In 1856, my great-great-great grandfather Jesse Soar Taylor, just a boy at the time, his brother William, and their mother Mary Soar Taylor emigrated from England to come to Zion in Utah’s mountain valleys. They were poor and couldn’t afford a wagon, let alone a team of oxen, so they pulled their belongings and supplies in a handcart in the Martin Handcart Company. But they left for Utah late in the summer, and by late September, an early snow storm caught their company on the high plains of Wyoming.
Some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting anycompany of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.
An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
In substance [he] said, "I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes.
But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. 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? …
"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."
He continued: "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." (James E. Faust, "The Refiner’s Fire," Ensign, May 1979, 53).
During this season of Thanksgiving, may we reflect on the great blessings we have received. And let us refuse to complain when things get hard.