Monday, February 7, 2011

Above and Beyond

Many of you are familiar with the stories of struggle and heartbreak endured by the Mormon pioneers, specifically, of the Martin Handcart Company.  Realizing that so many of our ancestors are deserving of recognition, I want to honor three eighteen-year-old boys who went "above and beyond" any assigned duty or call they may have received, and share their story. 

Because of extenuating circumstances, the Martin Handcart Company left later in the year than the other handcart companies.  The winter storms were also unseasonably early.  This combination caused much suffering and death to this faithful group of pioneers. 

When Brigham Young heard of these Saints moving through Wyoming, on their trek to Utah, and their hardships, he immediately sent out a rescue party.  In a letter to President Young, written by Captain George D. Grant, the rescue party leader, a description of the scene was as follows: "You can imagine between five and six hundred men, women, and children, worn down by drawing carts through mud an snow, fainting by the wayside, children crying with cold, their limbs stiffened, their feet bleeding, and some of them bare to the frost.  The sight is too much for the stoutest of us, but we go on doing our duty, not doubting, nor despairing.  Our party is too small to be of much of a help. ... We have prayed without ceasing, and the blessings of the Lord have been with us".

In the Improvement Era, January 1914 issue, Solomon F. Kimball wrote of this event.  He published, "Those of the handcart people who were unable to walk were crowded into the overloaded wagons, and a start was made; the balance of the company hobbling along behind with their carts as best they could.

"When [they] came to the first crossing of the Sweetwater west of Devil's Gate, they found the stream full of floating ice, making it dangerous to cross, on account of the strong current.  However, the teams went over in safety. ... When the people who were drawing carts came to the brink of the treacherous stream, they refused to go any further ... , as the water in places was almost waist deep, and the river more than a hundred feet wide. ... [They] remembered that nearly one-sixth of their number had already perished from the effects of crossing North Platte, eighteen days before. ...They ... cried mightily unto the Lord for help.

"After ... every apparent avenue of escape seemed closed, three eighteen-year-old boys belonging to the relief party came to the rescue, and to the astonishment of all who saw, carried nearly every member of that ill-fated handcart company across the snowbound stream.  The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great, that in later years all the boys died from the effects of it.  When President Brigham Young heard of this heroic act, he wept like a child, and later declared publicly, 'that act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end.'"

Do we have the faith and courage to go "above and beyond"  by serving our fellow men as these young boys?  Although we may never have to face physical hardship that compares to that of the pioneers, there are people all around us that we can serve and help make their "trek" a little easier.  I pray that we can find those who may be struggling and, like the Savior did, lift them up and make their burdens light.

1 comment:

  1. Wow!! This really makes me think. Thanks Mel!!


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