Matilda Robison

You Sing Now

Hartshorn, Leon R., compiler. Remarkable Stories from the Lives of Latter-day Saint Women, Volume II, pp. 146, 147:

Born in New York in 1811, Matilda Robison, with her husband, Thomas Rice King, joined the Church in 1840. They crossed the plains with their seven children, settling in Fillmore, Utah, where they helped construct first a fort, then the statehouse. In 1876 the King families founded Kingston; then Thomas and Matilda were called to establish the United Order in Piute County. Sister Robison died in 1894.

My grandfather, Thomas Rice King, lived for a time at Cove Fort, Utah. It was during a period of much trouble with the Indians. In 1867 the fort had been built to accommodate ten or twelve families. It was built of stone, with big, thick walls and heavy gates. My grandparents, with other families, lived in this fort for some time while the Indians were on the warpath.

One day the men left the women and children to go into the canyon for a load of wood. As the men didn’t expect to be gone for very long, and the Indians had not been bothering the families for some time, the gate was left unbolted.

Soon after the men left, several warpainted and vicious-looking Indians stalked through the gate and into the fort. The poor, frightened women caught up their children and hurried to my grandmother’s room. The Indians followed them to the door, banged loudly on it, and demanded food. The terror-stricken women did not dare refuse, and so allowed them to enter while they quickly set food on the table. Grandmother was able to conceal her fright more than the other women. As the warriors started gulping down their food, one of them, who appeared to be their leader or chief, motioned to her and grunted, “You sing now.”

Grandmother hesitated, not knowing what to do. She felt she could never control her voice for the fright she felt, hidden though it was. But at the second, more gruff, command, the sisters fearing for their own and their children’s lives, pleaded with her, “oh, please, Sister King, sing for them.” As the Indians began again to grunt, “Hurry up, sing!” she started to sing the first song that came to her mind, hardly realizing that it was a Latter-day Saint hymn, “O Stop and Tell Me, Red Man.” After the first verse she paused, but the Indians, who had stopped eating to listen, demanded more. The women were looking at her in astonishment.

When she had sung the entire four verses of the hymn, the Indians, to the amazement and relief of the little group, got up from the table and filed silently our of the door and out of the fort. The women flew to my grandmother. “Why Sister King, we didn’t know you knew the Indian language.” Grandmother stared at them. “Know the Indian language? I don’t!” “But you sang that entire song in their language,” they said excitedly. “That’s why they got up and left. They understood every word you sang to them!”

And so she had God’s spirit directing her. The message of that hymn went straight to the Indians’ hearts, and they left the frightened white people, went back to their camps, and pondered the words of the song:

And all your captive brothers form every clime shall come And quit their savage customs, to live with God at home. Then joy will fill your bosoms and blessings crown your days, To live in pure religion and sing our Maker’s praise.