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BYU Studies Quarterly

BYU Studies Quarterly

Authors

Chad M. Orton

Abstract

Francis Webster was a member of a group of Mormon pioneers who in 1856 encountered severe early winter weather and suffered many casualties. Webster is remembered among Mormons as the man who stopped a Sunday School class from criticizing leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for allowing the two ill-fated handcart companies to begin their journey so late in the summer. Webster's paraphrased statement, recorded by a member of the Sunday School class, has come to represent the sentiments of all handcart pioneers in most Mormons' minds, but Chad Orton refutes the idea that the whole Martin Handcart Company grew in faith through their suffering. He examines the quote often attributed to Webster line by line, providing context from Webster's life to help explain the significance of what he said. He concludes that, as in most experiences, the handcart pioneers gained from the experience what they put into it, and Webster's selfless service to other pioneers made him feel that his sacrifices were a privilege to pay. Not all handcart pioneers felt the same way, and some left the Church.

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