“Glory Enough,” chapter 2 of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 2, No Unhallowed Hand, 1846–1893 (2020)
Chapter 2: “Glory Enough”
Cold wind blew as Brigham Young arrived at Sugar Creek on the evening of February 15, 1846. Scattered around a snowy patch of woods, not far from an icy brook, hundreds of Saints shivered in damp coats and blankets. Many families collected around fires or underneath tents fashioned from bedsheets or wagon covers. Others huddled together in carriages or wagons for warmth.1
Right away Brigham knew he needed to organize the camp. With the help of other Church leaders, he divided the Saints into companies and called captains to lead them. He warned against taking unnecessary trips back to Nauvoo, being idle, and borrowing without permission. Men were to protect the camp constantly and monitor cleanliness, and each family was to pray together mornings and evenings.2
A good spirit soon settled over the camp. Safely out of Nauvoo, the Saints worried less about mobs or government threats to stop the exodus. In the evenings, a brass band played lively music while the men and women danced. Saints who practiced plural marriage also became less guarded and began to speak openly about the principle and how it linked their families together.3
Brigham, meanwhile, spent hours refining plans for the move west.4 While fasting and praying in the temple shortly before leaving Nauvoo, he had seen a vision of Joseph Smith pointing to a flag flying over a mountaintop. “Build under the point where the colors fall,” Joseph had instructed him, “and you will prosper and have peace.”5 Brigham knew the Lord had a place prepared for the Church, but guiding thousands of Saints there would be a monumental task.
During this time, letters arrived in camp from Sam Brannan, who was now sailing for California on the Brooklyn. Among the letters was the contract promising a safe exodus for the Saints in exchange for land in the West. Brigham read the contract carefully with the apostles. If they did not sign it, Sam’s letters suggested, the president of the United States could order the Saints to disarm and cease gathering together.6
Brigham was unconvinced. As wary as he was of the government, he had already decided to try working with it rather than against it. Shortly before leaving Nauvoo, in fact, he had instructed Jesse Little, the new presiding elder in the eastern states, to lobby for the Church and accept any honorable offer from the federal government to assist the Saints’ exodus. Brigham and the apostles quickly perceived that the contract was nothing more than an elaborate scheme designed to favor the men who had drafted it. Rather than sign the agreement, the apostles decided to trust in God and look to Him for protection.7
As the month rolled on, temperatures dropped below freezing, and the surface of the Mississippi River turned to ice, allowing easy passage across the river. Soon around two thousand people were camped at Sugar Creek, although some returned to Nauvoo time and again on one errand or another.
The traffic back and forth troubled Brigham, who believed these Saints were neglecting their families and focusing too much on their property in the city. With the westward trek already behind schedule, he decided it was time for the Saints to move on from Sugar Creek, even if the companies were underequipped.
On March 1, five hundred wagons started west across the Iowa prairie. Brigham still wanted to send an advance company over the Rocky Mountains that year, but first the Saints needed every resource to move the camp farther from Nauvoo.8
While the Saints with Brigham were leaving Sugar Creek, forty-three-year-old Louisa Pratt remained in Nauvoo, preparing to leave the city with her four young daughters. Three years earlier, the Lord had called her husband, Addison, on a mission to the Pacific Islands. Since then, unreliable mail service between Nauvoo and Tubuai, the island in French Polynesia where Addison was serving, had made it hard to stay in contact with him. Most of his letters were several months old when they arrived, and some were older than a year.
Addison’s latest letter made it clear that he would not be home in time to go west with her. The Twelve had instructed him to remain in the Pacific Islands until they called him home or sent missionaries to replace him. At one point, Brigham had hoped to send more missionaries to the islands after the Saints received the endowment, but the exodus from Nauvoo had postponed that plan.9
Louisa was willing to make the journey without her husband, but thinking about it made her nervous. She hated to leave Nauvoo and the temple and did not relish the idea of traveling by wagon over the Rocky Mountains. She also wanted to see her aging parents in Canada—possibly for the last time—before going west.
If she sold her ox team, she could get enough money to visit her parents and book passage for her family on a ship bound for the California coast, thus avoiding overland travel altogether.
Louisa had almost made up her mind to go to Canada, but something did not feel right. She decided to write to Brigham Young about her concerns with overland travel and her desire to see her parents.
“If you say the ox team expedition is the best way for salvation, then I shall engage in it heart and hand,” she wrote, “and I believe I can stand it as long without grumbling as any other woman.”10
A short time later, a messenger arrived with Brigham’s response. “Come on. The ox team salvation is the safest way,” he told her. “Brother Pratt will meet us in the wilderness where we locate, and he will be sorely disappointed if his family is not with us.”
Louisa considered the counsel, steeled her heart against the difficult trail ahead, and decided to follow the main body of the Saints, come life or death.11
That spring, the Saints traveling through Iowa began calling themselves the Camp of Israel, after the ancient Hebrews the Lord had led out of captivity in Egypt. Day after day, they battled the elements as unrelenting snow and rain turned the Iowa prairie soft and muddy. Rivers and streams ran high and swift. Dirt roads dissolved into mire. The Saints had intended to cross most of the territory in a month, but in that time they had covered only a third of the distance.12
On April 6, the sixteenth anniversary of the organization of the Church, rain fell all day. Brigham spent hours up to his knees in mud, helping the Saints along the road to a place called Locust Creek. There he helped to arrange wagons, pitch tents, and chop wood until all the Saints were settled in the camp. One woman who saw him in the mud, pushing and pulling to free a mired wagon, thought he looked as happy as a king, despite the challenges surrounding him.
That evening, freezing rain and hail bombarded the camp, coating it in ice. In the morning, William Clayton, Brigham’s clerk and captain of the brass band, found the camp in disarray. Many tents lay flat on the frozen ground. A fallen tree had crushed a wagon. Some men in the band were also out of provisions.13
William shared what he had with his band, although his own family had little. One of the first Saints to have practiced plural marriage, William traveled with three wives and four children. Another wife, Diantha, was still in Nauvoo, under the care of her mother. She was pregnant with her first child and in frail health, adding to William’s anxiety on the trail.
While the Claytons rested at Locust Creek with the Camp of Israel, Brigham proposed a plan to establish a way station midway across Iowa where Saints could wait out the bad weather, build cabins, and plant crops for those who would come later. Some Saints would then tend the way station while others returned to Nauvoo to guide companies across Iowa. The rest of the camp would push on with him to the Missouri River.14
On April 14, William was out all night rounding up horses and cattle that had broken loose in camp. In the morning, he needed sleep, but someone in camp received a letter mentioning Diantha and the birth of her baby. That evening, William celebrated the birth, singing and playing music with the band long into the night.
The skies were clear the next morning, and William saw better days ahead for the Camp of Israel. Sitting down with ink and paper, he wrote a hymn of encouragement for the Saints:
Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
’Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! All is well!15
One hundred miles to the east, Wilford Woodruff stood on the deck of a riverboat on the Mississippi River, gazing at the Nauvoo temple through a spyglass. When he had last seen the temple, its walls were still unfinished. Now it had a roof, gleaming windows, and a majestic tower topped with a weather vane shaped like an angel.16 Portions of the temple had already been dedicated for ordinance work, and soon the building would be finished and ready to be fully dedicated to the Lord.
Wilford’s voyage home from Britain had been treacherous. Hard winds and waves had battered the ship to and fro. Wilford had held on, seasick and miserable. “Any man that would sell a farm and go to sea for a living,” he had groaned at the time, “has a different taste from mine.”17
Phebe had set sail from England first, taking their children Susan and Joseph on board a ship filled with Saints who were emigrating to the United States. Wilford had remained in Liverpool a little longer to settle some financial matters, transfer the leadership of the Church to the new mission president, and solicit donations to finish construction on the temple.18
“The building of the temple of God is of equal interest to every truehearted Saint, wherever his lot may be cast,” he had reminded Church members.19 Although the temple would have to be abandoned soon after its completion, Saints on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean were determined to finish it in obedience to the Lord’s commandment to the Church in 1841.
“I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me,” the Lord had declared through Joseph Smith, “and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.”20
Even though many British Saints were impoverished, Wilford had encouraged them to donate what they could to help pay for the temple, promising blessings for their sacrifice. They had given generously, and Wilford was grateful for their consecration.21
Upon arriving in the United States, Wilford picked up his daughter Phebe Amelia in Maine and traveled south to visit his parents, whom he persuaded to go west with him.22
After disembarking at Nauvoo, Wilford reunited with his wife and met with Orson Hyde, the presiding apostle in the city, who had little good news to report. Among the Saints still in Nauvoo were some who felt restless and abandoned. A few were even questioning the Twelve’s claim to leadership in the Church. Among them were Wilford’s sister and brother-in-law, Eunice and Dwight Webster.23
The news grieved Wilford for days. He had taught and baptized Eunice and Dwight a decade earlier. Recently, they had been drawn to a man named James Strang, who claimed that Joseph Smith had secretly appointed him to be his successor. Strang’s claim was false, but his charisma had won over some Saints in Nauvoo, including former apostles John Page and William Smith, the prophet Joseph’s younger brother.24
On April 18, Wilford became incensed when he learned that Dwight and Eunice were trying to convince his parents to follow Strang rather than go west. Wilford called his family together and denounced the false prophet. He then left to load his wagons.
“I have much to do,” he wrote in his journal, “and little time to do it.”25
That spring, workers raced to finish the temple before its public dedication on May 1. They installed a brick floor around the baptismal font, fitted decorative woodwork into place, and painted the walls. The work proceeded all day and often into the night. Since the Church had little money to pay the laborers, many of them sacrificed part of their wages to ensure the temple was ready to dedicate to the Lord.26
Two days before the dedication, workers finished painting the first-floor assembly hall. The next day, they swept the dust and debris out of the large room and prepared for the service. The workers were not able to put finishing touches on every room, but they knew that would not keep the Lord from accepting the temple. Confident they had fulfilled God’s command, they painted the words “The Lord has beheld our sacrifice” above the pulpits along the east wall of the assembly hall.27
Conscious of the debt they owed the workers, Church leaders announced that the first session of the dedication would be a charitable event. Those who attended were asked to contribute a dollar to help pay the impoverished laborers.
On the morning of May 1, fourteen-year-old Elvira Stevens left her camp west of the Mississippi and crossed the river to attend the dedication. An orphan whose parents had died soon after the family moved to Nauvoo, Elvira now lived with her married sister. Since no one else in her camp could join her for the dedication, she went alone.
Knowing that it might be years before another temple was built in the West, the apostles had administered the endowment to some young single people, including Elvira. Now, three months later, she climbed the steps to the temple doors once more, contributed her dollar, and found a seat in the assembly hall.28
The session opened with singing from a choir. Orson Hyde then offered the dedicatory prayer. “Grant that Thy Spirit shall dwell here,” he pleaded, “and may all feel a sacred influence on their hearts that His hand has helped this work.”29
Elvira felt heavenly power in the room. After the session, she returned to her camp, but she came back for the next session two days later, hoping to feel the same power again. Orson Hyde and Wilford Woodruff gave sermons on temple work, priesthood, and the resurrection. Before closing the meeting, Wilford praised the Saints for finishing the temple even though they would have to abandon it.
“Thousands of the Saints have received their endowment in it, and the light will not go out,” he said. “This is glory enough for building the temple.”
After the session, Elvira returned to her camp, crossing the river one last time.30 Saints in Nauvoo, meanwhile, spent the rest of the day and night packing up and removing chairs, tables, and other furnishings until the temple was empty and left in the hands of the Lord.31
A few weeks after the temple dedication, Louisa Pratt and her daughters started west with a company of Saints. Ellen was now fourteen, Frances was twelve, Lois was nine, and Ann was five. They had two yoke of oxen, two cows, and a wagon loaded with new clothes and provisions.
Before crossing the river into Iowa, Louisa called at the post office and found a long letter from Addison dated January 6, 1846—five months earlier. Addison reported that he was now in Tahiti with some Tubuaian friends, the married couple Nabota and Telii, on their way to help his fellow missionary Benjamin Grouard with missionary work on the nearby Anaa atoll. He had sent Louisa sixty dollars and loving words for her and the children.
Addison expected to serve among the island Saints for many years to come, but not without his family. “If you can get any books,” he wrote, “and have any leisure time, I think you and the children had better attend to the studying of the Tahitian language, for in my opinion you may have use for it within a few years.”32
The letter pleased Louisa, and she found her journey west surprisingly joyful. The spring rains had ended, and she liked riding horseback beneath clear skies while a hired man drove her wagons. She rose early every morning, gathered up stray cattle, and helped to drive them during the day. Occasionally she worried about how far she was traveling from her parents and other relatives, but her belief in Zion comforted her. The revelations spoke of Zion as a place of refuge, a land of peace. That was what she wanted in her life.
“Sometimes I feel cheerful,” she wrote in her journal on June 10. “The Lord has called us, and appointed us a place where we can live in peace and be free from the dread of our cruel persecutors!”33
Five days later, Louisa and her company arrived at Mount Pisgah, one of two large way stations the Saints had established along the Iowa trail. The encampment hugged the base of some low, sloping hills crowned with a grove of oak trees. As Brigham had envisioned, the Saints there lived in tents or log cabins and cultivated crops to supply food for companies who would arrive later. Other areas of the camp provided pastureland for the livestock.
Louisa selected a site in the shade of some oak trees for her family. The place was beautiful, but overhead the sun beat down on the encamped Saints, many of whom were exhausted from the rain and mud they had battled that spring.
“May the Lord reward them for all their sacrifices,” Louisa thought.34
Farther ahead on the trail, Brigham and the Camp of Israel stopped at a place called Mosquito Creek, not far from the Missouri River. They were hungry, two months behind schedule, and desperately poor.35 Yet Brigham still insisted on sending an advance company over the Rocky Mountains. He believed that a group of Saints needed to finish the journey that season, for as long as the Church wandered without a home, its enemies would try to scatter it or block its way.36
Brigham knew, however, that outfitting such a group would strain the Saints’ resources. Few had money or provisions to spare, and Iowa provided limited opportunities for paid labor. To survive on the prairie, many Saints had sold prized possessions along the trail or worked odd jobs to earn money for food and supplies. As the camp moved west and settlements thinned, these opportunities would only become harder to find.37
Other matters also weighed on Brigham. The Saints who did not belong to the advance company needed a place to spend the winter. The Omahas and other Native peoples who inhabited the land west of the Missouri River were willing to let the Saints camp there over the winter, but government agents were reluctant to allow them to settle on protected Indian lands for a long period of time.38
Brigham also knew the sick and impoverished Saints in Nauvoo were depending on the Church to take them west. For a time, he had hoped to assist them by selling valuable property in Nauvoo, including the temple. But so far this effort had been unsuccessful.39
On June 29, Brigham learned that three officers from the United States Army were coming to Mosquito Creek. The United States had declared war on Mexico, and President James Polk had authorized the men to recruit a battalion of five hundred Saints for a military campaign to the California coast.
The next day, Brigham discussed the news with Heber Kimball and Willard Richards. Brigham had no quarrel with Mexico, and the idea of helping the United States galled him. But the West could become American territory if the United States won the war, and assisting the army could improve the Saints’ relationship with the nation. More important, the enlisted men’s pay could help the Church fund its westward migration.40
Brigham spoke with the officers as soon as they arrived. He learned that their orders had come after Thomas Kane, a well-connected young man on the East Coast, had heard about the Saints’ plight and introduced Jesse Little to important officials in Washington, DC. After some lobbying, Jesse had met with President Polk and persuaded him to help the Saints move west by enlisting some of them in military service.
Seeing the benefits of the arrangement, Brigham endorsed the orders wholeheartedly. “This is the first offer we have ever had from the government to benefit us,” he declared. “I propose that the five hundred volunteers be mustered, and I will do my best to see all their families brought forward, as far as my influence can be extended, and feed them when I have anything to eat myself.”41
Drusilla Hendricks was furious with Brigham’s decision to cooperate with the United States. Her husband, James, had been shot in the neck during a skirmish with Missourians in 1838, leaving him partially paralyzed. Like others in camp, she still resented the government for not helping the Saints at that time. Even though her son William was old enough to volunteer for the battalion, she did not want to let him join. With her husband’s paralysis, she depended on her son for help.42
Recruiters visited the camp daily, often with Brigham or other apostles. “If we want the privilege of going where we can worship God according to the dictates of our conscience,” Brigham testified, “we must raise the battalion.”43 Many Saints swallowed their resentment and supported the endeavor, but Drusilla could not bear parting with her son.
Sometimes the Spirit whispered to her, “Are you afraid to trust the God of Israel? Has He not been with you in all your trials? Has He not provided for your wants?” She would acknowledge God’s goodness, but then she would remember the government’s cruelty, and her anger would return.
On the day of the battalion’s departure, William rose early to bring in the cows. Drusilla watched him as he walked through the tall, wet grass, and she worried that her lack of faith would do him more harm than good. He could get hurt traveling on the trail with his family just as easily as he could marching with the battalion. And if that happened, she would regret having made him stay.
Drusilla started breakfast, unsure what to do about William. Climbing onto the wagon to get flour, she again felt the Spirit’s whisper: Didn’t she want the greatest blessings of the Lord?
“Yes,” she said aloud.
“Then how can you get it without making the greatest sacrifice?” the Spirit asked. “Let your son go in the battalion.”
“It is too late,” she said. “They are to be marched off this morning.”
William returned, and the family gathered for breakfast. As James blessed the food, Drusilla was startled when a man interrupted the camp. “Turn out, men!” he shouted. “We lack some men yet in the battalion.”
Drusilla opened her eyes and saw William staring at her. She studied his face, memorizing each feature. She knew then that he would join the battalion. “If I never see you again until the morning of the resurrection,” she thought, “I shall know you are my child.”
After breakfast, Drusilla prayed alone. “Spare his life,” she pleaded, “and let him be restored to me and to the bosom of the Church.”
“It shall be done unto you,” the Spirit whispered, “as it was unto Abraham when he offered Isaac on the altar.”
Drusilla searched for William and found him sitting in the wagon, his head buried in his hands. “Do you want to go with the battalion?” she asked. “If you do, I have had a testimony that it is right for you to go.”
“President Young said it is for the salvation of this people,” William said, “and I might as well have a hand in it as anyone.”
“I have held you back,” Drusilla said, “but if you want to go, I shall hold you no longer.”44