Early Pioneers

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“Even with their common faith, the Saints had experienced much hardship and approached the evacuation of Nauvoo with very different expectations. Some looked forward with optimism, others with concern. Two excellent examples are presented by Helen Mar Whitney and Bathsheba Smith. Both have left compelling records of their feelings.

“Sister Whitney recorded her expectations upon leaving Nauvoo: ‘I will pack away all my little ribbons, collars and laces, etc., for we are going where we cannot purchase them. We are going out from the world to live beyond the Rocky Mountains where none others will wish to go. There will be neither rich nor poor among us, and we will have none but the honest and virtuous.’ Sister Whitney’s words resonate with an idealistic optimism.

“Sister Bathsheba Smith’s recorded feelings are also full of faith but evidence some trepidation. She had seen the mobs arrayed against the Saints in Missouri and was present at the death of the Apostle David W. Patten.

“Recalling the evacuation of Nauvoo, she wrote: ‘My last act in that precious spot was to tidy the rooms, sweep up the floor and set the broom in its accustomed place behind the door. Then with emotions in my heart I gently closed the door and faced an unknown future, faced it with faith in God and with no less assurance of the ultimate establishment of the Gospel in the West and of its true enduring principles, than I had felt in those trying scenes in Missouri.’

“Both of these LDS pioneer women remained strong in the gospel throughout their lives and provided wonderful service in building Zion, but they faced many additional trials and hardships, which they both faithfully endured.”

Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time,” October 2008 General Conference

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“The theme for this conference is so appropriate: ‘Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.’ I see the light shining in your faces. That light comes from the Lord, and as you radiate that light, it will bless you as well as many others.

“This same light led the way for 15-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rollins and her 13-year-old sister, Caroline, on a dark and chilling day in Independence, Missouri. It was 1833, and an angry mob roared through the streets of Independence, burning property and wreaking havoc. In their path was the home of Brother William W. Phelps, where the printing press was kept. He had been printing revelations received by the Prophet Joseph Smith. The mob demolished the printing press and threw the wreckage into the street. However, they stacked up the printed pages in the yard so they could burn them later.

“Mary Elizabeth and Caroline had been hiding by the fence, frightened spectators to all this destruction. Even though she was terrified, Mary Elizabeth’s eye was fixed on those precious pages. She and her sister ran out from their hiding place, gathered up the scriptures, and bolted. Some of the mob saw them and ordered them to stop. But the brave girls ran into a large cornfield, where they dropped breathlessly to the ground. They carefully laid the pages of revelations between the tall rows of corn and then covered the pages by lying on them. The relentless mobsters looked and looked for the girls, coming quite close at times, but never did find them. Eventually they gave up their search to see what further damage they could do to the town.

“I believe the light of the Lord directed Mary Elizabeth and Caroline as to what to do and where to go for safety. Sisters, that light shines for you, and it will guide you as it did the Rollins girls. It will keep you safe even when danger lurks. As the Master promised, ‘I will also be your light … ; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; … ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.’ ”

James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Your Light: A Standard to All Nations,” April 2006 General Conference

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“Covenants renewed invigorate and refresh a weary soul. Each Sunday when we partake of the sacrament, what happens in our hearts when we hear those words to ‘always remember him’? Do we improve the following week by refocusing on what matters most? Yes, we face hard things; yes, making changes is strenuous. But have you ever wondered how our sisters survived being driven from Nauvoo, many walking the entire trek? When their feet were tired, they were carried by their covenants! What else could grant such spiritual and physical fortitude?”

Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society General President
With Holiness of Heart,” October 2002 General Conference

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“For centuries, righteous women have been stepping forward to join the cause of Christ. Many of you have only recently been baptized; your covenants are fresh in your hearts, your sacrifices still tender. As I think about you, I am reminded of Priscilla Staines from Wiltshire, England. Nineteen-year-old Priscilla joined the Church in 1843. Alone. She had to steal away in the night to be baptized, because of the persecutions of her neighbors and the displeasure of her family. She wrote: ‘We waited until midnight … and then repaired to a stream of water a quarter of a mile away. Here we found the water … frozen over, and the elder had to chop a hole in the ice large enough for the purpose of baptism. … None but God and his angels, and the few witnesses who stood on the bank with us, heard my covenant; but in the solemnity of that midnight hour it seemed as though all nature were listening, and the recording angel writing our words in the book of the Lord.’
 
“Her words ‘None but God and his angels … heard my covenant’ touch my soul, for like Priscilla—no matter our age, our gospel knowledge, our time in the Church—we are all women of covenant.”
 
Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society General President
With Holiness of Heart,” October 2002 General Conference
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“To demonstrate the kind of inner strength I am talking about, I would like to share the story of Susanna Stone Lloyd, who at the age of 26 left England in 1856 and traveled to Utah alone. The only member of her family to join the Church, Susanna was a member of the Willie Handcart Company. Like so many other pioneers, she endured life-threatening hunger, illness, and fatigue.

“Upon arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Susanna borrowed a mirror to make herself more presentable. Despite her best efforts, she recounts: ‘I shall never forget how I looked. Some of my old friends did not know me.’ Having sold her own mirror to an Indian for a piece of buffalo meat, she had not spent much time looking at herself. Now she did not recognize her own image. She was a different person, both inside and out. Over the course of rocky ridges and extreme hardship came a deep conviction. Her faith had been tried, and her conversion was concrete. She had been refined in ways that the very best mirror could not reflect. Susanna had prayed for strength and found it—deep within her soul.”

Mary Ellen Smoot, Relief Society General President
Developing Inner Strength” October 2001 General Conference

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“An early pioneer woman named Eliza Cheney was able to put aside the things of the world because she had nurtured the seed of faith within her. While at Winter Quarters, Eliza received a letter from her parents offering her any amount of money to denounce her newfound religion and come home. She tightened the laces on her pioneer shoes. Even in such bitter conditions, Eliza’s faith burned bright. She wrote back to her parents:

“ ‘I have not the most distant idea [of returning], neither has Nathan … , our cause is just and must be onward. … I did not embrace this work hastily: I came into it understandingly. I weighed the subject, I counted the cost, I knew the consequence of every step I took. …

“ ‘If I could be among the numberless throng that John saw whose robes were washed white in the blood of the lamb[,] I must[,] like them, come up through much tribulation and instead of thinking it hard that I have these difficulties to pass through, I count it all joy that I am counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”

“Brothers and sisters, whether on the plains of Nebraska, in Argentina, the highways of Maryland, or within the walls of our own homes, the simple faith of a true pioneer is powerful and eternal.”

Mary Ellen Smoot, Relief Society General President
Pioneer Shoes through the Ages,” October 1997 General Conference

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“Ruth May Fox said: ‘When the time came for our departure from England, I was in seventh heaven. … [We] left our home under cover of darkness to avoid the curiosity of neighbors. Could anything be more thrilling?’. The pioneer spirit is full of adventure!”
 
Bonnie D. Parkin, Second Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
Finding Faith in Every Footstep,” April 1997 General Conference
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“When I think of pioneers, tragic scenes come to mind: handcarts in blizzards, sickness, frozen feet, empty stomachs, and shallow graves.

“However, as I learn more about that monumental trek I am convinced that along with those very real and dramatic scenes, most of the journey for most of the people was pretty routine. Mostly they walked and walked and walked.”

Virginia H. Pearce, First Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
Keep Walking, and Give Time a Chance,” April 1997 General Conference

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“On a bronze frieze in the Winter Quarters cemetery, a detail shows a mother resting her hand inside the wagon as she walked the distance to the Salt Lake Valley. She did this because her small child wouldn’t stay in the wagon unless he could see his mother’s hand. Even as they walked forward, those pioneers knew how to help one another.”

Virginia H. Pearce, First Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
Keep Walking, and Give Time a Chance,” April 1997 General Conference

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“This week-after-week walking forward is no small accomplishment. The pioneer steadiness, the plain, old, hard work of it all, their willingness to move inch by inch, step by step toward the promised land inspire me as much as their more obvious acts of courage. It is so difficult to keep believing that we are making progress when we are moving at such a pace—to keep believing in the future when the mileage of the day is so minuscule.”

Virginia H. Pearce, First Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
Keep Walking, and Give Time a Chance,” April 1997 General Conference

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