Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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1847: Tuesday, April 6 - The Trek West Paused for Annual Conference

Location: Winter Quarters - 1014 miles left, Nebraska - Location: 41:21:41N 95:56:45W Currently the site of Florence, Nebraska, Winter Quarters was settled in September, 1846 as a temporary resting place for the pioneers. It is located just west of the Missouri river in Nebraska.

Date: April 6, 1847

No move west was made by the Mormon pioneers this day. Most of Heber C. Kimball's small band, which was camped on the prairie four miles away, hurried back to Winter Quarters for an important event -- the 17th annual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nearly all the church members were destitute, having lived through two terrible winters on the open prairie or in refugee settlements like Winter Quarters. Now they were getting ready to move again.

"I did not think there had ever been a body of people ... who had done so little grumbling under such unpleasant circumstances," Brigham Young once said.

Despite the suffering of the past three years since the murder of their Prophet Joseph Smith, the faithful crowded into a log meeting house to listen to Brigham and to follow where he would lead them.

Brigham, by this time 45 years old, had earlier rallied the stricken church members after the death of their prophet in 1844. In his role as president of the twelve apostles, he had taken charge of events and most of the church accepted his leadership.

A remarkable organizer, Brigham was a man of many gifts and a commanding personality. His blunt, straightforward language left no doubt about his feelings or views.

A copy of the Book of Mormon fell into his hands at Mendon, N.Y., in 1830 and he was deeply impressed by it. He studied the book thoroughly, visited branches of the church, and traveled to Canada to share the new religion with his brother, Joseph Young, a Methodist minister. The two of them returned to Mendon and were baptized in 1832.

Just three years later, Brigham was called as an apostle. He filled missions in New York, Ohio, among the Indians and in Great Britain, frequently at great physical hardship and sacrifice.

Now, in 1847, he stood before a congregation in Winter Quarters, prepared to lead the people to the largely unknown West. A larger group would follow in two months.

Brigham spoke very briefly. Most of the detailed instructions had been given earlier. He voiced his love for the people, " but to say I love those who do wickedly -- I do not," referring to persecutors of the church.

He said he was willing to be charitable "to those that deserve it." He said if the mobs who bad driven them from their homes would give back a 100th part of what was taken, "it would carry us over the mountains."

Brigham prayed for God to soften the hearts of their enemies "until we are out of their grasp." The last part of his sermon was a short discourse on the evils of dancing, which he called "a snare." If people want to be merry, they should sing hymns, he said.

After his talk, he was unanimously sustained once more as president of the twelve apostles. The First Presidency of the church had not been reorganized after the death of Joseph Smith. But about eight months later, in that same log building in Winter Quarters, Brigham would be approved as president of the church -- a post he would hold for 29 years, longer than any other man.

When the 1847 conference broke up at noon, people hurried to their homes to continue preparations for the great journey into the wilderness. No afternoon meeting was held. It was a time for action.

The advance guard under Brigham's leadership originally was to be 144 men, representing 12 men for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. But this nicely balanced plan didn't last long. One woman insisted on being taken along.

Harriet Young, the wife of Brigham's younger brother, Lorenzo Dow Young, suffered from asthma and declared she would die if left in Winter Quarters. She said she would rather take her chances on the trail.

Brigham at first objected, but finally agreed when Lorenzo said he wouldn't go if he couldn't take Harriet.

But Harriet couldn't travel as a lone woman in a party of men, so Brigham took one of his wives, Clara, a daughter of Harriet by a previous marriage, and Heber C. Kimball took his Norwegian wife, Ellen. Both men left other wives and children at Winter Quarters.

Brigham's troubles with Harriet weren't over. She also insisted on taking two children. As a result, the makeup of the starting party was 144 men, three women and two children. It didn't stay that way for the entire journey. Some men were left behind along the trail for special assignments and other pioneers joined the group while it was traveling. A number of teen-age youths were in the party, but they were counted as men.

Source: 111 Days to Zion © Copyright 1997 Big Moon Traders and Hal Knight. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. This includes educational uses.