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The Second Rescue: The Story of the…
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The Second Rescue: The Story of the Spiritual Rescue of the Willie and…

by Susan Arrington Madsen

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Every LDS knows the story of the Martin and Willie Hardcart companies, two groups of pioneers who started across the plains late in the season only to be caught by an early snowstorm. They bogged down in the mud and snow, suffered exposure from the horrible weather, and got frostbite from fording icy rivers. Many died, sometimes even entire families. They were rescued and brought in from the plains. When they arrived in Salt Lake with black and frozen limbs, half starved, they were taken into home and nursed back to health. But the graves on the plains were unmarked. For many years, it wasn't even clear how many died out there or who they were.

Little by little, helped by the stories of survivors and by researching all the documents that could be found, the church was able to piece together just what had happened. This story is about the effort to memorialize those lost on the plains and to provide temple work for them.

The Riverton Wyoming stake made it their mission to find these pioneers, the ones of the Willie handcart company, and tell their stories. They headed the efforts to research their identities, to get the temple work done, and then to provide a fitting memorial in Rock Creek Hollow in Wyoming.

The most touching story to me was of 10 year old Bodil Mortensen, a Danish girl, who was on those plains without any of her family. Since her family couldn't afford to all go to Zion at once, they sent the oldest daughter ahead to work and wait for the rest. Bodil was to come next, and the rest of the family to follow. But little Bodil was among those who froze and starved to death. The thought of that poor little girl, alone, with probably no one else who spoke her language, dying alone was pretty heartbreaking.

I appreciate this story as it reminds me first, how precious my family is, and second, how lucky I am not to have to suffer such privations just to practice my faith. Sure, I have to put up with some ridicule, but I haven't been burned out of my house or been shot at or starved out. Very inspirational. Recommended for Latter-day Saints. ( )
  cmbohn | Apr 26, 2010 |
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