Some people make fun of the Mormon culture saying we are too stuck in the past. We talk a lot about Joseph Smith and the Pioneers. Well duh. They are kind of a big deal. Some were mercilessly attacked by their neighbors, Smith being tarred and feathered no less than 8 times and countless acts of other horrible wrongdoings were done to these people simply because of their faith. So what did they do? They took everything that could fit in a covered wagon or for some in a little hand cart and headed west to they weren’t sure where. They were strong, vigilant, brave and faithful. That’s why I admire them. That’s why I think of my ancestors on a daily basis and hope our culture and faith never forgets what they had to go through to get out to Utah, start a new life and continue to work past the continual trials headed their way.
1.) The women. The women were unbelievable to me. Some of them had husbands who had joined the Mormon Battalion to help the US fight the Mexican-American War. So off their husbands go, leaving them with kids and a hand cart to cross the plains in the middle of the summer. Can you imagine having those long dresses on sweating to death, no change of just sitting in a car with AC for a couple minutes for months? Going through rain and extreme heat. Having your children get sick and die along the way. Some were pregnant and went into labor along the trail to Utah. THEY WERE HAVING BABIES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT. See now that I’m pregnant this really touches me. My swap cooler has been broken this summer and they just fixed it yesterday but until hte moment it was fixed and I was drowsy, extremely nauses and wanting to just roll over and die in my 90 degrees apartment. I can’t imagine pulling a freaking hand cart across the desert in a dress with some boots with holes in them with two kids fighting in the hand cart while I’m 6 months preggo praying my husband doesn’t die in some war for a country who kicked me out. Just put things even more into perspective for me. It’s pretty cool I come from a heritage of incredible women. No wonder my mom and grandma could beat me up. Our Great greats crossed the plains and made it.
LDS women were some of the first to petition for women’s right to vote as well. “Latter-Day Saint women remained vocal and articulate about their rights. Many sisters actively sought women’s suffrage. Their increasing ability to speak articulately was a blessing when they needed to represent themselves as strong, dignified, and ennobled women. Through their efforts they gained the right to vote. They also gained the respect of other women’s movements in the United States and around the world.” Martha Hughes Canon, an LDS woman was elected the first Senator of the United States from Utah even beating out her husband on the same ballot in 1896.
A prominent non–Latter-day Saint historian wrote: “That I do not accept the faith that possessed them does not mean I doubt their frequent devotion and heroism in its service. Especially their women. Their women were incredible.”
Eliza R. Snow: “It was high time to rise up in the dignity of our calling and speak for ourselves. The world does not know us, and truth and justice to our brethren and to ourselves demands us to speak. We are not inferior to the ladies of the world, and we do not want to appear so.”
2.) The faith. Reading the stories of these pioneers you have got to marvel at the faith they had. The undeniable every day faith. Yes sometimes they may have doubted, sometimes they may have thought..what are we doing wrong? Why do we keep moving into different states and every time people hate us and burn our houses down and kick us out? Mormons aren’t that annoying.. But yet they stayed with what they new was true. It’s hard to be constant in your faith when others mock you. It’s hard not to want to take the easy way out. But these pioneers followed their Prophet who they knew was lead by God and knew that they would be ok. Some people think that God will take care of you means that there won’t be a struggles or heartache. With all humility I remind you of what our Savior went through. Yes God could stop the struggles and heartache, but sometimes we are meant to go through them.
“I didn’t keep a testimony through those times-the testimony kept me.”-Hedwig Biereichel (After WWII)
“Many were the blessings we had received in the house of the Lord, which has caused us joy and comfort in the midst of all our sorrows and enabled us to have faith in God, knowing He would guide us and sustain us in the unknown journey that lay before us. For if it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple by the influence and help of the Spirit of the Lord, our journey would have been like one taking a leap in the dark. To start out … in the winter as it were and in our state of poverty, it would seem like walking into the jaws of death. But we had faith in our Heavenly Father, and we put our trust in Him feeling that we were His chosen people and had embraced His gospel, and instead of sorrow, we felt to rejoice that the day of our deliverance had come.” -Sarah Rich
Joseph Fielding Smith: “I can remember my mother in the days of Nauvoo. I remember seeing her and her helpless children hustled into a flat boat with such things as she could carry out of the house at the commencement of the bombardment of the city of Nauvoo by the mob. I remember the hardships of the Church there and on the way to Winter Quarters, on the Missouri river, and how she prayed for her children and family on her wearisome journey. … I can remember all the trials incident to our endeavors to move out with the Camp of Israel, coming to these valleys of the mountains without teams sufficient to draw our wagons; and being without the means to get those teams necessary, she yoked up her cows and calves, and tied two wagons together, and we started to come to Utah in this crude and helpless condition, and my mother said—‘The Lord will open the way;’ but how He would open the way no one knew. I was a little boy then, and I drove team and did my share of the work. I remember coming upon her in her secret prayer to God to enable her to accomplish her mission. Do you not think that these things make an impression upon the mind? Do you think I can forget the example of my mother? No; her faith and example will ever be bright in my memory. What do I think! Every breath I breathe, every feeling of my soul rises to God in thankfulness to Him that my mother was a Saint, that she was a woman of God, pure and faithful, and that she would suffer death rather than betray the trust committed to her; that she would suffer poverty and distress in the wilderness and try to hold her family together rather than remain in Babylon. That is the spirit which imbued her and her children.”
3.) The sacrifices. They left their homes behind. Some left famliies behind. My relatives left their country behind, crossed the ocean and then headed out to Utah. Can you imagine? That is real sacrifice. Most modern day mormons just have to sacrifice their time on Sundays for 3 hours of church. These people sacrificed everything. It is so touching me to think about the heartaches and the unsurety they may have faced. Most lost a spouse, a sibling, a child or more while making the trek out to Utah. Some lost all their money. Some went from riches to rags in a matter of months. Some were apart of hte band of saints that moved from town to town and had to start from scratch again once they got there. Leaving a temple they had sacrificed so much for behind, only to have it burned to teh ground as they left. Just take a second and think about what you would be willing to sacrifice for God. These people didn’t have much left to give in the end, and even then still gave their lives.
December 12, 1846: “The baby is dead and I mourn his loss. We have done the best we knew how for him, but nothing has done any good; he continued to fail from the time he was taken sick. My sister Caroline and I sat up every night with him and tried to save him from death, for we could not bear to part with him, but we were powerless. I still have friends who are dear to me. If I had not I should wish to bid this world farewell, for it is full of disappointments and sorrow. But I believe there is a power that watches over us and does all things right.” -Eliza Partridge Lyman
“In October 1856, Brigham Young learned they were in deep trouble. The semi-annual conference was about to begin, so during the conference, he asked for volunteers to form a rescue party. The rescuers found them, bringing food and help. However, by the time they reached the Sweetwater River, the people in the Martin Handcart Company were very weak from having been hungry and cold for so long. The very deep, wide, and icy cold river was more than they could handle and they were afraid their journey would end right there, because they weren’t strong enough to cross it. Three teenage boys from the rescue party, George W. Grant, David P. Kimball, and C. Allen Huntington, took matters into their own hands and decided to carry people across. Those three boys carried almost every member of the handcart company themselves. However, this came with a price, as heroism often does. They became quite ill themselves from the strain and the challenges of spending so much time in icy water with heavy loads. Eventually—years after their heroic actions—they all died from complications of that day of heroism. Brigham Young was moved by their sacrifice and cried when he learned what they’d done.”
4.) The miracles. As common were the deaths and illnesses that fell on the trail to Utah were the miracles that the saints witnessed. To me this is a sign of pure faithfulness. Only those who continue in faith with God can be blessed by such miracles. One lady and her daughter found dried meat in a cave enough to share with plenty of others. Some witnessed the miracle of their children being healed close to death. One after the awful attack at Haun’s Mill now known as the Haun’s Mill Massacre. Her young son was shot and was healed through their faith. Some felt angels pushing their carts through the snow. They knew that God was proud of their faith and diligence and although they suffered much, he was there with them and never left their side.
“I will not try to describe how we traveled through storms of snow, wind, and rain; how roads had to be made, bridges built, and rafts constructed; how our poor animals had to drag on day after day with scanty feed; nor how our camps suffered from poverty, sickness, and death. We were consoled … by having our public and private meetings in peace, praying and singing the songs of Zion, and rejoicing that we were leaving our persecutors far behind. We were further consoled by seeing the power of God manifested through the laying on of the hands of the elders, causing the sick to be healed, and the lame to walk. The Lord was with us and his power was made manifest daily.” -Bathsheba W. Smith
5.) The gratitude. This is the most shocking and beautiful part about the pioneer story to me. Although they did lose everything you could imagine. Even though they did cross the plains and see so much death and sadness, they thanked God every night for what they did have and what He had given them. Some once they reached the Salt Lake Valley looked back on a hard winter crossing hte plains and said, “We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but … every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives.”
Eliza R. Snow “I will go forward. I will smile at the rage of the tempest, and ride fearlessly and triumphantly across the boisterous ocean of circumstance and he testimony of Jesus will light up a lamp that will guide my vision through the portals of immortality.”