“Lost Boy,” Friend, July 1987, inside front cover
In the late 1850s many converts from Europe were struggling to reach the Great Salt Lake Valley. Many were so poor that they had to walk, pushing their meager belongings in handcarts.
Archer Walters, an English convert who was with one such company, recorded in his diary under July 2, 1856, this sentence: “Brother Parker’s little boy, age six, was lost, and the father went back to hunt him.”
The boy, Arthur, was next to the youngest of four children of Robert and Ann Parker. Three days earlier the company had hurriedly made camp in the face of a sudden thunderstorm. It was then that Arthur was missed. His parents had thought that he was playing along the way with the other children. Finally someone remembered that when they had stopped earlier in the day, the little boy had been seen settling down to rest under the shade of some brush.
For two days the company remained where they were, and all the men searched for him. Then on July 2, with no alternative, the company was ordered west.
Robert Parker, as the diary records, went back alone to search once more for his little son. As he was leaving camp, his wife pinned a bright shawl about his shoulders, with words such as these: “If you find him dead, wrap him in the shawl to bury him. If you find him alive, use this as a flag to signal us.”
With their three other little children, she took the handcart and struggled along with the company. At sundown on July 5 the Parker family saw a figure approaching from the east. Then, in the rays of the setting sun, they saw the glimmer of the bright red shawl! The mother’s prayers were answered.
On July 5 Archer Walters recorded: “Brother Parker came into camp with a little boy that had been lost. Great joy through the camp. The mother’s joy I cannot describe.”
We do not know all the details. A nameless woodsman had come upon the little boy and had cared for him until his father found him.
So here a story, commonplace in its day, ends—except for a question. How would you feel toward the woodsman had he saved your brother or your friend? Would there be an end to your gratitude?
That is something of the gratitude our Father must feel toward any of us who saves one of his children. “If it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy” (D&C 18:15).