Martin Handcart Company — Bitter Creek, Wyoming, 1856
The Martin Handcart Company was the fifth handcart company to travel west to the Salt Lake Valley. This company of English emigrants left Iowa City, Iowa, on 28 July 1856. There were "576 [people], with 146 carts, 7 wagons, 30 oxen, and 50 cows and beef cattle" (LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Handcarts to Zion [19-60], 93).
At Florence, Nebraska, they stopped for handcart repairs. It was late in the season, and they wondered if they should continue. A few members dropped out, but most wanted to go on. They left Florence on 25 August.
They reached Fort Laramie, Wyoming, 8 October. After leaving Fort Laramie their food rations had to be cut. Because of their growing weakness, they had to lighten the loads they were pulling, so they discarded blankets and clothing. On 19 October they crossed the North Platte River. As soon as they crossed, it started to snow. Several people died that night.
As the storms and cold continued, the pioneers desperately needed the supplies they had left behind. The men became so weak and sick they couldn't pitch the tents. Twelve miles beyond the river they were stopped by the deep snow. Fifty-six had died since they had crossed the river.
Early in October President Brigham Young heard there were still pioneers on the trail. He knew they would have problems, so he called for volunteers to go to their aid. Horsemen, wagons, and supplies were sent. On 28 October three men rode into the camp of the Martin Company. The deep snow had halted the rescue wagons, so the men told the emigrants their only hope was to keep moving to reach the rescue wagons. They struggled on, and on 3 November they reached the first of the supply wagons. The rescuers decided the company had to move on to find better shelter from the snow and cold.
The company pushed on until they came to the Sweetwater River. For many, crossing the river seemed more than they could manage, but men from the rescue party bravely carried several of the pioneers across. The company found shelter in a mountain cove where they stayed for several days.
When they moved on, they left most of the handcarts behind. The rescuers loaded the sickest and weakest into wagons, but the rest had to walk. The storms had forced some rescuers back, while others waited to try again. One of these, Ephraim Hanks, left his wagon and went on with two horses. One day he killed a buffalo and loaded his horses with the meat. That evening he reached the Martin Handcart Company. The meat was welcomed by the starving pioneers. On 11 November Ephraim Hanks and members of the handcart company camped on Bitter Creek (present-day Cottonwood Creek).
Gradually other wagons reached the pioneers, and all were able to ride the rest of the way into the valley. They reached Salt Lake on 30 November. Between 135 and 150 people had died on the way.
Due to a late start, the 1856 Martin Handcart Company was caught in early snow in Wyoming. Weak and cold and low on supplies, they were in a desperate situation. Some began to die. Volunteer rescuers with supplies left Salt Lake, but deep snow slowed the rescue wagons. Gradually the Martin Company got help, and they struggled on. More continued to die along the way at places like Bitter Creek. But through the heroic efforts of the rescuers and the courage and faith of the handcart pioneers, the surviving company members eventually arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 30 November.
Artist, Clark Kelley Price
Helping the Martin Handcart Company across the Sweetwater River
On 28 July 1856 a handcart company under the leadership of Edward Martin left Iowa City, Iowa, and started across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.
By October, cold weather and snow caught them in the mountains in central Wyoming. Short on food and other supplies, members of the company experienced exposure to cold, hunger, and exhaustion, and some began to die. They would suffer more losses than any other pioneer handcart company.
Earlier in October, when Brigham Young learned that there were still many Saints out on the trail, he sent a rescue party with supplies to help bring the people to Salt Lake. The Martin Company met up with rescue party members in late October and early November and received welcome but limited amounts of food and supplies. With the rescuers' help, they struggled on toward Salt Lake.
On 4 November they came to the Sweetwater River, near Devil's Gate. The river was about 100 feet wide and almost waist deep in places. To make it worse, big chunks of ice were floating in the water. For the weakened members of the Martin Company, the crossing appeared almost impossible.
One of the handcart pioneers later remembered that some of the pioneers were able to ford the river, but others could not. At that point, several members of the rescue party—one account names C. Allen Huntington, Stephen W. Taylor, and teenagers David P. Kimball and George W. Grant—stepped forward to help. These courageous men "waded the river, helping the handcarts through and carrying the women and children and some of the weaker of the men over" (John Jaques, "Some Reminiscences," Salt Lake Daily Herald, 15 Dec. 18-78, 1; see also 19 Jan. 18-79, 1).
One of the women who was carried over the river later recalled: "Those poor brethren [were] in the water nearly all day. We wanted to thank them, but they would not listen to [us]. My dear mother felt in her heart to bless them for their kindness. She said, 'God bless you for taking me over this water and in such an awful, rough way.' [They said], 'Oh, ... I don't want any of that. You are welcome. We have come to help you.' " This sister also reported that one of the rescuers "stayed so long in the water that he had to be taken out and packed to camp, and he was a long time before he recovered, as he was chilled through. And in after life he was always afflicted with rheumatism" (Patience Loader Rozsa Archer, reminiscence, in Women's Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-day Saints, 18-3019-00, ed. Kenneth W. Godfrey, Audrey M. Godfrey, and Jill Mulvay Derr [19-82], 236; spelling and punctuation standardized).
These rescuers and what they had done were brought to President Young's attention. "When President Brigham Young heard of this heroic act," one writer stated, "he wept like a child, and declared that this act alone would immortalize them" (Solomon F. Kimball, "Our Pioneer Boys," Improvement Era, July 19-08, 679).
The Martin Handcart Company heading west in 1856 was caught in Wyoming by the early arrival of winter weather. Many would die before they reached the Salt Lake Valley. A rescue party sent by Brigham Young met the company and helped get them through. One especially difficult part of the journey was the crossing of the Sweetwater River. Cold and hunger had left the pioneers weak, and the crossing seemed impossible. However, men from the rescue party, some only teenagers, bravely stepped forward and carried many members of the company across the icy water. This heroic act was an inspiring moment amid the tragic experiences of the Martin Handcart Company.
Artist, Clark Kelley Price
Translating the Book of Mormon (D&C 20:8-11; Joseph Smith—History 1:34-35, Joseph Smith—History 1:71)
The Book of Mormon ... [proves] to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old. (D&C 20:8, D&C 20:11)
Three years after Joseph Smith was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ, the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph and told him there was a record written on gold plates that gave an account of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Joseph was to translate this record using two stones fastened to a breastplate, the Urim and Thummim. (Joseph Smith—History 1:34-35) Moroni taught Joseph about the work he was called to do for four more years and then delivered the plates and the interpreters to him in 18-27.
Oliver Cowdery served as a scribe to the Prophet Joseph as he translated the Book of Mormon. In describing his experience, Oliver wrote: "These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, 'interpreters,' the history or record called 'The Book of Mormon' " (Joseph Smith—History 1:71) footnote).
When the Prophet Joseph Smith received the gold plates from the angel Moroni, he studied the strange language written on them. With Heavenly Father's help, Joseph translated the writing on the gold plates into words he could understand. Oliver Cowdery helped Joseph by being his scribe. As Joseph read out loud from the plates, Oliver wrote down the words. When the translation into English was completed, the book was printed. It is called the Book of Mormon.
Artist, Del Parson
Elijah Restores the Power to Seal Families for Eternity (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 17:1-3; D&C 110:13-16)
Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. (D&C 2:1-2)
Elijah was the last prophet to hold certain keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood before the time of Jesus Christ. During Christ's mortal ministry, Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses to give these keys to the Savior (Matthew 17:1-3). Elijah appeared again on 3 April 18-36 in the Kirtland Temple to restore these same keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (D&C 110:13-16). This appearance was the fulfillment of a prophecy that declared that Elijah would come in the last days as a preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord (Malachi 4:5-6).
The keys Elijah held and restored are the keys to the sealing power of the high priesthood of God. By this authority, families can be sealed together for eternity according to the plan of our Father in Heaven. The keys of this power and blessing are used in the holy temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to provide sealing ordinances for all of God's children.
Elijah, a prophet who lived on this earth hundreds of years before Christ was born, visited the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple in 18-36. Elijah gave these men the authority and priesthood power to seal families together for eternity.
Artist, Gary E. Smith
Four Missionaries to the Lamanites (D&C 32)
And I myself will go with them and be in their midst; and I am their advocate with the Father, and nothing shall prevail against them. (D&C 32:3)
The Lord directs the missionary work of His Church. He calls men and women to bring His gospel, sometimes under difficult conditions, to all His children throughout the earth.
In October 18-30, just a few months after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, the elders of the Church had a strong desire to take the gospel to the Lamanite people. As a result of their prayers on this subject, Joseph Smith, after receiving revelation from the Lord, called Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Ziba Peterson to "declare my gospel" and go "into the wilderness among the Lamanites" (D&C 32:1-2).
The four left Fayette, New York, on 18 October 18-30 and traveled to the western borders of Missouri, preaching the gospel and leaving copies of the Book of Mormon along the way. The journey was very difficult; the missionaries walked about 1,500 miles, mostly during the winter through deep snow. Although the missionaries had limited success with the Lamanite people, they brought the gospel to many in the Kirtland, Ohio, area and converted several people who would play important roles in the future of the Church.
In October 18-30 four men were called by the Lord to go on a mission to the Lamanites in New York, Ohio, and Missouri. They walked about 1,500 miles through snow and ice. The missionaries found Lamanites who were happy to hear about the gospel and their ancestors in the Book of Mormon. The missionaries also preached the gospel to other people in Ohio and Missouri who later became some of the leaders of the Church.
Artist, Robert T. Barrett
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