A Banner is Unfurled series finishes with flourish
By Melissa DeMoux
For the Deseret News
Published: Saturday, Nov. 10 2012 5:00 a.m. MST
"A Banner is Unfurled, Vol. 5: No Greater Love"
by Marcie Gallacher and Kerri Robinson. Covenant Communications
The final installment of the "A Banner is Unfurled" series closes beautifully with the book "No Greater Love." This well-crafted story follows the Ezekiel Johnson family through deep trials as siblings follow their beloved prophet, Joseph Smith.
For Marcie Gallacher and Kerri Robinson, creating their "A Banner is Unfurled" series has been a labor of love. As the final installment, “No Greater Love,” is presented to audiences, the authors' devotion to this project is very apparent.
“In each of our lives, we hear stories that touch us with such force that we desire to share them with others,” Gallacher and Robinson state on their website at www.abannerisunfurled.com. “The Ezekiel and Julia Johnson story is one such tale.”
“No Greater Love” continues the Johnson family’s saga as each branch of the family moves independently to settle with the early saints of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Separated by toil and tragedy, the Johnson siblings have been strewn across the Eastern United States. From Kirtland, Ohio, to Missouri they have faithfully followed their prophet in search of a firm home.
As a ragged band of weary Mormons begins to colonize the malarial swamps of Nauvoo, Ill., sickness and despair grip the Saints. Members of the LDS Church succumb to illness and pain and the Johnson family is no different. Threatened with disease, anger, chastisement and apostacy the brothers and sisters of this devoted family are forced to make difficult decisions.
With faith pushed to the limit, each member must choose whether to continue in conviction with the church they have helped to build or whether to turn aside and fall away from the Lord.
“No Greater Love” is the shimmering jewel at the end of a gratifying series. More so than the other books, this volume comes alive as it delves into the souls of each Johnson family member. While it is a work of fiction, the factual bits and tidbits sprinkled throughout the story give it an inviting flavor.
The descriptions are vivid and tangible, leaving readers to feel as if they are part of the journey. It would be difficult not to feel drawn to these historic characters.
The only real problem with the book is that there are so many characters involved it is difficult to keep them straight. With more than 20 people just in the immediate Johnson family — many with duplicate names — the story sometimes becomes muddled. However, because the book follows the lives of real people there isn’t a feasible way around that issue.
That said, Gallacher and Robinson have woven a dynamic story that melds the early history of the church with the lives of their beloved ancestors in a creative and entertaining way.
"A thoughtful and poignant reflection of history in its making, fully engaging--even riveting--as the passion and devotion to family and faith are played out in a cascade of life-altering events." --Ruthanne Christensen, Artistic Director
"I am highly impressed by the tenacity and accuracy of the research and writing skill implemented by Ms. Gallacher and Ms. Robinson in their excellent series about Ezekiel Johnson and his choice prosperity." --Dale L. Shumway, Author
"The Banner Is Unfurled series is meticulously researched, and the writing is impressive. I am pleased to recommned this fine piece of work" --J. Marvin Higbee, Former President of Snow College and Utah Valley University
"This narrative sparkles with a rich mix of authenticity and creativity, founded on and interwoven with people and places in the 1800's history of the Church of Jesus Christ, Amercian society and Johnson Family. Read on! --Raymond D. Johnson, Chairman of the Board, Benjamin Franklin Johnson Family Organization
"Gallacher and Robinson bring these wonderful Johsons back to life through their viid descriptions, realistic dialogue and determination to keep the novel true to research." --Jamie L. Cline, Writer and EditorLDS Living Magazine
"Vivid and compelling. I felt immersed in the time period, and was intrigued by this story, made all the more interesting because it was based on fact. This promises to be a series that will leave the reader with an enriched view of early Church history and a deeper understanding of and appreciation for those who lived it."
--Nancy Campbell Allen
Author "The Faith of Our Father's" Series
In this multi-volume series, authors Gallacher and Robinson unfold for us the fascinating saga of an actual family, large and talented, who were tightly intertwined with Mormonismís foundation years. My history research regularly encounters the remarkable Johnson family, particularly Benjamin F., JoelHills, Joseph E., and Sixtus. We read here factionĖmostly fact blended with believable fiction--based on solid research in published histories and in primary sources. Making the story work for me, the chapter notes identify history sources used but also what parts are fictionalized, and why. These pages transport us back in time. We feel like we are there. We bond to real people, strengths and weaknesses alike. We become immersed in what it must have been like to be a family in the 1830s united and divided by Mormonism. A powerful read.
William G. Hartley, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, former President, Mormon History Association, award-winning biographer.
Book Review: 'Abide With Me'
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 14 2010 7:00 a.m. MST
"ABIDE WITH ME, BANNER IS UNFURLED VOL. 4"
by Marcie Gallacher and Kerri Robinson, Covenant Communications, 233 pages, $23.99
"Abide With Me," the fourth volume of the A Banner is Unfurled series and the continuation of the Johnson family saga, is an emotional journey that will grip readers' hearts. The story follows Ezekiel and Julia Hills Johnson and their children as they navigate life in a new and greatly persecuted religion called Mormonism.
"Abide With Me," written by Marcie Gallacher and Kerri Robinson and published by Covenant Communications, plunges into fresh drama as the family is divided due to difficult choices.
Relying on strength derived from their faith in God, each character faces arduous struggles when members of the family embark on a pilgrimage from Kirtland, Ohio, to Far West, Mo., to join the Mormon Saints.
Already separated from the wife he loves, Ezekiel's pain is only heightened as he helplessly watches most of his children follow their prophet Joseph Smith to a new settlement. He and his daughter Almera are left alone in Ohio pining for the loved ones they may never see again.
Having already buried four of her children, Julia is determined to care devotedly for those who remain. With Benjamin and Joe at her side, she gathers her younger offspring and travels with the Kirtland Poor Camp in its exodus toward Zion.
This chapter continues to focus on the families of Almon and Lymon, budding church leaders, but also begins to spotlight the conviction and faithfulness of young Benjamin and Joe. Deeply dedicated to his Father in Heaven, Benjamin begins to see the depth of his testimony as he follows in his brother Seth's footsteps. Joe also steps into the spotlight as he strides into position at the head of his mother's family.
This book is much faster-paced than previous books in the series. Readers are drawn deeply into the feelings and heroic actions of each character. The commitment of the individuals to their beliefs is inspirational.
"A Banner is Unfurled" is based on actual events and has been meticulously pieced together from letters, autobiographies and journal entries. Gallacher and Robinson, both descendants of Julia and Ezekiel Johnson, have researched extensively and strive to bring the depth of this remarkable family to life.
"Abide With Me" is a heartening account of people who helped shape the history of the early LDS Church. The story is dynamic and engaging. With the fifth volume of the series likely to be the final installment, this work tracks the Johnsons as their lives are placed on the knife's edge awaiting the choices that will lead them to their ultimate destiny.
"Abide With Me" is a book to uplift and inspire.
Melissa DeMoux is a stay-at-home mother of six young children who lives in West Valley City, Utah.
Endorsement from Bill Betenson.Descendent
Iíve never been a fan of historical fiction until now. A Banner is Unfurled has renewed my love of family history and the Johnson family. I was so excited to find and read a book about the Johnson family. Iíve studied the Johnsonís, but the series has brought these important family members to life for me and given me a greater appreciation of them. I even made a trip back east to visit many of the actual sites talked about in the books. I appreciate Marcie and Kerriís hard work to bring these books to publication. I look forward to each new book.
A Banner is Unfurled by Marcie Gallacher and Kerri Robinson
Selected text taken from a review by Jennie Hansen of Meridian Magazine
In this year when we honor the 200th birthday of the prophet Joseph Smith, a remarkable new historical novel series has been introduced. A Banner is Unfurled is an account of a real family who knew Joseph Smith and his family, converted to the Gospel, and gained an unshakable testimony of the man and his God-given charge. Authors Marcie Gallacher and Kerri Robinson have drawn heavily on the journals of their own ancestors and many years of research into the historical background of this family.
By today’s standards the Johnson family is far from ordinary. Ezekiel, the child of an unmarried woman, knew only abuse and ridicule after his mother married a man in 1776, who was not his father and who resented his presence. As a young boy he ran away in search of knowledge about his real father and to end the cruelty directed toward him by his stepfather. His painful childhood left him skeptical to the point of antagonism toward God. He married a deeply religious young girl, Julia. Together they had sixteen children, fifteen of whom lived.
Forced to leave his mill partnership because of the greed of others, Joel Hills Johnson (the oldest son), travels to Ohio to start over. He is accompanied by his brother, David. There they first come in contact with “Mormonites.” Here, too, the Johnson family begins to intersect with the Smith family and David and Don Carlos Smith become close friends. Joel’s wife Annie is the first to be baptized. Back in Pomfret Township, New York, the rest of the family — except for Ezekiel — begin studying the Book of Mormon in order to bring the older sons to their senses. Being honest people, they read the book with an open mind and a desire to know how it captured the minds of their loved ones. Persecution, the deaths of loved ones, the loss of romantic expectations, personal growth, hurt, and betrayal follow against a vivid background of early nineteenth century customs and values.
The children of Ezekiel and Julia were prolific writers. They described vividly the people they met, which in time provided the authors of this epic with vivid details straight from the pens of those involved. In it, we catch a picture not only of the Johnsons and Smiths, but other significant early Church leaders. This is a book of the testing and questioning that those in different stages and circumstances in life bring to the study of the gospel. It’s also a story of the unselfish devotion of family members for one another and the strong women who were often the first in their families to embrace truth and the great sacrifices they made to enable the Church to grow and to become established. It’s not only a historical peek at the lives of early church members, but a vivid portrait of life in the 1820's and 1830's.
It’s likely many will compare this series to Gerald Lund’s powerful Work and the Glory series. But there are more differences than similarities. This story is actually about the Johnsons. They aren’t a vehicle used to tell Church history as were the Steeds; they are a historically significant family in their own right. In the telling of their story, powerful testimonies of Joseph Smith’s mission are borne. There is also a powerful intimacy in the telling of the Johnsons’ story as it comes from a female perspective and it adds another layer of testimony to the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect to like A Banner is Unfurled. There is a terrible tendency in fiction to “rewrite” popular books. I don’t mean plagiarism, but rather a borrowing of a basic plot, repopulating it with new names, places, and identifying events in the hopes of cashing in on a popular theme. This year has been pretty well saturated with Joseph Smith books, stories, productions and movies, some of which have been excellent and I had heard this book compared to Lund’s popular series. I expected a “rewrite.” I was wrong. This book is fresh. It is new. It is exceptionally well-written and well-researched. I was especially impressed with the authors’ ability to present such a large cast of characters in a manner that never left me thumbing back through the book to see who was who. I also found it entertaining and exciting .
A Banner is Unfurled turned out to be an enjoyable, rewarding read. This is a series I predict will become a major Latter-day Saint epic and I look forward to following the Johnsons as avidly as I once followed the fictitious Steeds.