Samuel and Amanda Chambers
April 27, 1870, Samuel and Amanda Chambers arrived in Salt Lake City. They quickly found a home and Samuel began working at a sawmill in Big Cottonwood Canyon. They were taken in by the saints and welcomed. Considering that this is a missionary-minded Church and gathered from all over the world their arrival would not have been terribly unusual, except that Samuel and Amanda Chambers were black, and therein lies a wonderful story.
Sam Chambers was born a slave May 21, 1831, in Pickens County, Alabama. He grew up an orphan after his mother was sold by slave traders. Then in 1844, Mormon missionaries came into the area proselyting. Samuel, then 13 years-old attended their street meetings and was converted. Discussions and a nighttime baptism soon followed. And that was it–he would not have any further contact with the Church for 26 years. Yet, somehow he never lost his faith. Following the Civil War, Samuel and Amanda, his wife, were now free. They wanted to emigrate to Utah. Finally, with a simple ox-drawn wagon they journeyed to join the saints. Samuel would later say, “I did not come to Utah to know the truth of the Gospel, but I received it away back where the Gospel found me.”
Then in May 1873, Church leaders sought to strengthen the deacons quorums throughout the Valley. Men and boys were ordained and trained to fill those responsibilities, much of which involved care and cleaning of the ward meetinghouses. Though he did not hold the priesthood Samuel was invited to participate. He did so willingly and gratefully, giving dedicated service for many years. “I have joy,” he said, “in cleaning up and whatever I am called to do.” In 1874 he was given a patriarchal blessing. In it promised he would live a long life and his name would be held in remembrance among the saints.
By 1878, Sam and Amanda had begun to farm and grow fruit in the southeast end of the Salt Lake Valley. Before he was through, Samuel Chambers owned 30 acres and was recognized as an authority on fruit growing. They built a comfortable home and prospered.
He paid his tithing faithfully and when donations were sought to be build the Wilford Ward building in 1902, few members matched the $200 donated by Sam and Amanda. In his later years Samuel was invited to meet with the High Priests. Regularly and powerfully, Samuel bore his testimony of the Gospel–one who heard him said, “like an apostle.” Samuel developed a reputation as a defender of the faith. He was unwilling to tolerate criticism of the Church and its leaders. Those who were visitors to Sam and Amanda’s lovely home received a copy of the Book of Mormon.
Samuel passed away November 9, 1929, four years after his Amanda. He was 98 years-old, and true and faithful to the very end.
It is written, “Jesus] doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation…. He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God.”
Source: William G. Hartley, Samuel D. Chambers, The New Era, June 1974