My husband has deep Mormon ancestry. Ancestors that joined the church during Joseph Smith time on both sides of his family. They crossed the plains, helped establish Utah, and have been strong faithful members ever since. His family history is pretty much done and has been for generations.
I don’t have this rich heritage.
My mother is a convert to the church and was baptized at 19 years old. My dad’s father was a convert as was my dad’s grandmother on his mother’s side. My great grandmother grew up in Kentucky and then headed to California where she raised a family. So we like to joke that she crossed the plains in a train.
This is a picture of my dad’s parents that I got from my Aunt Gail.
So needless to say, I don’t have pioneer ancestry, which is fine. But it also made it difficult for me to appreciate the pioneer stories as I grew up because I didn’t know them. I didn’t feel like I connected with them.
But now that I’m older and am doing my own family history, I am starting to better appreciate the Mormon pioneers. These people who risked their lives to bring the church to Utah where they could practice religious freedom so that my relatives could later receive the gospel and be baptized.
And their stories are amazing. Often heartbreaking, but filled with strong faith and amazing physical endurance.
I recently read Follow Me to Zion by Andrew D. Olsen and Jolene Spendlove Allphin with many beautiful illustrations all throughout the book by Julie Boswell Rogers. The book is filled with 20 stories of families and individuals who walked and pushed handcarts with the Willie Handcart Company from Iowa City to Salt Lake City. They left with 500 pioneers and walked 1,300 miles.
Most of these pioneers were from Europe so their travels started much before Iowa City. They traveled in 1856 when winter came early and had to walk in snow. They ran out of food before reaching Salt Lake. Many froze and 69 died, but they were rescued before they were all lost to starvation and exposure to the severe weather elements.
I love that this book really helps you get to know these people. Where they came from, their individual stories, how they felt about the trek, and where they ended up in life. It’s amazing that so many of them never complained and said they wouldn’t change any of their experiences. And it kills me to read their epilogues where they have more heartache along the way with spouses dying, children dying, and suffering themselves of different ailments and physical pains. But their stories and experiences have touched generations and given strength to numberless people.
The only thing I don’t like about the book is that each story is written individually as if you hadn’t read any of the previous stories. So a lot of the main events that occurred were repeated often and all discussed in about the same way which made it very repetitious. So this may be a better book to read a few stories here and there or to use to share with others rather than a book to read from cover to cover as I was doing.
But it is still worth the read to know these stories and be able to keep them with you when you have your own difficult trials to go through. It’s a great resource. Their miraculous stories can give you strength.
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