Friday, July 18, 2008
Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ
I've been asked to share the story of my pioneer heritage in Church on Sunday. It's an important and moving story, so I've decided to share it here too. It's the story of my great-great grandfather who followed the scripture---"...if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." 2 Nephi 31:20
His name was Heinrich Elliker and he was born in Switzerland. Missionaries found his family and they were all converted to the Church of Jesus Christ in 1856. Shortly afterward, they determined that they would travel to Salt Lake to be with the other Saints. So, Heinrich and his parents, 4 sisters and 2 brothers went to England and boarded a ship heading for Boston, Mass. After 6 weeks on this ship they arrived in this new country and then they took a train to Iowa City.
At Iowa City they built a handcart and put all of their possessions in it and prepared to push it across the plains and over the mountains. This was the prophet Brigham Young's idea to help defray the cost of many poorer members desiring to go to Zion. This was the first company to cross the plains with handcarts. They were not well prepared, but the Saints were so anxious to get to the Salt Lake Valley and be with the other members of the Church that nothing could hold them back. There was a great deal of trouble with broken wheels and parts.
When they were out on the plains only two weeks, the terrible disease, cholera, struck the camps. On July 15th Heinrich's sister Elisabeth, died and was put in a grave by the side of the trail. A month later death struck again. This time his 15-year old sister, Susanna passed away. Then Heinrich' s father became ill. They put him on the top of the handcart and Heinrich and his mother pushed or pulled the load along.
Heinrich's 21 year-old brother, Konrad became so exhausted that one day as they were nearing the mountains, he stopped by a small stream and told the family to go ahead without him. He was going to rest for a short time and then he would catch up with them. As his family went on and turned the bend they looked back and saw him leaning over the stream wetting his handkerchief. They never saw him again. When he did not show up in camp that evening they put together a search party and went to look for him, but they found no trace.
It was a difficult thing to do, but they had to push on. Heinrich's father grieved so much over the loss of his children that in his weakened condition he died two days later and was also buried along the side of the trail.
Heinrich was the oldest remaining child so it was his responsibility to comfort his mother, sisters and younger brother and help them to press on toward their goal. They gathered up their courage and on they went.
They did reach the Salt Lake Valley and because they were the first handcart company to reach the valley, they were greeted by the Prophet Brigham Young, a band, and hundreds of people. It was a joyous ocassion, but it cost them a dear price---4 members of their family had been lost along the way.
They had left behind their home, their relatives, and friends and come to a strange land trusting only God. They faced heat, broken wheels, fatigue, sickness and even death. They walked 1,300 miles! It was difficult. It was a trial of their faith, but how grateful I am that they pushed forward with a perfect hope in Christ and endured to the end. July 24th is the day we commemorate the fortitude and sacrifice of the early pioneers in our Church. A day to honor and remember them and give thanks for their willingness to do what the Lord asked of them. My life has been blessed immeasurably and I know they will have eternal life with our Father in Heaven because of their faithfulness. May I live worthy of that great heritage and pass it on to my posterity to treasure too.