Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Friday, September 15, 2017

“A Mission of Saving”

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In thinking of the Pioneers, I feel, more than humbled, those courageous souls for me are perfect, and I am nothing in comparison to the faith and strength they had and gained.  Then, I studied for this lesson. 

I found myself in tears, and on my knees, in great gratitude for their sacrifice and all that it teaches me.  And as I studied, through the history and the scriptures I began to liken myself to those pioneers that have suffered yet kept the faith.  Not because I was wonderful at keeping the faith because in my youth, I was not.  But because like them I was rescued, by the service and kindness of other Saints that led me to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  

Like them I believed enough that I was willing to travel the horrendous road to safety, and though sometimes I questioned myself, I had the seed, that grew through those tribulations and tragedies.  Like them I would not be the person I am today had I not had those experiences and rescue.  And so I say God Bless those Saints who have paved the way so that I could believe.  

Our church has a great deal of focus on the History of the Pioneers and their sufferings, the lessons we can learn from them are tremendous.  President Hinckley stated:  "Stories of the beleaguered Saints and of their suffering and death will be repeated again and again. … Stories of their rescue need to be repeated again and again. They speak of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ." (Ensign, Nov. 1996, p86)

Why is it important to continue to repeat the stories about the experiences of the early Latter-day Saint pioneers?  President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “President Hinckley said: “I will never get over being thankful to them; I hope you never get over being thankful to them. I hope that we will always remember them. … Let us read again and again, and read to our children or our children’s children, the accounts of those who suffered so much” (Church News, 31 July 1999, 5).

Emigrant/Handcart History

Soon after the first pioneers reached Utah in 1847, the Church began encouraging its converts in the England and Europe to emigrate to Utah.   From 1849 to 1855, about 16,000 European Latter-day Saints traveled to the United States by ship, then through the eastern states by rail and on to Utah by ox and wagon.

Although most of these emigrants paid their own expenses, the Church established the Perpetual Emigration Fund to provide financial assistance the poor. This fund supported the travel of 2,012 European emigrants.  The fund was to be repayed as they were able. but when contributions and loan repayments declined in 1855 after a poor harvest Brigham Young decided to begin using handcarts.

Church leaders decided to form handcart companies as a way to reduce expenses so that financial aid could be extended to the greatest number of emigrants.  President Young also believed it would speed the journey.  He proposed the plan in a letter to Franklin D. Richards, President of the European Mission, in September 1855.  The letter was published in the Millennial Star, the Church's England-based periodical, on December 22, 1855, along with an editorial by Richards endorsing the project. The cost of the migration was expected to be reduced by one-third and so the response was overwhelmingly accepted.  Emigrant converts began departing from Liverpool and traveling by ship to New York or Boston, then by railroad to Iowa City, Iowa where they would be outfitted with handcarts and other supplies.


Built to Brigham Young's design, the handcarts resembled a large wheelbarrow, with two wheels five feet in diameter and a single axle four and a half feet wide, and weighing 60 pounds.  Running along each side of the bed were seven-foot pull shafts ending with a three-foot crossbar at the front. The crossbar allowed the carts to be pushed or pulled. Cargo was carried in a box about three feet by four feet with 8 inch walls. The handcarts generally carried up to 250 pounds of supplies and luggage, though they were capable of handling loads as heavy as 500 pounds.  Carts used in the first year's migration were made entirely of wood ("Iowa hickory or oak"); in later years a stronger design was substituted, which included metal elements.

The handcart companies were organized using the handcarts and sleeping tents as the primary units. Five persons were assigned per handcart, with each individual limited to 17 pounds of clothing and bedding. Each round tent, supported by a center pole, housed 20 occupants and was supervised by a tent captain. Five tents were supervised by the captain of a hundred (or "sub-captain"). Provisions for each group of one hundred emigrants were carried in an ox wagon, and were distributed by the tent captains

 1856 The First Three Handcart Companies

The first two ships departed England in late March and mid-April and sailed to Boston. The emigrants spent several weeks in Iowa City, where they constructed their handcarts and were outfitted with supplies before beginning their trek of about 1,300 miles.

Mormon handcart train in Iowa, 1903 illustration

About 815 emigrants from the first two ships were organized into the first three handcart companies, headed by captains Edmund Ellsworth, Daniel D. McArthur, and Edward Bunker.  The captains were missionaries returning to their homes in Utah and were familiar with the route. Most of the sub-captains were also returning missionaries.

Across Iowa they followed an existing road about 275 miles to Council Bluffs.  After crossing the Missouri River, they paused for a few days at a Mormon outpost in Florence, Nebraska (now part of Omaha), for repairs, before beginning the remaining 1,030-mile journey.

Initial problems with the carts occurred because the wood used to construct them was said to have been "green timber", with many more breakdowns than anticipated. When the First Handcart Company reached Winter Quarters, Edmund Ellsworth had a member of the company "tin" the wooden axles and also installed "thick hoop iron skeins" which enabled the handcart axles to turn more easily and resist breakage much better.  This feature became a standard part of handcarts in following years, including frequent greasing to keep the wheels lubricated.

The companies made good time, and their trips were largely uneventful. The emigrant companies included many children and elderly individuals, and pushing and pulling handcarts was difficult work. Journals and recollections describe periods of illness and hunger.  Like other companies traveling on the Emigrant Trail, deaths occurred along the way. Hafen and Hafen's Handcarts to Zion lists 13 deaths from the first company, seven from the second, and fewer than seven from the third. Journal entries reflect the optimism of the handcart pioneers, even amid their hardships:

The first two companies arrived in Salt Lake City on September 26 and the third followed less than a week later. The first three companies were regarded as having demonstrated the feasibility of emigrating using handcarts.

 President Brigham Young guided the rescue of the Martin and Willie handcart companies

The last two handcart companies of 1856 departed late from England. The ship Thornton, carrying the emigrants who became the Willie Company, did not leave England until May 4 with the leader of the Saints on the Thornton being James G. Willie.  Another three weeks passed before the Horizon, carrying the emigrants who formed the Martin Company, departed. The late departures may have been the result of difficulties in procuring ships in response to the unexpected demand, but the results would be tragic.

With slow communications in the era before the transatlantic telegraph, the Church agents in Iowa City were not expecting the additional emigrants and had to make frantic preparations for their arrival. Critical weeks were spent hastily assembling the carts and outfitting the companies. When the companies reached Florence, additional time was lost making repairs to the poorly built carts.[Emigrant John Chislett describes the problems with the carts:

Prior to the Willie Company departing Florence, the company met to debate the wisdom of such a late departure. Because the emigrants were unfamiliar with the trail and the climate, they deferred to the returning missionaries and Church agents. One of the returning missionaries, Levi Savage, urged them to spend the winter in Nebraska. He argued that such a late departure with a company consisting of the elderly, women and young children would lead to suffering, sickness and even death.

All of the other Church elders argued that the trip should go forward, expressing optimism that the company would be protected by divine intervention. Some members of the company, perhaps as many as 100, decided to spend the winter in Florence or in Iowa, but the majority, about 404 in number (including Savage) continued the journey west. The Willie Company left Florence on August 17 and the Martin Company on August 27. Two ox-wagon trains, led by captains W.B. Hodgett and John A. Hunt, followed the Martin Company.

Our Lesson From Levi Savage

Franklin D Richards was the Apostle appointed by Brigham Young to oversee the emigration of LDS Saints to Europe.  According to the blog entitled “Intelligent Obedience” John Taylor (a senior apostle) had advised Franklin Richards not to encourage Saints to leave so late in the year of 1856 and to wait until the next year.  However, Richards boldly told the Saints in Europe that it was God’s will that they go and that God would part the storms as He did for Moses if they but had faith.  Over 1,000 Saints took up the journey.

Upon arrival at Iowa City, the Saints encountered set-backs that delayed their departure until mid-late July.  Most of the Saints were naiive to the harsh terrain and climate that lay ahead.  There was one amoungst them, however, who was familiar with the terrain whose name was Levi Savage.  Savage had circled the globe serving as a missionary to Burma and had literally sacrificed his time in a way that many can not imagine.  He had also made the trek to Salt Lake City and knew of the dangers in leaving so late in the year.
Levi Savage (in the words from his own personal journal) said on August 12th:
Today we commenced preparing for our journey and ascertaining who wishes to go on this fall and who wishes to remain here. Many are going to stop. Others are faltering and I myself am not in favor of, but much opposed to, taking women and children through when they are destitute of clothing, when we all know that we are bound to be caught in the snow and severe cold weather long before we reach the valley.
When asked by President Willie to share his thoughts with the company on leaving so late in the year Savage (again in his own words from his personal journal) said on August 13th:
Brother Willey exhorted the Saints to go forward regardless of suffering even to death. After he had spoken, he gave me the opportunity of speaking. I said to him that if I spoke I must speak my mind, let it cut where it would. He said certainly to do so.
I then related to the Saints the hardships that we should have to endure. I said that we were liable to have to wade in snow up to our knees and shovel at night, lay ourselves in a thin blanket and lie on the frozen ground without a bed. I said that it was not like having a wagon that we could go into and wrap ourselves in as much as we like and lay down. “No,” said I, “we are without wagons, destitute of clothing and could not carry it f we had it. We must go as we are. The handcart system I do not condemn. I think to preferable to unbroken oxen and experienced teamsters. The lateness of the season was my only objection to leaving this point for the mountains at this time.

I spoke warmly upon the subject, but spoke truth, and the people, judging from appearance and expressions, felt the force of it. (However, the most of them determined to go forward, if the authorities say so.) Elder Willey then spoke again in reply to what I had said, evidently dissatisfied.

He said that the God that he served was a God that was able to save to the utermost. He said that was the God that he served, and he wanted no Job’s comforters with him. I then said that what I had said was the truth, and if Elder Willey did not want me to act in the place where I am, he is at full liberty to place another man in my stead. I would not think hard of him for it, But, I did not care what he said about Job’s comforters, I had spoken nothing but the truth and he knew it.

Elder Atwood then spoke mildly and to the purpose. He said that he had been listening to what had been said. He exhorted the Saints to pray to God and get a revelation and know for themselves whether they should go or stay, for it was their privilege to know for themselves.

Savage was a Mormon’s Mormon. He emigrated to Nauvoo after joining the Church, where he was intimate with Joseph Smith. After the Saints left Nauvoo he travelled west with Brigham. In 1846 at the urging of Church leaders, he signed up for the Mormon Battalion, marching hundreds of miles through the desert until his discharge in California in the summer of 1847. From there he made his way across the Sierra Nevadas to the Salt Lake Valley, joining the Saints in October, only to find that his mother had died crossing the plains that summer. In 1852, he was called on a mission to Siam (present day Thailand). He left his wife and 21-month old son, walking from Salt Lake to San Francisco, where he caught a boat to the Far East. 

During his passage he almost died of small pox. He spent over two years preaching the Gospel in Asia. He initially landed in Calcutta, India but couldn’t make it to Siam due to a civil war in the country. He did, however, get as far as Rangoon in Burma. In October 1855, he headed for home, reaching Boston, Massachusetts via the Cape of Good Hope in early 1856. In short, Levi Savage was a man willing to make enormous sacrifices and literally circle the globe at the direction of the leaders of the Church.

From Boston, Savage made his way west to Winter’s Quarters, where he had joined the Mormon Battalion more than a decade earlier. There he met a group of westward bound immigrants from England. At the urging of another prophet and apostle — Franklin D. Richards — this group of immigrants formed themselves into two companies, one led by James G. Willie and the other by Edward Martin. The companies were part of an experimental system of moving immigrants across the plains with handcarts. The initial attempts with the new handcarts had gone well, and Richards assured the immigrants that if they trusted in the Lord and did their duty to Him that they could cross the plains in safety.

By this time, it was mid-August and Levi Savage, who knew something about the problems of crossing the vast distances of the North American interior, was incredulous. He insisted that it was too late in the season to begin. The handcarts might be trapped in the high Rockies by an early winter. It was too dangerous, he insisted. His objections were overruled by his ecclesiastical superiors. He then said:
What I have said I know to be true; but seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, and if necessary, will die with you. May God in his mercy bless and preserve us.
It has always struck me as one of the most powerful statements in our history about following the Brethren. Savage knew that he was right and that Franklin D. Richards was wrong. He nevertheless went along with the Willie company, not because he trusted in Richards’ secret infallibility or because he was brow beaten into doing his duty. Rather, he went because the English immigrants — people he had never met and did not know — were his people, and he would help them if he could.
One might argue that Levi Savage was an enabler of Franklin D. Richards’s bad judgment. 

He showed the courage of a true disciple of Jesus, being willing to die for his fellow friends to help them and also swallow his pride and humble himself at the rebuke of his leaders.  Clearly he was in the right and he could have become very bitter, but he chose to remain humble. 

Throughout history, Levi Savage is sometimes known as one who opposed church authorities, and his name is sometimes mentioned as one of those who wasn’t a true Saint.  However, I believe he stood as one of the true disciples of Jesus by not becoming bitter when his leaders were clearly in the wrong and also for putting his life on the line to help his fellow man.  He is a good example for us to follow. 
Trek of the Companies
Near Wood River, Nebraska, a herd of bison caused the Willie Company's cattle to stampede, and nearly 30 cattle were lost. Left without enough cattle to pull all of the wagons, each handcart was required to take on an additional 100 pounds of flour.

In early September, Franklin D. Richards, returning from Europe where he had served as the Church's mission president, passed the emigrant companies. Richards and the 12 returning missionaries who accompanied him, traveling in carriages and light wagons pulled by horses and mules, pressed on to Utah to obtain assistance for the emigrants.

In early October the two companies reached Fort Laramie, Wyoming, where they expected to be restocked with provisions, but no provisions were there for them. The companies had to cut back food rations, hoping that their supplies would last until help could be sent from Utah. To lighten their loads, the Martin Company cut the luggage allowance to 10 pounds per person, discarding clothing and blankets that soon would be desperately needed.

October 4 the Richards party reached Salt Lake City and conferred with president Brigham Young and other Church leaders. The next morning the Church was meeting in a general conference, where Young and the other speakers called on the Church members to provide wagons, mules, supplies, and teamsters for a rescue mission.

The Martin and Willie handcart companies had done all they could to reach the Salt Lake Valley, but they could go no farther. They needed to be rescued. Without the rescue parties, they all would have died.  Officials arrived in Salt Lake City reporting that there were still a thousand handcart pioneers on the road heading west. Brigham Young having no knowledge of any other groups crossing the plains that season immediately organized relief parties to carry food, clothing, and wagons to immigrants.

“I take you back to the general conference of October 1856. On Saturday of that conference, Franklin D. Richards and a handful of associates arrived in the valley. They had traveled from Winter Quarters with strong teams and light wagons and had been able to make good time. Brother Richards immediately sought out President Young. He reported that there were hundreds of men, women, and children scattered over the long trail. … They were in desperate trouble. Winter had come early. Snow-laden winds were howling across the highlands. … Our people were hungry; their carts and their wagons were breaking down; their oxen dying. The people themselves were dying. All of them would perish unless they were rescued.

“I think President Young did not sleep that night. I think visions of those destitute, freezing, dying people paraded through his mind. The next morning he came to the old Tabernacle which stood on this square. He said to the people:

“‘I will now give this people the subject and the text for the Elders who may speak. … It is this. … Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them. The text will be, “to get them here. …

“‘That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess. It is to save the people. …

“‘I shall call upon the Bishops this day. I shall not wait until tomorrow, nor until the next day, for 60 good mule teams and 12 or 15 wagons. I do not want to send oxen. I want good horses and mules. They are in this Territory, and we must have them. Also 12 tons of flour and 40 good teamsters, besides those that drive the teams. …

“‘I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains(LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Handcarts to Zion [1960], 120–21).

“That afternoon, food, bedding, and clothing in great quantities were assembled by the women. The next morning, horses were shod and wagons were repaired and loaded. The following morning, … 16 mule teams pulled out and headed eastward. By the end of October there were 250 teams on the road to give relief” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 117–18; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 85–86).

October 7 the first rescue party left Salt Lake City with 16 wagon-loads of food and supplies, pulled by four-mule teams with 27 young men serving as teamsters and rescuers. The party elected George D. Grant as their captain. Throughout October more wagon trains were assembled, and by the end of the month 250 relief wagons were on the road.  Meanwhile, the Willie and Martin companies were running out of food and encountering bitterly cold temperatures.

October 19 a blizzard struck the region, halting the two companies and the relief party. The Willie Company was along the Sweetwater River approaching the Continental Divide. A scouting party sent ahead by the main rescue party found and greeted the emigrants, gave them a small amount of flour, encouraged them that rescue was near, and then rushed onward to try to locate the Martin Company.
The members of the Willie Company had just reached the end of their flour supplies. They began slaughtering the handful of broken-down cattle that still remained while their death toll mounted.

October 19 the Martin Company was about 110 miles further east, making its last crossing of the North Platte River near present-day Casper, Wyoming.  Shortly after completing the crossing, the blizzard struck. Many members of the company suffered from hypothermia or frostbite after wading through the frigid river. They set up camp at Red Bluffs, unable to continue forward through the snow. Meanwhile, the original scouting party continued eastward until it reached a small vacant fort at Devil's Gate, where they had been instructed to wait for the rest of the rescue party if they had not found the Martin Company. When the main rescue party rejoined them, another scouting party consisting of Joseph Young, Abel Garr, and Daniel Webster Jones was sent forward. The Martin company remained in their camp at Red Bluffs for nine days

October 20 Captain Willie and Joseph Elder went ahead by mule through the snow to locate the supply train and inform them of the company's desperate situation. They arrived at the rescue party's campsite near South Pass that evening, and by the next evening the rescue party reached the Willie Company and provided them with food and assistance. Half of the rescue party remained to assist the Willie Company while the other half pressed forward to assist the Martin Company but the difficulties of the Willie Company were not yet over.

October 23, the second day after the main rescue party had arrived, the Willie Company faced the most difficult section of the trail being the ascent up Rocky Ridge. The climb took place during a howling snowstorm through knee-deep snow. That night 13 emigrants died.

October 28 By the time the scouts arrived, 56 members of the company had died. The scouts urged the emigrants to begin moving again. Three days later the main rescue party met the Martin Company and the Hodgett and Hunt wagon companies and helped them on to Devil's Gate.  George D. Grant, who headed the rescue party, reported to President Young:

At Devil's Gate the rescue party unloaded the baggage carried in the wagons of the Hodgett and Hunt wagon companies that had been following the Martin Company so the wagons could be used to transport the weakest emigrants. A small group led by Daniel Webster Jones remained at Devil's Gate over the winter to protect the property.

November 4 the company had to cross the Sweetwater River.  The stream was clogged with floating ice. Some of the men of the rescue party spent hours pulling the carts and carrying many of the emigrants across the river. The severe weather forced the Martin Company to halt for another five days at Martin's Cove, a few miles west of Devil's Gate.

November 9  The rescue parties escorted the emigrants from both companies to Utah through more snow and severe weather while their members continued to suffer death from disease and exposure. The Willie Company arrived in Salt Lake City 68 members of the company had lost their lives.

Meanwhile, a backup relief party of 77 teams and wagons was making its way east to provide additional assistance to the Martin Company. After passing Fort Bridger the leaders of the backup party concluded that the Martin Company must have wintered east of the Rockies, so they turned back. When word of the returning backup relief party was communicated to Young, he ordered the courier to return and tell them to turn back east and continue until they found the handcart company, but several days had been lost.

Ephraim Hanks Brings Food and Hope

November 10  the arrival of Ephraim Hanks, who brought two pack animals loaded with frozen buffalo meat. Hanks wrote of his arrival in the Martin company: “Flocking around me, one would say, ‘Oh, please, give me a small piece of meat.’ Another would exclaim, ‘My poor children are starving, do give me a little.’ And children with tears in their eyes would call out, ‘Give me some; give me some.’ … The next few hours found the people in camp busily engaged in cooking and eating it, with thankful hearts.”

Hanks provided another important service: “Many of the Saints [had] frozen limbs which were endangering their lives. Brother Hanks anointed these folks and prayed that [an] amputation could be done without pain. Then when he took out his great hunting knife, held it to the fire to cleanse it, and took off the dying limb with its keen blade; many with tears in their eyes said they hadn’t felt a thing.” 

As the company moved from day to day, Ephraim Hanks killed many buffalo for the hungry company. He wrote: “The most remarkable thing about it was that I had traveled that road more than fifty times, and never before saw so many buffaloes in that part of the country. There was not a member of the party but what believed that the Lord had sent them to us in answer to prayer.”

Our Lesson from Ephriam Hanks

 President Young had not known that the Willie and Martin Handcart companies were on their way — he had thought all of the handcart companies who were traveling had arrived in Salt Lake. Being very alarmed at this news, President Young stood at the pulpit the following morning at general conference and announced to the saints that supply wagons were needed immediately to go and rescue the handcart companies. 

On Oct. 26, President Young called for more volunteers to go and help the beleaguered handcart travelers.  Two nights earlier, Ephraim Hanks, who had been fishing on Utah Lake, was on his way home to Salt Lake City, and was staying with friends in Draper. During the night he heard a voice calling him by name and saying, "The handcart people are in trouble and you are wanted; will you go and help them?" Ephraim wrote, "I turned instinctively in the direction from whence the voice came and beheld an ordinary-sized man in the room. Without any hesitation I answered, 'Yes, I will go if I am called.' " This message was repeated two more times. 

"I now hastened to Salt Lake City," Ephraim continued, "and arrived there on the Saturday, preceding the Sunday on which the call was made for volunteers to go out and help the last handcart companies in. When some of the brethren responded by explaining that they could get ready to start in a few days, I spoke at once saying, 'I am ready now!' The next day I was wending my way eastward over the mountains with a light wagon all alone." 

At South Pass in Wyoming, Ephraim encountered a terrific snowstorm. He said of it: "In all my travels in the Rocky Mountains both before and afterwards, I have seen no worse. When at length the snow ceased falling, it lay on the ground so deep that for many days it was impossible to move wagons through it." 

Realizing the possible fate of the saints in the handcart company, he set out alone on horseback, leading a packhorse. His narrative continues: "In the meantime I continued my lonely journey. ... I camped in the snow in the mountains. As I was preparing to make a bed in the snow with the few articles that my pack animal carried for me, I thought how comfortable a buffalo robe would be on such an occasion, and also how I could relish a little buffalo meat for supper, and before lying down for the night I was instinctively led to ask the Lord to send me a buffalo. Now, I am a firm believer in the efficacy of prayer, for I have on many different occasions asked the Lord for blessings, which He in His mercy has bestowed on me. But when I, after praying as I did on that lonely night in the South Pass, looked around me and spied a buffalo bull within fifty yards of my camp, my surprise was complete; I had certainly not expected so immediate an answer to my prayer. However, I soon collected myself and was not at a loss to know what to do. Taking deliberate aim at the animal, my first shot brought him down; he made a few jumps only, and then rolled down into the very hollow where I was encamped. I was soon busily engaged skinning my game, finishing which, I spread the hide on the snow and placed my bed upon it . ... After this I enjoyed a refreshing night's sleep." 
The following day Ephraim killed another buffalo, "impressed to do this, although I did not know why until a few hours later, but the thought occurred to my mind that the hand of the Lord was in it, as it was a rare thing to find buffalo herds around that place at this late part of the season. I skinned and dressed the cow; then cut up part of its meat in long strips and loaded my horses with it." 
It was that evening (Nov. 11) that he saw the Martin Handcart Company in the distance — "like a black streak in the snow. ... I reached the ill-fated train just as the emigrants were camping for the night. The sight that met my gaze as I entered their camp can never be erased from my memory. The sufferers, as they moved about slowly, shivering with cold, to prepare their scanty evening meal was enough to touch the stoutest heart. When they saw me coming, they hailed me with joy inexpressible, and when they further beheld the supply of fresh meat I brought into camp, their gratitude knew no bounds. Flocking around me, one would say, 'Oh, please, give me a small piece of meat;' another would exclaim, 'My poor children are starving, do give me a little,' and children with tears in their eyes would call out, 'Give me some, give me some.' At first I tried to wait on them and handed out the meat as they called for it, but finally I told them to help themselves. Five minutes later both my horses had been released of their extra burden — the meat was all gone, and the next few hours found the people in camp busily engaged in cooking and eating it, with thankful hearts." 
When Ephraim found the helpless immigrants, their food supply was nearly exhausted. A halfdozen deaths were occurring daily due to the bitter cold and hunger. They had been without help for 36 days and even the strongest were beginning to lose hope. Ephraim treated frostbite on several of the company, amputating some of the toes, and giving several priesthood blessings to the suffering saints. 

Later, other rescuers and relief parties reached the distressed pioneers. Ephraim remained with the handcart company until they arrived in Salt Lake City on Nov. 30, 1856. 

Ephraim Knowlton Hanks will be remembered for his participation in the Mormon Battalion, as a scout for Brigham Young, as a Pony Express rider who made more than 50 trips across the plains, and as a participant in the Utah War. He was the first to find ore in what were to become the Park City mines. In his later years he settled in Bicknell, Wayne County, Utah, where he died at age 70. 
In 1996, to commemorate the 100th year of Ephraim's death, a special ceremony was held at the Caineville Cemetery in Wayne County, where a plaque was dedicated in his honor by the U.S. Mormon Battalion Inc.

Hanks, Ephraim Knowlton, a Patriarch in the Church and a Utah pioneer of 1847, was born March 2, 1827, in Madison, Lake county, Ohio, the son of Benjamin Hanks and Martha Knowlton.

Until he was sixteen years of age Ephraim worked with his father (who was an edge tool maker or blacksmith), after which he left home and went to Boston, where he enlisted as a sailor before the mast in the U. S. man of war "Columbus", which carried 74 guns. He served on board that ship for three years, during which time he visited France, Spain, Gibraltar, Italy, Brazil and other countries.
On one occasion he had a narrow escape from drowning; while working on top, he fell accidentally from the fore royal yard into the foretop, but was saved by his grasping a rope, while his two companions were killed. One of these fell overboard and was drowned; the other fell to the deck and was mashed.

Ephraim was discharged in New York in 1844 and returned to his home in Ohio. In the meantime his father had died and his brother had joined the Church. Through being warned in a dream the latter paid a visit to his mother's home and there met his returned brother, Ephraim, to whom he related how he (the brother) had been miraculously healed from a bad case of rupture through the administrations of the Elders.

The mother being displeased with her son who had joined the "Mormon" Church, induced Ephraim to call in three of the ablest sectarian preachers in the neighborhood. They came promptly and discussed with his brother, but were beaten in the argument. As usual in such cases, the ministers got angry and commenced to abuse the baptized brother; they also called Joseph Smith a murderer, a horse thief, a black leg, etc., adding that all his followers were like him. This accusation raised the ire of Ephraim, who immediately seized a chair and drove the three ministers out of the house, declaring at the same time that henceforth he would remain a friend and defender of Joseph Smith.

He kept his word. Ephraim now went to Chicago, Ill., and reached Nauvoo in 1845. Here he was baptized by Horace S. Eldredge. He was also ordained a Seventy and went to work on the Nauvoo Temple. He enlisted in the first company of pioneers which was sent west from Nauvoo, but before he could get ready to start, he was sent to Indianapolis, Indiana, after a company of Saints who returned with him to Nauvoo.

Soon after that he left Nauvoo with the companies going west and had got as far as Mount Pisgah, Iowa, when President Brigham Young came along raising volunteers for the Mormon Battalion. Ephraim offered his services at once, enlisted and marched as a private in Company B to San Diego, Cal. Thence, after serving his time, he came to Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
He spent the winter in the "Old Fort" and in the spring of 1848 located a farm, on Mill Creek, near the spot where John Neff the same year built his mill.

In the fall of that year he went east as far as Sweetwater to meet President Brigham Young's company. After his return he became the first pound keeper in Salt Lake City, Horace S. Eldredge being his assistant. Subsequently, in the winter of of 1850-1851, he hired out to Mr. Magers to take mails out on the plains. Later he took a contract to carry the mail over the plains, with Feramorz Little and Chas. Decker as partners, and remained in that business for three years. In 1856 he rendered very efficient aid in helping the handcart companies into the valley. For all these public services he never received any remuneration.

He took an active part in the so-called Echo Canyon war during the years 1857 and 1858. He served as captain of the life guards and escorted Col. Thomas L. Kane to Fort Bridger early in 1858, returning with him safely to Salt Lake City. During the campaign Elder Hanks made a most bold and daring exploit, by which he took a band of horses and mules from the soldiers. For many years Elder Hanks was kept on the frontiers and passed through some very interesting experiences.

During "the move" in 1858 he went to Provo, and after his return he settled at Mountain Dell, Parley's Canyon, between Big and Little Mountain. Here he kept a trading post, doing a good business. He also built a number of houses and barns, but finally sold out his improvements in the canyon, bought a saw mill and located near Heber City, Wasatch county. There he lived till the breaking out of the Black Hawk war in 1865, when he removed to Salt Lake City.

He spent several months in the mountains, mainly in Sanpete county, participating in many daring adventures in Indian fighting, but he was always proud of being able to say that he never killed an Indian. Prior to this he had taken an active part in the Indian wars of 1848 and 1853.
After the Black Hawk war he engaged in stockraising in Parley's Park and found the first silver quartz on the spot where the rich mines of Park City now are situated.

Being advised by President Young to purchase Lee's Ferry, on the Colorado river, he sold out his improvements in Parley's Park in 1877 and made all preparations to start south when President Young took sick and died; that altered his program. President John Taylor, however, also advised him to go south, which he did, and settled in Burrville, Grass Valley. This being a cold region, he soon changed location and, moving farther east, he settled in a box canyon on Pleasant Creek, a small tributary of the Fremont river.

There the writer of these lines visited him in June, 1891. His place of abode was a cozy little nook in an opening in the mountain where there is a few acres of land on which Bro. Hanks had set out about 200 fruit trees and was making a comfortable home. At this romantic mountain retreat Bro. Hanks died, June 9, 1896. Prior to his demise he had been ordained a Patriarch.

November 18, when the Martin company reached Reddick Allred’s supply camp just east of South Pass, Grant saluted him with “Hurrah for the bulldog, good for hanging on.” The welcome supplies were distributed, and Allred joined the company.  The backup party met the Martin Company with the greatly needed supplies. At last all the members of the handcart party were now able to ride in wagons.

November 30 The 104 wagons carrying the Martin Company arrived in Salt Lake City at least 145 members of the company had lost their lives. Many of the survivors had to have fingers, toes, or limbs amputated due to severe frostbite.  After the companies arrived in Utah, the residents generously opened their homes to the arriving emigrants, feeding and caring for them over the winter. The emigrants would eventually go on to Latter-day Saint settlements throughout Utah and the West.

What impresses you about the efforts to rescue the handcart pioneers?

Gerald N. Lund, in the preface to his wonderful novel on the handcart companies, wrote a wonderful tribute to these people who suffered so deeply.

In doing research for the book he says, "I went back to the journals again, this time reading with new eyes, this time searching for new insights....

   "There was evidence of the marvelous sustaining power of God. The storms were not turned aside, nor did manna rain down from heaven, but neither were those hapless emigrants forgotten by the Lord.... "Gradually I came to realize that there was an incredible miracle taking place here, a miracle largely unseen and passed over without comment by those who experienced it. It was not only that the marvelous sustaining power of God was there, but that these exhausted, starving, freezing emigrants never lost faith in that power, not even in the hour of their greatest extremity....     "I found the fire of faith burning in hearts of the people so brightly that no amount of cold, no amount of hunger, now amount of suffering could extinguish it. In like manner, it burned in the hearts of those who left their homes and mounted one of the most amazing rescue efforts in American history." (Fire of the Covenant, pp xiv-xv)

Author, Wallace Stegner, not a member of the Church, wrote:  "Perhaps their suffering seems less dramatic because the handcart pioneers bore it meekly, praising God, instead of fighting for life with the ferocity of animals and eating their dead to keep their own life beating, as both the Fremont and Donner parties did. But if courage and endurance make a story, if human kindness and helpfulness and brotherly love in the midst of raw horror are worth recording, this half-forgotten episode of the Mormon migration is one of the great tales of the West and of America." (Faith In Every Footstep)

Martin Handcard Company rescue

A man who crossed the plains in the Martin handcart company lived in Utah for many years. One day he was in a group of people who began sharply criticizing the Church leaders for ever allowing the Saints to cross the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart company provided. The old man listened until he could stand no more; then he arose and said with great emotion:

“I was in that company and my wife was in it. … 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? … [We] 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.”  (Our Heritage a Brief History) 

The Savior rescues us through His atoning sacrifice

What experiences have you had in which you have been rescued? How did you feel when you were in need of help? How did you feel when someone came to your aid?

 It is clear from the various eyewitness accounts that the handcart pioneer situation was extremely serious.  It is safe to say that if there had been no rescue party most, if not all, of the emigrants would have died.  They were in a situation in which they did not have the power to rescue themselves. It was only through the remarkable rescue launched from Salt Lake City that they survived.  

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of rescue.  In a similar manner, like the pioneers, we have come down to this earth as mortals and have found ourselves in situations which we cannot get out of on our own.

In what ways do we need to be rescued by the Savior?

 The eternal trail takes us through mortality where we take upon us a physical body that makes us subject to the natural tendencies of the flesh. Said Paul, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). 

Along this eternal trail we all come to a great chasm, which we cannot cross on our own. The trail picks up on the other side of the chasm, but the chasm is so deep and so wide that no man or woman can cross it without divine intervention.

The handcart pioneers did all they could to get to Salt Lake City, but it wasn't enough. They needed help. So it is with us. We are required to keep the commandments, but it isn't enough. Nephi tells us,  "For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). Jesus Christ has come to our rescue if we are willing to go as far along the trail as we are able.

"It is because of the sacrificial redemption wrought by the Savior of the world that the great plan of the eternal gospel is made available to us, under which those who die in the Lord shall not taste of death but shall have the opportunity of going on to a celestial and eternal glory.  President Gordon B. Hinckley

    "In our own helplessness, He becomes our rescuer, saving us from damnation and bringing us to eternal life.

"In times of despair, in seasons of loneliness and fear, He is there on the horizon to bring succor and comfort and assurance and faith. He is our King, our Savior, our Deliverer, our Lord and our God." (Ensign, Nov 1991, p54).

As Latter-day Saints, we are to rescue those in need
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we have a rescue mission. Our service may not be as dramatic as the sacrifice made by those who participated in the rescue of the handcart companies, however, we can help rescue family members, friends, and others through our simple daily efforts to love, serve, and teach them.  

What can we do to help rescue others?

Rescue those in need   D&C 4:3–7; Moroni 7:45–48

3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;
4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.
6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.
7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

Teach the gospel and lead others to repentance?  D&C 18:10–16.

10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
12 And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.
13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!

Help “the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted  D&C 52:40

40 And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.

Lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees D&C 81:5–6.

5 Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.
6 And if thou art faithful unto the end thou shalt have a crown of immortality, and eternal life in the mansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father.

Rescue people through temple work D&C 138:58.

58 The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God

Continue to minister” to those who have fallen away  3 Nephi 18:31–32

31 But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people, for behold I know my sheep, and they are numbered.
32 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.

As we strive to rescue others, what can we learn from the examples of President Brigham Young and the Saints who rescued the stranded handcart companies?

We should not delay our efforts; we often need to put aside our own concerns to attend to the needs of others, and we should exercise faith.  

“I am grateful that those days of pioneering are behind us. I am thankful that we do not have brethren and sisters stranded in the snow, freezing and dying, while trying to get to this, their Zion in the mountains. But there are people, not a few, whose circumstances are desperate and who cry out for help and relief.

“There are so many who are hungry and destitute across this world who need help. … Ours is a great and solemn duty to reach out and help them, to lift them, to feed them if they are hungry, to nurture their spirits if they thirst for truth and righteousness.

“There are so many young people who wander aimlessly and walk the tragic trail of drugs, gangs, immorality, and the whole brood of ills that accompany these things. There are widows who long for friendly voices and that spirit of anxious concern which speaks of love. There are those who were once warm in the faith, but whose faith has grown cold. Many of them wish to come back but do not know quite how to do it. They need friendly hands reaching out to them. With a little effort, many of them can be brought back to feast again at the table of the Lord.

“My brethren and sisters, I would hope, I would pray that each of us … would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love into the embrace of the Church, where strong hands and loving hearts will warm them, comfort them, sustain them, and put them on the way of happy and productive lives” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 86).

The example of the Pioneers teaches us how to live with more faith and courage in our own lives and as we strive to help those who are in need of rescue, we must never give up hope. We must let go of selfishness, and we must reach out with love.  

“If the world is going to be saved, we have to do it”

“Our message is so imperative, when you stop to think that the salvation, the eternal salvation of the world, rests upon the shoulders of this Church. When all is said and done, if the world is going to be saved, we have to do it. There is no escaping from that. No other people in the history of the world have received the kind of mandate that we have received. We are responsible for all who have lived upon the earth. That involves our family history and temple work. We are responsible for all who now live upon the earth, and that involves our missionary work. And we are going to be responsible for all who will yet live upon the earth” (Church News, 3 July 1999, 3).

International Journal of Mormon Studies  Migration of Saints from Europe
Mormon Migration through Keokuk Iowa  Migration
Mormon Missionary Diaries BYU Studies Levi Savage
The Trek Church History Levi Savage
Go and Bring them In Ephtraim Hanks the Rescue
Grace for Grace Levi Savage Pioneers
Remembering the Rescue Ensign
Times and Seasons Levi Savage Savage
Personal Account of Ephraim Hanks Hanks
I Am Ready Now Ephriam Hanks
Our Heritage A Brief History Handcart
Doctrine and Covenants Church History Gospel Doctrine
Church News.
Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by B.H. Roberts
Faith In Every Footstep, CD-ROM published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Fire of the Covenant by Gerald R. Lund.
The Trek West LDS.Org

The Fall of Adam and Eve

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