Friday, March 19, 2010

Manna Miracle in Utah Valley

And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. Exodus 16:14-15

A similar miracle happened in Provo in 1855, concerning a substance much like manna. Here are accounts from four different pioneer journals detailing that event.

"As sugar became harder to find, the price went higher.

Our sugar was all gone, but about this time a man brought some in from California. I had waited with others for an hour and a half to get into the house where it was, and then could only have one pound of brown sugar, for which I paid one dollar.

With this kind of inflation around, the more resourceful turned to devising other means as a substitution for such an expensive item:

One winter before the sugar factories were brought into that valley [Utah county], sugar and honey were scarce, but they had had a bounteous harvest of squash. Freezing the squashes turned the liquid very sweet, so she and her mother cut squashes and put them out on the snow to freeze. Then they put them in pans in the house to thaw. The juice which drained from them was boiled to a syrup and this was used to sweeten their pies, pumpkin butter, which was used as a spread for their bread, and other desserts.

During this critical period of little product and outrageous prices, a wonderful thing took place with many of the Saints in Utah, which equaled, of not surpassed, the miracle of the “manna from heaven” with the Children of Israel in olden times. It was the day everyone would remember as a special act of divine providence, when “sugar from the Lord” came in a mysterious way.

“The Spring of 1855 opened under more favorable circumstances; still many of the Saints went without the comforts of life. Provisions were very high. Sugar, for instance, was worth a dollar a pound in Provo. In August, 1855, a memorable blessing was given to the people of Provo in the shape of a hard, white substance found upon the leaves of young cottonwood trees. We shook this substance, which was very sweet, into tubs of water and boiled it down without process, when it congealed into sugar about the color of our common brown sugar. The Saints in Provo made between three and four thousand pounds of this kind of sugar. I told the Saints that it was a direct gift from the Lord and they freely paid their tithing on it. Among other products, I took three hundred thirty-three pounds of this sugar to Salt Lake City to the general tithing office. On explaining the matter to President Brigham Young, whom I met at the door, he declared it was ‘sugar from the Lord.’ (Elias H. Blackburn)

George Washington Adam relates the following: He and his family were moving to St. George to raise cotton. They traveled as far as Provo, where they visited with the family of George A. Smith, and helped to gather leaves for the purpose of making sugar and syrup. They would gather the leaves, wash them in tubs, strain the water and boil down to form sugar or syrup. He took quite a supply with him to Dixie.

Mrs. Emmeline Baldwin, of Monroe, Sevier County, records the following in a history written by herself: “I remember in the early fifties, there was a white substance which came on the leaves of cottonwood and willow trees. It was sweet and people went and camped on the Provo River bottoms, where it was abundant, to gather it. They would break off the branches, wash off the substance in a vessel of water, strain it, and then boil it down. The sugar obtained was similar to maple sugar. It was put into pans, where it hardened into cakes.”

And Julia S. Ferrin recalls in her mother’s life: “It was also in this time that the Lord provided sugar in the form of a white sticky substance that came overnight on all of the shrubs and bushes around. The people broke off the bushes or limbs and dipped them in water. Then they made a sweet syrup by boiling it down. They used this in place of sugar. My mother learned to depend on the Lord in her early girlhood and she never let her faith die. Even in her old age she relied upon the Lord and asked special blessings.”

Heinderman, John; Joseph Smith and Natural Foods, Bonneville Books, Springville, UT; pgs. 147-149


  1. Possibly an infestation of aphids that were secreting honeydew. Aphid honeydew has been used to make honey in some countries.

    “Honeydew is collected by certain species of birds, wasps and honey bees, which process it into a dark, strong honey (honeydew honey). This is highly prized in parts of Europe and Asia for its reputed medicinal value.”
    (Wikipedia: honeydew (secretion),

    “While aphids often go unnoticed, their waste, called honeydew, is more conspicuous. Honeydew is often described as a "clear, sticky liquid raining from trees." It coats bark, leaves, and objects beneath the plant.”

    “A certain species of aphid even provided the Indians with sugar--in the form of the sweet honeydew it secreted. In the early Mission records of California, Pere Picola wrote in 1702: "In the months of April, May and June there falls with the dew a kind of manna, which solidifies and hardens on the leaves of reeds from which it is collected. I have tasted some. It is a little less white than sugar, but has all the sweetness of it." Some of the Fathers considered this "manna" a dispensation from Heaven.

    John Bidwell9, a pioneer in the Humboldt Sink area in 1841, looked at the "manna" with a more discerning eye: "We saw many Indians on the Humboldt, especially towards the sink. There were many Tule marshes. The tule is a rush, large, but here not very tall. It was generally completely covered with honeydew, and this in turn was wholly covered with a pediculous-looking [louse-like] insect which fed upon it. The Indians gathered quantities of the honey and pressed it into balls about the size of one's fist, having the appearance of wet bran. At first we greatly relished this Indian food, but when we saw what it was made of--that the insects pressed into the mass were the main ingredient--we lost our appetites and bought no more of it."

    It wasn't until 1945 that the scientific identity of the aphid was determined. Volney Jones10established its identity as Hyalopterus pruni, which is called the mealy plum aphid because it spends its winter phase on plum trees and other species of Prunus. In the spring and early summer it migrates to summer hosts, primarily the reed grass, Phragmites communis, where it produces the honeydew. The gathering of the honeydew seems to have been one of the annual seasonal rounds of activity of the Indians of the Great Basin. A family or band might camp for a short time near a stream or lake when the honeydew was ready. By piecing together various ac counts of the manner of collection, Jones gives the following picture: "The collection seems to have been primarily the work of women and children. The reeds were cut and carried away from the water .... Cutting was done just after sunrise, and the reeds were spread out to dry during the warmer part of the day to dry the honey dew and make it brittle. During the afternoon the reeds were held over a hide and beaten with a stick to dislodge the deposits of honey dew which fell on the hide and could be collected .... The honey dew was rolled into balls, wrapped in leaves, and stored in baskets until needed."”


    This makes it no less miraculous, though.

  2. How sweet that the Lord card enough to send sugar in a time of leanness. How wonderful that they would know that He would care enough to send it if they asked! ASK and receive!