Please watch this short 4:00 minute video of Gordon B. Hinckley BEFORE you continue reading my post.
On October 19th, the Martin handcart company pulled their handcarts across the chest deep, freezing water of the North Platte River. Just as the last handcarts reached the opposite riverbank, a raging blizzard struck them. The frozen emigrants were forced to move on to where there was wood for fires. That night many of them laid out their stiff frozen tents and slept under the canvas. The next morning, thirteen bodies were left under the snow as the company struggled on.
In order for the pioneers to reach shelter at Martin's Cove to get away from the bone chilling Wyoming winter storms, the pioneers had to pull their handcarts across the Sweetwater River. On November 4th, 1856 they did just that. At this point the river was only knee deep, but chunks of ice were floating on the river. Many of the gaunt-faced handcart men and women sit on the bank and pulled their tattered blankets around them; a few started to sob; after the North Platte crossing, they could not face wading across another river. All of the rescue party helped, but four young men were singled out in one journal for carrying people across on their backs. The tireless young men waded back and forth in the icy water until all of the emigrants were on the other side of the Sweetwater River.
The four young rescuers (George W. Grant, C. Allen Huntington, David P. Kimball, and Stephen W. Taylor) who helped the Marin company cross the clogged icy river, all later died from the effects of the exposure from that crossing.
Learning about the Mormon Pioneers before trek was a humbling experience. The more I learned the more I stood baffled at what miraculous people the pioneers were as they gave up everything they had, left their homes and came across the seas to walk to the promised land. Doing all of that, giving up everything because they believed in our church. They believed in the Book of Mormon and they felt the spirit of God testify to them.
But nothing touched my heart and my spirit as strongly as the accounts of the sweetwater crossing in the Martin Handcart company.
Listening to President Hinckley talk about those young men with such respect, admiration, love and gratitude helped me gain a better understanding of the sacrifice they made. When I watched this video for the first time and heard Hinckleys voice start to crack and tear up at the mention of those boys names...
When I say I 'broke' I mean I too wept.
Could you feel the spirit of what Hinckley was saying?
I wept imagining I was on the river bank that day watching those young men carry nearly every member of that handcart company across the river.
I felt the complete and overwhelming sense of gratitude towards those men as I'm sure every man women and children must have felt as those four men carried out all their prayers.
The picture above are two of the statues that are near the sweetwater river showing how exhausted and worn out the pioneers were as they were graciously carried across.
Below is a picture of my own personal rescuer.
After trekking for 5 hours on the second day we finally came to what I had been looking forward to the most on this trek, the sweetwater river.
I had no expectations of seeing Jared there because he was on the Logistics committee and had stayed back at camp to finish several tasks with no intention of leaving.
The plan was once we reached the river we would have all the young men walk the handcarts to the other side of the river except for 4 young men who were chosen prayerfully by the Stake President to help carry women across in symbolism of the original sweetwater crossing (excluding the ice).
(You can see the 4 young men in prayer before they began in this picture)
In my heart I was silently devastated that Jared wouldn't be at the river to carry me across.
I trekked with a smile on my face but secretly I was wishing to see Jared, trying not to get my hopes up.
When we got closer to the river I saw someone who kind of looked like Jared.
As we got even closer I realised, that is my Jared!
When I reached the river bank I saw Jared already in the river helping people across from the first group.
I was baffled
How did he know I'd be here now?
I was elated!
Can he carry me across?
My heart started to pound in my chest as the spirit washed over me.
I couldn't stop smiling.
My silent wishes and prayers worked.
Then it was time to cross the river.
The river had recently been closed down due to flash flooding and they had only re-opened it again to trekkers the week before.
Can you see why?
Everyone was clinging to that rope to stay upright when normally the rope is hanging out around your calves.
Typically, the sweetwater river is only about knee or calf deep.
It was up to the men's chests at the deepest part with a fast current that swept your feet out from under you.
We were told that if your spouse was at the river they could carry you across, otherwise one of the assigned young men would carry you.
Because of how high the water was, every woman was carried on the backs or shoulders of the men crossing.
Jared didn't even ask.
He scooped me up in his arms without even wondering how I would like to be carried across, somehow knowing that I wanted him to pick me up in his arms just like I imagined the pioneers were carried.
I wasn't even worry about getting wet, I didn't care.
But Jared cared, he wanted to "do it right".
He somehow lifted me in his arms me above the water while carrying me across the deepest, swiftest part of the river. I don't know how he did it without without even wavering at the current but I know it took a lot of strength for him to do that, and he did it out of respect and love.
Right after the moment he had me elevated out in front of him in his arms is about the time I felt a wave of emotion sweep over me and I felt my full weight, my body, my spirit being lifted up.
I lost it again as tears came steaming out of my eyes, I couldn't control my breathing and I couldn't seem to stop. I let myself weep in front of Jared and everyone on the other side of the river who then too started crying as they felt the spirit I seemed to carry with me from across the river.
As soon as Jared set me down on the bank I instantly turned and hugged at him, holding on tight as tears escaped from my eyes.
I kept hiccuping, "Thank You, Thank You, Thank You."
Jared quietly responded, "For what?"
I said nothing.
Jared left me at that point to help many other women cross the river with his assistance.
I watched him without blinking for the next 30 minutes reigning back my tears as he worked himself into total exhaustion with a smile on his face.
I realized later that day after I had time to think about, why I felt so touched by being carried across the river and why I felt such an urgency to keep telling Jared Thank You for carrying me across.
I couldn't figure out my own emotions all day and then it hit me...
I started to cry when I thought about those four rescuers in the water doing exactly what Jared was doing for me at that moment...carrying me and many others across without being asked at the price of their own life.
In that moment I realized that if Jared had been at the Sweetwater River on November 4th, 1856 he would have BEEN one of those rescuers, sacrificing himself to help those in desperate need.
Theres not a doubt in my mind that Jared would have even thought twice about whether he should help those people or not, he would have volunteered himself immediately.
That's part of why I fell in love with Jared and why I look up to him so much, he's ALWAYS helping others. Think about it. He's probably served you, your spouse, your children, someone you know or all of the above at one time or another but if he hasn't then know that he would do anything for you with an attitude of love and service.
That's how Jared shares his testimony with those around him.
He serves them to the highest capacity.
He doesn't tell anyone what he knows to be true, he shows them.Service to others is Jared's way of showing Heavenly Father how much he loves him.
And Jared truly loves those he serves.
I know deep in my heart that if Jared and I were pioneers in that Martin Handcart company in 1856, he would have jumped in the river and carried every person he could across without complaint.
And I would have lost him.
He would have sacrifed himself, and I would have lost him...
...but the Lord would have gained him.
It's so hard to try and explain when you feel such strong impressions like the one I had in the middle of the sweetwater river but I hope you could feel the spirit of it.
I want to end with this quote which says it better than I ever could,
“Let us never forget that we have a marvelous heritage received from great and courageous people who endured unimaginable suffering and demonstrated unbelievable courage for the cause they loved. You and I know what we should do. God help us to do it when it needs to be done.”
-Gordon B. HinckleyKelly