Fourteen Years ago today I married my sweet wife Elizabeth. These fourteen years have not always been the best but we have worked hard together and it has been worth every step of the way.
We have two beautiful children and a great life together. I remember changing sprinkler pipes in the fields above the house growing up and thinking as the cars traveled on highway 89 perhaps my wife was in one of them. As it turns out that's quite possible since Liz remembers driving up highway 89 with her dad to Yellowstone. I do know that we shared at least one day prior to being together and that was our baptismal date in 1979. She was in Utah and I in Arizona but we were both baptized November 3, 1979. Almost 20 years later we were married in the Salt Lake Temple.
I remember it had been hot with occasional cloud bursts not unlike the weather we've been having this summer. Our reception was on the grounds of the lovely Garden Park Ward between Yale & Harvard Avenues in the Sugar House area.
We had secured a basement apartment about a month earlier to ensure we could use the grounds by virtue of membership in the ward as opposed to taking our chances on an extremely long waiting list and due to the fact that neither of us were related directly to the Prophet ;o)
The weather held, enough clouds to keep the temperature down but no threat of rain.
Liz and the kids have been playing the guitar and she shared with them that on our wedding day I played To Make You Feel My Love as I sang it to her. I couldn't play it now but I remember working hard to learn it for a few months prior to the big day.
It was far from perfect and a lot of hard work but as with all things that are precious the work is worth it.
The Bed & Breakfast we stayed in on our wedding night has since changed ownership and undergone renovations but on the night we stayed we had the Train Room booked which was the smallest and least expensive of course. Once the inn keepers realized we were newly weds they upgraded us to the Wedding Suite (Temple Room, with a balcony overlooking the temple, and for no additional charge since it was a Wednesday and they had no one else staying with them that night.
We had a room in another B&B up the canyon for the following night then made our way to Star Valley. Our reception was on Pioneer Day so attendance was clearly affected but family was abundant and even though few were able to attend the gifts were abundant.
Living out west our anniversary had to compete with Pioneer Day festivities every year but here it isn't remembered nearly as much. I'm sure glad I met you Liz I Love You Forever.
In addition to conducting the meeting today I spoke on Pioneers. Specifically those of the Martin Hand Cart Company.
After reading Fire of The Covenant by Gerald N Lund I took a great interest in Pioneers and some of the many challenges they faced in their journey west. I drove over Emigration Canyon into Echo Canyon and was amazed at how they must have traversed this trail when realizing how much work it was in a car on a paved road.
I later that year, in December, traveled to Riverton, Wyoming with my brother in law Derek Maxfield, to ice fish with Uncle Lavar. On this trip we took the time to stop over at Martin's Cove and in addition to hiking up to the cove were it was only he and I to take in the solemn place. We pulled the hand carts through the snow taking turns pulling each other to get a sense of what it must have been like. Of course we were warmly dressed and we were not starving or severely frostbitten. I shared the following as well.
According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, many of the Mormon Pioneers that treked accross the country to Utah were too poor to travel by wagon train, so instead they pulled handcarts. Many of these handcart company traveled uneventfully to Utah. But a few found extreme hardships in their travels. One of these ill-fated companies, under James G. Willie, left Iowa City on July 15, crossed Iowa to Florence (Omaha), Nebraska, then, after a week in Florence, headed out onto the plains. The last company, under Edward Martin, departed Florence on August 25. Three independent wagon companies, carrying 390 more immigrants, also started too late in the season.
One of the earliest blizzards on record struck just as both the handcart companies and the independent wagon companies were entering the Rocky Mountains in central Wyoming. After several days of being lashed by the fierce blizzard, people in the exposed handcart companies began to die.
When Brigham Young received word that there were handcart companies stranded in the snow he dispatched a rescue party. The rescue party found the Willie Company on October 21 in a blinding snowstorm one day after they had run out of food. But the worst still lay ahead, when, after a day of rest and replenishment, the company had to struggle over the long and steep eastern approach to South Pass in the teeth of a northerly gale. Beyond the pass, the company, now amply fed and free to climb aboard empty supply wagons as they became available, moved quickly, arriving in Salt Lake City on November 9. Of the 404 still with the company, 68 died and many others suffered from severe frostbite and near starvation.
Those of the Martin Company, three-fourths of them women, children, and the elderly, suffered even more. When the storm hit on October 19, they made camp and spent nine days on reduced rations waiting out the storm. The rescue party, after leaving men and supplies with the Willie Company, plunged farther east through the snow with eight wagons in search of the Martin Company. A scouting party sent out ahead of the wagons found them 150 miles east of South Pass.
The company, already in a desperate condition, was ordered to break camp immediately. The supply wagons met them on the trail, but the provisions were not nearly enough and, after struggling 55 miles farther, the company once again went into camp near Devil's Gate to await the arrival of additional supplies.
In the meantime, the rescue effort began to disintegrate. Rescue teams held up several days by the raging storm turned back, fearing to go on and rationalizing that the immigrant trains and the advance rescue party had either decided to winter over or had perished in the storm.
The Martin Company remained in camp for five days. When no supplies came, the company, now deplorably weakened, was again forced out on the trail. It had suffered fifty-six dead before being found, and it was now losing people at an appalling rate.
Relief came barely in time. A messenger ordered back west by Rescue Party Leader, George Grant, reached and turned around some of the teams that had abandoned the rescue. At least thirty wagons reached the Martin Company just as it was about to attempt the same climb to South Pass that had so sorely tested the Willie Company. Starved, frozen, spent, their spirits crushed, and many unable to walk, the people had reached the breaking point. But now warmed and fed, with those unable to walk riding in the wagons, the company moved rapidly on. The Martin Company, in a train of 104 wagons, finally arrived in Salt Lake City on November 30. Out of 576, at least 145 had died and, like the Willie Company, many were severely afflicted by frostbite and starvation.
William R. Palmer writes of a Sunday School class he attended which, years later, was discussing Sister Ellen Pucell Unthank (a 9-year-old handcart pioneer who lost and buried her parents on the plains, and lost her feet to frostbite) and others in the ill-fated handcart companies. Members of the class were speaking critically of Church leaders for permitting the company of converts to start so late in the season. An old man listened in silence and then rose to speak.
Palmer recorded that he said in substance, "I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold, historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. A mistake to send the handcart company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities.
“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. … I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.”
Elder Joseph F. Smith, who was a wagon train pioneer when he was a young boy, commented on the faith of the handcart companies saying,
"In conversation last evening with some brethren, some remarks were made respecting those who came in early days to this country pulling and pushing the handcart, and a comparison was drawn between that mode of immigration to Zion and the manner in which our people are gathered today. Did you ever hear of a man or a woman apostatizing that pushed or pulled a handcart across the plains? Did you ever hear of them becoming dissatisfied soon after they got here, and at once expressing their desire and intention to go back to the old country? If you have, it has been a rare exception to the rule. As a rule, and almost the universal rule, those who tramped the plains with the handcarts, and next those who came with the ox-teams, have been rooted and grounded in the faith. They had occasion to put their trust in God, and their faith was developed, their love for the truth was brought out, and they have been, as a rule, stable and steadfast in the Gospel of Christ. While today many who come from distant lands by steamship and by railroad, soon after they get to Zion become dissatisfied and discontented and they long for the leeks and the onions and the flesh-pots of Egypt; and frequently people who have emigrated here in that way have within a week from the time they landed in this city, or in other places, wanted to return, and some of them have returned. They came too easy; they did not gain experience in coming; their faith was not tried; they had nothing to develop within them the principle of integrity to the truth, and they were discouraged and wanted to go back at the least difficulty."
"Encyclopedia of Mormonism", Vol.2, HANDCART COMPANIES
William Palmer, quoted in David O. McKay, “Pioneer Women,” Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, 8. Collected Discourses, Vol.5, Joseph F. Smith, April 4, 1897