Pioneer Day Svithe


When Brigham Young went off to declare some place The Right Place, he left behind a tawdry instant city set up in the middle of nowhere called Winter Quarters. Hosea Stout, as chief of police, was left behind to help maintain order. To deal with the drunkenness and theft and false prophets and all sorts of malarkey that was going on.

It got so bad that, according to Hosea's diary, on June 20, 1847, Orson Hyde had to "preach[...] his celebrated bogus sermon, denouncing all bogus makers, counterfeiters thieves &c & commanding all such & all who knew of such to come forth with and tell him & also absolved them from all former acts and covenants to keep secrets. This made quite a stir & caused some to 'confess their sins'"

So Hosea is dealing with rampant hooliganism, making friends with the Omahas the same time the feds are trying to recruit Mormon help to attack the Omahas, dealing with an endless series of people who try to either disband the police or cut their pay, etc etc etc. Almost makes the trek across the plains sound like the easier option.

And this is perhaps my point.

I think, as humans, we need role models to look up to. And, for instance, a sick Brigham Young in his cart declaring this valley the right place is a stirring image. But every Saint who stuck it through is a hero, even if they were left behind, even if they, like Hosea, spent half their time rounding up stray cattle.

Until October 8, 1847, that is, when Hosea Stout and 15 other men and 111 rounds of ammunition (enough to "enable" them to "make a good defence if occasion had required") headed West to intercept the returning pioneers. The weather moved from "the best of weather . . . warm and dry" on the 9th to "wet and cold" on the 11th to "pleasant . . . again" on the 12th to a "Very cold night & a hard white frost" on the 13th. On the fourteenth they met a small company who had been sent ahead by Brigham Young to get buffalo meat for the returning pioneers. They had abandoned that task however and just kept going. And when Brigham Young sent a rider up, asking them to return after the main body had been attacked and lost 80 horses to the Sioux, they did not but continued their return to Iowa.

 Hosea and the men with him felt "joy, anger & supprise" upon hearing this story and that "night was the most sad and gloomy time which we had. Not knowing where the Twelve and those with them were or what had become of them. Perhap they were broke down, & robbed of all their animals"

He worried they might still be clear back in Laramie, and imagine if that had been so! 16 men less than a week from Winter Quarters in mid October with a company to rescue on the other side of the plains! Dire!

While in this melancholy mood Bishop Calkins took me out aside and said that he felt like he wanted to speak in toungs which he said was an uncommon thing for him and if it was right & any one here who could interpret he would be glad to speak.

I spoke to the company about who all were anxious to hear him. Saying if there was any intelligence for us in toungs there would be an interpretation also. 

He spoke some time vehemently. Levi Nickerson only understood enough to know that it was relative to our situation and those we were in pursuit & that all was well.

Bishop Calkins then gave us the interpretation which in substance was that our mission was of God, whose eyes & the eyes of angels were over us for our good.

That the Lord had turned away our enemies from us & we had not been seen

For us to press on & be faithfull and our eyes should see those who we sought and we all should return to our homes in peace.

We all felt the force of what was said & agreed to try and do better if we could & press on untill we met them if we had to go to the valley.

This was a very singular circumstance for there was not one of us who was given to enthusiastic notions of this sort which is so common with some brethren But now we all felt an assurance that we would realize what had been spoken.

Two days after this spiritual reassurance  they chased their first buffalo and saw their first prairie dog town—30 times the size of Albany. And the day after those wonders, they found what they were looking for: the pioneers, returning from the valley, straggled out in a long line of three or four miles in length.

We marched fast, passing many who did not know us until we met the Twelve when we halted & every man ran to greet his friends.

It is useless for me to attempt to describe this meeting. The whole of us was in a perfect extacy of joy & gladness. They were worn down with fatigue and hunger with many an anxious thought on home and the welfare of their families & the church. Many of their animals had to be lifted up every time they laid down.

As for us, we only had one feeling now. All our anxiety & care was gone. In the midst of our brethren all our care and responsibility was gone we gave ourselves to the enjoyment of meeting & being with them. All was well & we had only to tell them that we was ready to assist them to anything we had.

The President said it was more joy more satisfaction to meet us than a company of angels for they heard from their families & we from the valley.

I suppose we can find plenty of lessons in this story, but the one I see plainly is that we don't need heroes. We just need each other. We are God's gift to each other. We as Saints can hold together and serve together and through the sustenance of the Spirit, we can accomplish great things.

In the name of . . . . . . 

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  1. .

    [EDIT: added link to previous svithe]