I just finished rereading "The Fire of the Covenant" by Gerald N. Lund. It is a very moving book that I would recommend to everyone. It tells the story of the pioneers who emigrated from Europe with the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies in 1856. As most of you know, these two companies were very late in the season and were caught in very severe snowstorms with barely any food or clothing. About 1/5 of the people in these two companies did not survive. I have ancestors that were in the Martin company, and as I read of the hardships they endured, I marveled at their great faith.
To leave their homes and families behind and never see them again,
To use up all their savings praying that the Lord would provide a way for them to make a new life in Utah,
To sail across the Atlantic Ocean to a foreign country, and then travel in overcrowded trains to the very edge of that country,
To be insulted and persecuted by the Americans as they passed through Iowa,
To limit their earthly possessions to 17 pounds,
To pull a handcart through 1300 miles of scorching sun and freezing snow,
The constant anxiety about when and if the supplies from Salt Lake would reach them,
To see men, women, and children suffer these things and die when they were so close to Valley,
To endure all this, and be able to sincerely sing "All is Well" at the end of the day -
That is incredible faith.
Brigham Young once counseled the Saints, "Now is the time for our labor. Let the fire of the covenant, which you made in the house of the Lord, burn in your heart like flame unquenchable!"
I truly believe that those faithful Saints not only survived but grew from it because of the "fire of the covenant" that roared in their hearts. I honor them and love them for their trust in the Lord and willingness to suffer all of these hardships without doubting. I am truly grateful for the example these Saints have set for me, and the strength that example is to me.
Their example gives me greater faith to endure the challenges I am pioneering through -
Choosing to stand apart from the world to be closer to my God,
Being persecuted for what I believe in,
Overcoming the subtle evil of accepting mediocrity,
Living in a world where lust is taught to be love,
Worrying about how to teach my children to be meek and Christlike in a society where vulgarity is the norm,
Learning to get outside of myself and serve,
Shunning the evils of pornography like the plague,
Fighting to not become addicted to electronics and entertainment,
Worrying about the world's economic and political state,
Trying to keep the Spirit while dealing with screaming toddlers,
Learning to let go of my blessings and give of my wealth to those who need it so much more,
and most of all,
letting my best friend and hero go to serve a mission for two whole years.
But I know that just as my Father sustained those remarkable pioneer Saints, He will sustain me. Nothing can stop me from fulfilling the mission the Lord has for me, because I too have "the fire of the covenant" burning inside of me.
Some try to blame Brigham Young or the other church leaders of the day for the tragic suffering that the Willie and Martin Handcart companies endured. But I know that this was part of Heavenly Father's plan. He could have altered the circumstances - but He did not. Maybe it was so that those Saints could learn something about faith.
Maybe it was also so that a lowly 19 year old girl 200 years later could learn something about faith.
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto lie and salvation....When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. - Joseph Smith, Lectures of Faith, December 1834
Thank you, my pioneer fore bearers, for exhibiting this kind of faith and inspiring me to do the same. I am eternally grateful. Maybe now you can understand why the Lord let you have this experience.