Listen to President J. Reuben Clark Jr. pay tribute to Mormon pioneers in rare audio file
When the vision faded, their hearts sank. But they prayed again and pushed on, with little praise, with not too much encouragement, and never with adulation. For there was nearly always something wrong with the last wagon or with its team — the off ox was a little lame in the right front shoulder; the hub of the left front wheel was often hot; the tire of the hind wheel on the same side was loose. So corrective counsel, sometimes strong reproof, was the rule, because the wagon must not delay the whole train. But yet in that last wagon there was devotion and loyalty and integrity, and above and beyond everything else, faith in the Brethren and in God's power and goodness. For had not the Lord said that not even a sparrow fall(s) unnoticed by the Father, and were they not of more value than sparrows? And then they had their testimony, burning always like an eternal fire on a holy altar, that the restored gospel was true, that Joseph was a prophet of God, and that Brigham was Joseph's chosen successor.
When the train moved forward in the early morning sun and the oxen with a swinging pull that almost broke the tongue got the last wagon on the move, the dust in the still morning air hung heavy over the road. Each wagon from the first stirred up its own cloud, till when the last wagon swung into line, the dust was dense and suffocating. It covered that last wagon and all that was in it; it clung to clothes; it blackened faces; it filled eyes already sore, and ears. The wife, soon to be a mother, could hardly catch her breath in the heavy, choking dust, for even in the pure air she breathed hard from her burden. Each jolt of the wagon, for those ahead had made wagon ruts almost "ex" deep, wrung from her clenched lips a half-groan she did her best to keep from the ears of the anxious, solicitous husband plodding slowly along, guiding and goading the poor, dumb cattle, themselves weary from the long trek. So through the long day of jolting and discomfort and sometimes pain, and sometimes panting for breath, the mother, anxious only that the unborn babe should not be injured, rode, for she could not walk; and the children walked, for the load was too heavy and big for them to ride; and the father walked sturdily alongside and prayed.
When in the evening the last wagon creaked slowly into its place in the circle corral and the Brethren came to inquire how the day had gone with the mother, then joy leaped in their hearts, for had not the Brethren remembered them? New hope was born, weariness fled, fresh will to do was enkindled; gratitude to God was poured out for their knowledge of the truth, for their testimony that God lived, that Jesus was the Christ, that Joseph was a prophet, that Brigham was his ordained successor, and that for the righteous a crown of glory awaited that should be theirs during the eternities of the life to come. Then they would join in the songs and dancing in the camp, making the camp's gaiety their own — as much as Mother's condition would permit.
Then the morning came when from out that last wagon floated the la-la of the newborn babe, and Mother love made a shrine and Father bowed in reverence before it. But the train must move on. So out into the dust and dirt the last wagon moved again, swaying and jolting, while Mother eased as best she could each pain-giving jolt so no harm might be done her, that she might be strong to feed the little one, bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh. Who will dare to say that angels did not cluster round and guard her and ease her rude bed, for she had given another choice spirit its mortal body that it might work out its God-given destiny?
My mother was one of those babes so born in 1848, ninety-nine years ago.
Another morning came, when courageous little Bill, who, with a hero's heart, had trudged through long days of hot sun and through miles of soggy mud in the rain, his little body drenched, little Bill, weak and wan, must be crowded in to ride with Mother, for he was sick from a heavy cold. Months before, on that cold winter's night when they fled Nauvoo for their lives to escape the fiendish wrath of a wild mob, Bill became dangerously ill with pneumonia, which left him with weak lungs. This old illness now returned. He grew worse and worse. The elders came and prayed he might get well. But the Lord wanted little Bill with Him. So a few mornings later a weeping mother and a grief-stricken father and that last wagon swung into place in the line, leaving beside the road, under some scrub brush, a little mound, unmarked save for heaped up rocks to keep out the wolves, a mound that covered another martyr to the cause of truth.
So through dust and dirt, dirt and dust, during the long hours, the longer days — that grew into weeks and then into months, they crept along till, passing down through its portals, the valley welcomed them to rest and home. The cattle dropped to their sides, wearied almost to death; nor moved they without goading, for they too sensed they had come to the journey's end.
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