 October 1887); 2
Transcription of Article
LAID TO REST
Funeral services of Miss Zella Webb–Impressive and Instructive Ceremonies
As was announced in our last issue the funeral services for Miss Zella Lee Webb were held in the large Tabernacle of this city on Friday, Sept. 30. Before the hour for opening the funeral exercises, the remains were borne in a hearse and followed by carriages containing the mourners, from the residence to the meetinghouse. On either side of the hearse walked the pall-bearers, six in number, selected from the most intimate associates of the deceased. The body was enclosed in a very handsome dark polished casket, with mountings of oxidized silver. The plate bore the name “Zella L. Webb,” and the highly appropriate inscription: “It is finished.”
The casket was surmounted by floral wreaths and garlands of great beauty, and yet, to comply with the urgent design of the young lady, the decorations and proceedings were in every respect characterized by impressive simplicity.
At the hour appointed for the services, 3 p.m., the Tabernacle was filled with friends, all anxious to do everything in their power to render the last sad honors complete and appropriate. The Tabernacle choir rendered excellent music, and the proceedings were conducted by Prest. A. O. Smoot.
After singing, the opening prayer was offered by Prest. David John, and this was followed by singing.
ELDER JAMES E. TALMAGE
Who had been especially requested by our departed sister to deliver the funeral sermon, arose and addressed the assembly. He said: For a short time there rests upon me the discharge of the saddest duty of my life, and that I may perform the same acceptably, that words may be uttered which are appropriate, and sentences expressed, which shall bring consolation and peace to those who are called to mourn on this solemn occasion, I need the inspiration of the spirit of God. I would not ask or desire just now the gift or worldly eloquence; in my present state of feelings it would seem a mockery and a sacrilege to present such as a balm for wounded hearts, as a salve for feelings that are crushed. I would not seek to employ soul-stirring sentences, but rather to give expression to the deepest and sincerest feelings of my heart, which I think would inspire kindred sensations of peace, and contented resignation. The circumstances under which we have assembled today are of no ordinary kind. It is sadly true that the departure of those who are dear to us, and the proceedings connected, with the last sad rites over the same, are to most of us matters of tolerably frequent occurrence; yet the conditions of the present obsequies are of a significance and import truly extraordinary. It is not often that the hand of god bestows so heavy a pressure in taking his children home; and it is still less frequent that the same Almighty finger is so deeply shrouded in mystery as in this instance. We have met under conditions of mourning and grief, and such I believe we cannot help but feel; for in spite of our professed belief as supported by reason and analogy, and of our certain knowledge as sustained by the pure word of revelation, rewarding the nature, import, and results of death, the appearance of the cold hand within our circle of relatives and friends is always a signal for sorrow.
A little more than a year ago there might have been seen on our streets, one, who was counted among the fairest of the daughters of Utah. Her form and carriage, the expression of her eye, the elasticity of her step–all bespoke youthful health, and joyful spirits. Her mind was filled with hopes noble and good for the future, she was expecting then to soon embark on the main voyage of her life, and was busily engaged in the needed preparations. In place of that fair picture, we today behold the sad reality of funeral obsequies, a weeping mother, disconsolate brothers and sisters, sorrowing friends; here about us are the somber habiliments of death; here are tears, a casket, a shroud, a grave. Truly death seems to have fallen among us “like an untimely frost upon one of the sweetest flowers of all the field.” This contrast is a gloomy one; it would seem to the superficial mind that this world has little enough of beauty and joy, all the few spirits and things which are truly beautiful and joy-inspiring should be so snatched away. Our loss seems today a heavy and a dreary one. But think again. A little more than a year ago the angels and ministering spirits which surround the throne of our Great Father looked down upon one of their number who had left that circle of primeval bliss, and had come amongst us on an errand of duty, a labor of mercy and a mission of love. Gladly, proudly, did they watch her virtuous life, her womanly thoughts, and dutiful deeds; but their smiles were imbued with sadness because of her absence. Today she enjoys their welcome upon her return, and perhaps because of the victorious accomplishments of her great work, she is a queen among them. Could our dull ears be opened, and our blunted perceptions sharpened, we would now be listening to the sweetest hymns of welcome and to heavenly songs of joy.
The oldest and wisest of men is both in age and wisdom but an infant in the sight of his God. As the earthly child to its earthly parents, so are we spiritual children in our Father’s sight. The toddling babe thinks its parents sadly unkind if they but exercise the slightest denial to its wishes. The boy and girl live for the present only; the past to them is mostly forgotten, the future is yet unlearned. And how like them are we all in thinking of our present lives as the sum total of existence! But for the word of our Father addressed to us all, we would know nothing of a pre-existent state, and as little of the future. But he had told us, that long before we set out upon this pilgrimage of fatigue, discouragement, and pain, we were with Him at home, and there we formed part of a truly happy family, with naught but love and duty as our aims, and the joys of innocence as our reward. It was a season of luxurious thought, perhaps untried development, of continuous but untempted happiness and ease. In the midst of that joyous circle, a plan was announced both deep and mighty. There was a world to be peopled, a kingdom to be compared, sin to be overcome, suffering to be endured, crowns to be won. Each; of us bounded forward with an excess of joy; the outlook was so grand; the prospect so magnificent. Each had his part in that great work; each could accept or reject his portion. One was called to demonstrate his valor on the battle field, to struggle in the wars of his country, and prove his integrity at the point of the sword and the mouth of the cannon. To another it was ordained that he pass a life in comparative quiet, unknown to fame, a stranger to the world. Perhaps his allotment consisted of personal suffering, heartaches and tears, injuries of mind and writhings of soul. Which has fought the greatest battle? If both are victorious which is the most grandly so? To have conquered our own vanities and evil tendencies is to desire a victor’s crown. The spirit that can say, “Though the Lord slay me yet will I trust Him; and His will be done,” is truly victorious. Such a life was pre-eminently that, the close of which we have met this day to solemnize.
Most of us are acquainted with the general outline of the terrible accident, the news of which filled our town with such sympathetic horror and [pl_ying] distress on the 12th day of September, 1886. The catastrophe itself was deeply mysterious, and our beloved sister was the victim. Her injuries at the time were supposed by nearly all to be necessarily fatal. Since then until the time of her death she has been in a condition of almost unintermittent pain of body, accompanied at times with the deepest anguish of mind, which it would seem none, not even those who stood nearest to her, could share or palliate. But with a fortitude which seemed supernatural and a heroism more fitted to be an accomplishment of angels’ natures than those of mortals, she has borne all. Her nearest approach to complaint has been “When oh, when will my release come. When will the Lord say, ‘It is finished’ and call me home?”
For some time before her death she had apparently lost all desire to remain upon this earth. Death to her showed only a kindly face, and she could never contemplate his approach except with feeling of pleasurable expectation. She was deeply fond of hearing those beautiful lines which seemed to most fully represent the condition of her mind:
“Life to me is a station,
Wherein, apart, a traveler stand,
One, absent long from home and nation,
In distant lands.
And I am as one who stands and listens,
Amid the twilights; chill and gloom,
To hear approaching in the distance,
The train from home.”
A loving mother, devoted to the last, even at the imminent risk of her own health and life, attentive sisters, sympathetic brothers and willing friends, have surrounded her bed; and have been themselves plunged in grief because of their inability to assuage or share her sufferings. As the reward was to be hers and hers only, so was the battle to be fought by her without earthly aid. But she has not be left alone. The spirit of contentment, of resignation and submissive peace have been her constant companion. Such has made her over considerate of the comfort of her friends, for she appeared to suffer more in mind from any imaginary cause of trouble to her friends than from her own pains. Courteous even to the last, she was ready with heartfelt thanks for any attention however small. At times she would enquire if she was sinning in thinking of death with such excessive composure. That spirit of peace and contentment was to gift of God to her, bestowed under the hands of the Holy Priesthood, and it filled her soul like the genial beams of the sun of heaven; reflecting its rays upon all who were near her. and this has been to her a support far exceeding any other possible one. She has seemed to hold communion with invisible powers. Hands from a higher world than this have been stretched to aid her weary steps along the thorny path of pain; spirits, like unto her own in purity and faith, have been her associates, whispering to her words of encouragement and help. She has herself declared that often in her most terrible agonies she had approached too near the eternal shore to doubt that the life there was inestimably preferable to this existence of uncertainty and of pain. Her joys of late have been of no earthly kind. If ever true of mortals it was of her that:
“Through long days of suffering,
And nights devoid of ease,
She heard in her soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.”
It is perhaps not the prerogative of any to know all of the Creator’s designs in His mysterious workings; but to Zella was given the satisfaction of knowing that her sufferings had not been without a purpose; and more, that that purpose had not been unaccomplished. She felt that her example would exert a saving influence over others, had done so in fact to her own knowledge before her demise; and she expressed her willingness to endure rather another year of agony than that such an object should be lost. What mission is more glorious than to save by suffering? ‘Twas a labor of that kind though of infinitely greater extent and application for which the Christ vacated His throne in the Council chambers of the heavens, and came to earth, to suffer and to die. Such then appears to have been part of the divine plan in our sister’s dark ordeal. Her sufferings have been sanctifying and purifying; all that was temporarily weak in her nature has been burned away. In speaking so I mention only what I believe to be facts. It was a solemn request of hers, that nothing should be said by way of praise or eulogy which was not known to be deserved; and I shrink from the thought of grieving her pure spirit by the use of meaningless words.
The light of her brilliant example shall yet aid many to pass safely along the way of temptation, and between the snares of sin. It has been said that the names of such as she are found only on tombstones; but the name of Zella will be found engraved on the hearts of friends and deeply cut in the minds of her associates. Her fitful fever is ended. “Tis wrong to be envious, else many would be so of her. She is beyond the power of pain, and the tempter can jeopardize her salvation no longer. It is not Zella who lies in the casket before us; were it she, we well might grieve at the thought of the thud of the sod as it falls on the narrow roof–the coldness, the desolation, the decay. But no! She is beyond all such. That fireburned, fever-scorched, pain-riven body was but a garment given to her to wear while in this bleak world. It is not fitted just yet for use in the happier land of her present abode.
To the mourning relatives and sorrowing friends be it said that Zella is safe. Let your grief be sanctified before God. There is now another star in your firmament of hope; you have a worthy advocate in the court of heaven. She has lost none of her love or concern for you, but will work for you, pray for you, minister to you. She will assist in preparing a mansion for you use when you are called hence; when you emigrate thither she will receive and welcome you on that distant shore. Again the sacred names of mother, brother, sister, friend, will be heard from her lips; and the joy of that reunion will obliterate the thoughts of the present painful “goodbye.” Let her example be turned to profit, and the hope of meeting her again be an incentive to purer lives and nobler deeds. To us Heaven will seem more desirable now Zella is there.
With all the sincerity and fervor of my soul I feel to invoke the spirit of quiet and resigned trust upon the mourning family. May that consolation and peace which has solaced her last hours fall like a garment upon you and give you rest. And may God in his mercy make even this sad bereavement a blessed incentive to us. This I crave in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
ELDER KARL G. MAESER
Next spoke. Like Elder Talmage, he would have preferred to listen to others than to speak himself had it not been for the special request of the departed. Though he had many times been called to attend funerals of his pupils, he thought he had never done so under such pressure of feelings as on the present occasion; not so much because of the departure of this young girl, but in recollection of the terrible accident, and consequent sufferings preceding death. He did not profess to be an interpreter of the mysterious ways of Providence, nor to explain like a Daniel the oft hidden designs of the Lord; but he could bear his testimony to the spirit of patience, and unfaltering faith of Miss Zella–which had risen Phoenix-like out of the burning, above all bodily agony to spiritual heights, wherein she had glories revealed which recompense her in her terrible affliction. Often she had requested the speaker in his visits to talk to her; and he did so as the spirit of God dictated, administering words of comfort and consolation, to which she responded in humble but fervent language expressive of the glorious hope within her. One might almost envy her for the divine assurance which she had enjoyed; for what he had experienced in some rare moments when he felt himself nearer to the Godhead than at other times, he realized that this patient sufferer was in almost constant enjoyment of this holy influence. As Christ, from the moment of unspeakable agony in Gethsemane to the last words of Calvary, manifest calm resignation, affectionate sympathy and hold trust, so did this poor girl in her humble way follow her Redeemer in those things. To follow such an example and each to work out for himself a salvation upon the earth with equal faithfulness will ensure us a crown of glory, which we cannot doubt is now the portion of our departed sister and friend. May God comfort the relatives’ bereavement, and let the consoling influence of His Holy spirit be resting upon them, is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
PRESIDENT A. O. SMOOT
Very briefly addressed the audience, assuring them of his belief that the sufferings of our young sister in every respect purified and fitted her for eternal exaltation. She forcibly suggests the character of Job, who was so surely tried by losses, privations, pain and death, in his integrity before God; but who remained firm and true in spite of all. The sins of this young girl, were they even many times greater than we think they were, would doubtlessly have been atoned for in the words of the sacred writer, “they have gone before her to judgment, and for that she has reason to be happy.” Her illness and pain have been borne valiantly and cheerfully, thus a visit to her sick room had none of the depressing and discouraging effect such experience usually gives. Her life has been a success; may her rest be as perfect.
It was stated to have been the request of Sister Zella that public thanks should be expressed to all who had sought either by word or deed to assist in the sad period of her illness; and this was accordingly done.
The Choir sang “Nearer my God to thee,” and the benediction was pronounced by Elder K. G. Maeser.
The casket was removed to the vestibule, and the face bared to the many anxious friends. The remains were conveyed to Payson by the evening train.
The residence of the family in Payson was filled with friends at an early hour on the morning of October 1st, gathered to show their sympathy and kindly feeling and take a last look at the earthly remains of their beloved sister. A long cortege followed the casket to the cemetery, and the interment took place at noon.
Brief explanatory remarks were made that it had been the request of the departed that no extra ceremonies should be carried on after the formal services. The interment took place at noon, the dedicatory prayer and benediction being pronounced by Elder K. G. Maeser.