Monday, September 15, 2008

The Story of the Splitting Headache: How the First First Counselor in the First Presidency, Jesse Gause, Was Lost

This is a companion piece to the one that my DW wrote concerning Jesse Gause. As I read over her historical musings, I was struck by this story of how Zebedee Coltrin's headache caused him to abandon his mission and subsequently his companion Jesse Gause wandered away from the Church and was never heard from again.

"I came to the conclusion that it was not my duty to preced any further to the East. I have been afficted with a pain in my head every day Sinse we Started, " said Zebedee Coltrin. Then he prayed with his companion and walked off his mission.

Zebedee Coltrin was baptized into the Church in Geauga county, Ohio, on 9 January 1831 when he was 28 years old. He was ordained an elder a couple of weeks later. On 6 June 1831 he was appointed to travel to Missouri with Levi W. Hancock. There they organized a branch of about 100 members. In 1832 he served a "mission" with John F. Boynton to Erie County, PA. The mission must not have lasted very long, since he returned to his father's home by June. On 22 July 1832 he was ordained to the High Priesthood in Kirtland by Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon.

Jesse Gause was a Shaker before joining the Church in 1831. When he had been a member only a few months on 8 March 1831 the Prophet Joseph Smith selected and ordained Jesse Gause and Sydney Rigdon as his counselors in the First Presidency.

The Prophet, Joseph Smith appointed Jesse Gause to his mission on 15 March 1832. In the Kirtland Revelation Book it states that he "should be proclaiming the gospel in the Land of the living and among thy Brethren." On 1 August 1832 Jesse Gause and Zebedee Coltrin left Strongsville, Ohio headed east on their mission to preach among Gause's brethren in Pennslyvania. Each night for nineteen days Zebedee Coltrin recorded where they stayed and brief notes of the day. They went to Painesville, Ohio; Madison, Ohio; Thompson, Ohio; Rome, Ohio; Warren, Ohio; Salem, Ohio; New Garden, Ohio; Fairfield, Ohio; Greersburg, Pennslyvania; Economy, Pennsylvania; Brownsville, Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Monongahela, Pennsylvania. It is believed that they baptized John Zundel in Economy and encountered both interest and opposition among the people they talked to wherever they went.

The two companions left each other not far from Monogahela. They walked five miles and had breakfast. They prayed together. Coltrin recorded: "Brother Jesse <&I> After praying with & for each other parted in the fellowship of the Gospel of our Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ." (Coltrin's Journal, Sunday, 19 August 1832, 30-31).

Zebedee only reason for abandoning his mission and companion seems to be his splitting headache. Both men reportedly parted company at this point and no one knows what ever happened to Jesse Gause. Zebedee returned back to Kirtland and stayed with two days with Joseph Smith before going home. Not another word was said about Jesse Gause until he was excommunicated on 3 December 1832 when it was mentioned in the Far West Minutes.

Coltrin's reason for abandoning his companion is very odd as is the disappearance of Gause. Why didn't the two men travel together back to Kirtland to meet with Joseph Smith. I also wonder why Coltrin didn't carry some kind of communication back with him. Over the course of time LDS missionaries have been instructed to stay with their companions why did the two men part company with one to never be heard again in the anals of LDS history. If Coltrin had stayed with his companion I think Gause might have continued on in his mission and who knows if he would have been as well known as other LDS Church leaders. Only Coltrin and Gause know what really happened that day in Monogehela.

There are many lessons to be learned from this story. Did you ever leave your companion while on a mission and did anything bad happen? Do you think Gause would have wandered off or been killed or left the Church had Coltrin remained with him? Jessie Gause's departure from the Church is a complete mystery but in terms of current LDS missionary practice missionaries are instructed to never leave their companions for any reason other than to go to the bathroom or shower. In Jesse Gause's case it might have made a difference between life and death.

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