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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: Story of the Mormon Pioneers,W. Cleon Skousen

This is a little book published by the 223rd Quorum of Seventy, San Fernando Stake in 1947.  It deals primarily with the 1847 trek of the first Mormon Company to the Salt Lake Valley.  There are a couple of things that stood out to me from this book.  One is the dedicatory poem at the beginning of the book:
Dedicated
TO THOSE PIONEERS WHO DIED ON THE PLAINS
AND WERE BURIED IN LONELY GRAVES
ALONG THE TRAIL

Lay him down tenderly under the willows;
Dampen the warm brown earth with your tears;
Then turn your face again to the prairie,
Harden your heart to the lonely years.

We must relinquish him to this wide darkness,
Push toward the goal again, smiling and brave;
The willows will guard him silent and weeping,
No one will know that they shelter his grave.

Lay him down quietly under the willows,
Lay him down gently, gently, and then
Run away quickly, softly, on tiptoe--
We cannot come back to the willows again.

     by Lisbeth Wallis, Improvement Era, July 1943

I think this poem says a lot.  Over the years, 60-80,000 pioneers crossed the plains making there way to Utah.  Of those 6000 were left in graves, mostly unmarked, along the way.
The other quote that caught my eye from this book is a quote from Brigham Young, which more explains why the Mormons moved so far away from everyone else, resulting in such a long and dangerous trek.  "We wish strangers to understand that we did not come here out of choice, but because we were obliged to go somewhere and this was the best place we could find.  It was impossible for any person to live here unless he labored hard and battled and fought against the elements, but it was a first-rate place to raise Latter Day Saints, and we shall be blessed in living here, and shall make it like the Garden of Eden"

This explains a lot to me why people were so willing to put there selves through such risk, and hardship.  They must have known that they would not all make it to Salt Lake.  They sang it along the way, "And should we Die."  I am grateful for people who chose to endure despite the obstacles.

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