“Jane Rejoiced through the Journey,” Liahona, April 2021
Jane Manning James was tired of walking, but she refused to stop.
Her eldest son, Sylvester, was big enough to walk next to the wagon. But baby Silas, who had been born along the trail, still needed to be carried. It was 1847, and the James family would soon be among the first pioneers to arrive in the valley of the Great Salt Lake.
Jane was no stranger to long journeys.
Four years earlier, her family had left their home in an eastern city to join the Saints in Nauvoo, on the edge of the western frontier. The trip should have taken just a few days by river. But because many Black people were slaves in the United States at the time, Jane’s family frequently had to show papers proving their freedom. And some places had strict laws preventing people of color from traveling through the area—including charging up to $500 per person for passage.
Perhaps because of this outrageous fee or perhaps because of other prejudices, the riverboat crew refused to take Jane and her family members any farther. Undeterred, they left behind many of their possessions and set out on foot with whatever they could carry.
Jane’s family walked for more than 800 miles (1,287 km). They walked through humid days and pitch-black nights. Once they trudged through a forest, sleeping under the open sky. When they awoke, their clothes were white with frost.
“We walked until our shoes were worn out, and our feet became sore and cracked open and bled,” Jane recollected. “… We asked God the Eternal Father to heal our feet and our prayers were answered.”1
While enduring this hard journey, Jane sang hymns with her parents and siblings, praising God. Finally, after nearly three months of walking, they arrived in Nauvoo. Years later, when faithful Saints left to cross the plains, Jane was among the first pioneers to start walking the trail.