064: The Handcart Companies; D&C and Church History 35

“A Mission of Saving”

Even among the pioneer stories, no image is more iconic or moving than the pioneers who traveled not by wagon, but by handcart. And we are sobered and inspired as we hear the story of tragedy and rescue surrounding the Martin and Willie handcart companies. This episode explores these important stories and discussion will cover the following:

1) Overview of how we talk about the handcart companies in the Church

2) The handcart travels in context (how many of the pioneers came by handcart, when, why etc)

3) an overview of the stories of the Martin and Willie Handcart companies

4) The Sweetwater River rescue

5) Discussion of Francis Webster’s testimony about his experiences

Recurring Donation:

$5   $10   $25   $50

One Time Donation:

$10   $25   $50   $100

 Questions to discuss

  • How can we benefit from our suffering and hardships?
  • How can we separate out those benefits from the idea that those hardships were “meant to” happen?
  • How can do what is required of us and serve others in a responsible way?
  • How do we know when people need to be “rescued”?
  • How can we effectively “rescue” others?


Class Member Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 4:4–7; D&C 18:10–16; D&C 52:40; D&C 81:5–6; Moroni 7:45–48; 3 Nephi 18:31–32; Luke 15:1–7; D&C 123:12

Additional Teacher Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 4:3–7; D&C 138:58; Alma 7:11–13; D&C 122:5–8.

Join Andrew, Konden, and Alyssa for a thought-provoking and enriching discussion.

You can access my Lesson Notes here.

You can access the Assigned Reading here.


Many thanks to Devin Roth for the beautiful bumper music. Check out his arrangement of hymns and other work at DevinRothMusic!

Thanks to Nathan Jones for his high quality post-production.


Latest Comments

  1. michael says:

    I listened to this podcast twice. I would like links to the following:

    1)Hugh Nibley’s “Zeal Without Knowledge” I’v tried to hunt that one down and have failed.

    2)The Sunstone Article (I think?) by Lloyd Pendelton about the woman wanting help so she could get her GED

    3)Pacience Loader’s Diary

    4)Richard Johnson’s (BYU professor) article about service vs. rescuing

    5) From where did Alyssa get the story of Sarrah Anne Hagle and the Platt River?


    • michael says:

      Never mind on Sarah Hagle. You already linked to it. I misspelled her last name.

      But I would like a link to the broccoli/gold fish study.


  2. Bonnie Flint says:

    I just googled Patience Loader’s diary and got a pdf file of it from Utah State.


  3. Bonnie Flint says:

    I just have to rave about the quality of this podcast. It was so enlightening and heart-warming. I have always had problems with the seemingly incesant telling of pioneer stories. I absolutely HATE pioneer treks. (Do members of the Jewish faith send their kids to holocaust camp?) This was just phenomenal. The readings, the insights shared–all of it. Thank you team. You were amazing.


  4. Brian Dillman says:

    A most excellent podcast. This lesson showed that many principles can be learned from taking many perspectives on history, as long as minds are willing to look for the teachings.


  5. Leslie says:

    -Rachel Naomi Remen
    A larger quote on helping, serving and fixing. The rest of the quote is awesome too.
    “In recent years the question how can I help? has become meaningful to many people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not how can I help? but how can I serve?

    Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. If I’m attentive to what’s going on inside of me when I’m helping, I find that I’m always helping someone who’s not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don’t serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.

    Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing, is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.

    Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their brokenness requires me to act. When I fix I do not see the wholeness in the other person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with.

    There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. This is Mother Teresa’s basic message. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.”


  6. Bonnie Flint says:

    Leslie, Thank you for sharing that quote. I loved that part of the podcast.


  7. Afton says:

    Thank you for all the work that goes into making this podcast such a great tool for thoughtful lesson planning. As I was thinking about why we have these stories told to us over and over, I had the thought that the story of these Willie and Martin Handcart Saints could be our own modern Good Samaritan story. I gained a lot of perspective comparing my flawed, but well-intentioned self, unable to complete my own journey under my own power to a “far better land of promise” without Christ’s saving grace.


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