John Stucki



30 Some Must Push and Some Must Pull by Michael BedardJohn Stucki and the Piece of Meat
If you can imagine, nearly all of our pioneer fathers walked across the plains. Very few rode in a wagon. It would have been difficult enough to walk over a thousand miles, but to couple that with pulling a loaded handcart made it that much more strenuous. It has been estimated that those handcart pioneers burned upwards of 4000 calories a day, and that, often on a diet scarcely sufficient to sustain life. If there is one thing that is common to the handcart pioneer experience—they were hungry. There was never enough to eat, and if Brother Brigham had not sent out wagonloads of food, more than one company would have perished on the plains.
The Samuel Stucki family left Florence, Nebraska on July 6, 1860. Soon after they started out they were put on half rations—that is, only half enough food to keep the average person healthy—and they were pulling heavy-laden handcarts on hot summer days.
Nine-year old John describes that his father, Samuel, gave the greater portion of his half ration to his wife who was trying to keep her strength while pulling the handcart and nursing a baby. Soon she was too weak to pull the cart and Samuel struggled on alone, pulling the loaded cart and his three youngest children. It wasn’t long before Mother could not keep up with the company and father was so starved and weakened that he could not go on.
Behind the cart was John, pushing and wishing that he could just sit down and rest. “I will never forget,” he said, “how hungry I was all the time.”
Then one day, some buffalo were seen nearby. The men of camp went out and soon, the delicious meat was divided among the camp. The Stucki family was given a small piece of meat. That was in the forepart of the week and Father put it in the back of the cart, and said they would save it for a nice Sunday dinner.
But for John that raw meat was so close and smelled so good. “I could not resist,” he said, “but had to cut off a piece or two each half day. Although I was afraid of getting a severe whipping after cutting a little the first few times, I could not resist taking a little each half day. I would chew it so long it got perfectly tasteless.”
The family traveled on and then came Sunday. “When Father went to get the meat on Sunday noon he asked me if I had been cutting off some of the meat. I said “yes,” that I was so hungry that I could not let it alone. Then, instead of giving me the severe scolding and whipping, he did not say a word, but started to wipe the tears from his eyes.”
Hafen and Hafen, Handcarts to Zion, p. 189-190

Artwork by Michael Bedard

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Trust-in-God by Julie Rogers

Marie Wilhemina Krause Madsen

When we talk about pioneers I frequently hear people speak of the toughness of a people who could endure such physical demands, and that is true, but there is another dimension to that toughness that is equally, if not more important—Faith—spiritual toughness!

Mina was born to a mother with great faith in the restored Gospel who taught her well. And though her father was never converted, he supported the desire of his wife and family to immigrate to Zion. However, it was expensive to move a large family and it was decided that one child would stay behind to make the journey later. Mina, at 8 years of age, was designated to remain behind.

On that journey, Mina’s mother and two little sisters passed away from cholera near Mormon Grove, Kansas, and Mina’s father never went on to Utah. He settled the family in St Louis, Missouri.

Meanwhile, unaware of the tragedy, Mina made ready to come on to Utah with the Frandsen family, but when vicious rumors spread that Mina was being kidnapped by the Frandsens, she was taken away and placed in an orphanage. The Frandsens went on without her.

Determined to go on, Mina joined with the Madsen family and started the journey. In Iowa City they became part of the Hodgett Wagon Company. This company along with the Hunt Wagon company are often forgotten in the heroic struggle for survival in the Wyoming snows of 1856, but they ought not to be. They would not get to the Valley until December 1856, two weeks after the Martin Company.

At Devil’s Gate, Lars Madsen, Mina’s protecting father, collapsed in the snow. She clung to his side, but he pushed her away and told her to leave him. By the time she got back with help, Lars was gone.

Mina remained with the Madsen family and eventually married one of their sons. They settled in the San Pete Valley and had 11 children.

But what of her family? Unbeknownst to Mina, her father had started a plumbing business in St Louis and had become very wealthy. Mina wanted to know what became of her family, and eventually she ran an ad in a newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri. That ad reached Johan Krause, Mina’s father, and he and Mina’s sister Augusta traveled to Utah.

Finally, after 32 years the family was reunited. After a time, Mina’s father returned to St Louis contending that the Mormons had stolen his daughter. She would never see him again. It is said the family offered Mina every material comfort if she would renounce her faith and come back with them to Missouri. Mina refused. She would give up her immediate family for an eternal one and would forgo a mansion on earth for her place in a heavenly one. It is said that Mina loved the Book of Mormon and would read it every day to her children.

Sister Mina served as a relief society president and died in the faith in October of 1900, beloved by all and an example to generations.


Family records from Mandi Brady

Jolene Allphin, Tell My Story Too, p. 348-9

Artwork by Julie Rogers

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Tree of Life


lehisdream_1440x9601The Tree of Life
There were two trees in the Garden of Eden – “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” and “The Tree of Life.” After partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, and [were] not allowed to return and partake of the “Tree of Life.” And from there, it seems as though the entire Bible is a saga of man’s continued fall from that mysterious tree. What was that tree, and how do we get back to it? Well, there’s the story.
Thirty-four centuries later Nephi saw the “Tree of Life” in a vision. He described it as beautiful, white, and precious above every other tree. He described the fruit as most desirable to make one happy. What is this tree and how do we partake of its fruit. That was Nephi’s question?
While Nephi pondered the Tree and its meaning, He was caught away in vision and saw the most beautiful and fair of women in the village of Nazareth. It was Mary, the mother of Jesus, who would not be born for another 600 years. The next thing he saw was Mary caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, and when he next saw her, she was carrying that Baby in her arms.
After seeing these things, Nephi was then asked if he understood now the meaning of the tree.
“…Yea,” he said in answer. “It is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men…” (1 Nephi 11:22)
You see? God’s love is like a great and beautiful tree shading and nourishing this earth. “The Tree of Life” was a representation of God’s love manifested in the coming of Jesus Christ. Indeed God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. Christ is the living embodiment of God’s love for us. His word and Gospel, like a rod of iron, leads us back to that “The Tree of life or Tree of Love.” Christ came to lead us back to that very tree from which Adam and Eve were barred. And when we partake of that love by the Spirit, there is nothing in this world more powerful, more pure, more joyous to the soul than the love of almighty God. Nephi would later say, “He hath filled me with his love even unto the consuming of my flesh” (2 Nephi 4:21). To receive that love is our most desirable mortal experience. To know that love, is to live abundantly, and to live without that love is only to exist.
Life has always been, and still is, all about love – God for His Son, the Son for us, and us for each other. That perfect, pure, and unfailing love is called charity. May it take root in your heart and become a “Tree of Life” – that reaches toward Heaven, and nourishes and shelters your family and friends.

Sources: 1 Nephi 8-11, 12:16-18, 15

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Sarah and Mary by Julie RogersWilliam Ashton: Continue On
When stories are told of the Martin Handcart Company, of their sufferings and sacrifice; of their rescue and struggle, the story of this one family surely needs to be remembered.
William and Sarah Ashton left England in May 1856 on the ship Horizon with their children Betsey, Sarah Ellen, Mary, and Elizabeth Ann. They left all behind, including their youngest, Esther who had passed away just before the journey.
The family arrived in Boston and while they waited to board the train to Iowa City, Elizabeth Ann, just 2, also passed away. The family continued on and eventually found themselves in Iowa waiting for handcarts. The handcarts were late in coming and the emigrants of the Martin Handcart Company did not depart the Iowa City campground until July 28, 1856.
The family pulled their handcart 300 miles across Iowa to Florence, Nebraska. There, Sarah Ann Barlow Ashton gave birth to a baby girl, but Sarah, weakened by all that she had endured, did not survive. August 26, 1856, she passed away at Cutler’s Park. The family continued on, and then September 11, the newborn infant passed away and was buried on the plains of Nebraska, 9 miles west of Prairie Creek.
One can only imagine the burden of grief the family bore as they continued on to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. There on October 9, 1856, William and a few others enlisted in the United States Army. It was not unusual for a cash inducement to be offered to recruits in the wilderness, as well as draws on the commissary in advance of future pay. Perhaps William saw this as a way to provide necessary food and supplies for his 3 girls, whom, it is presumed, he left in the care of the Barlow family.
While Betsey, Sarah, and Mary continued on, William their father, remained behind at Fort Laramie. Ten days later, severe winter storms caught the Martin Company on the banks of the North Platte River. Rumors reached William that none of the Martin Handcart Company survived. William, the Englishman, served five years as a foot soldier in the U.S. army making his way from Wyoming, to Kansas, and finally to California. Upon his discharge he vanished from the records.
The three girls suffered with the handcart saints at Red Buttes Camp near the Platte River. There 11 year-old Betsy succumbed to the cold and passed away. Sarah and Mary continued on to the Valley. In the bitter cold journey, Sarah lost her sight in one eye.
In time, both girls would marry, Sarah to Thomas Beckstead and Mary to Isaac Wardle. Mary and Isaac were expecting a child. At his birth they would name him William Ashton Wardle and while he would live to good age, his mother, Mary passed away at his birth.
Now, of a family of 8, only Sarah continued on. She was a devoted wife, mother, and disciple of the Lord. She and Thomas had 10 children and eventually settled in the small farming community of Whitney, Idaho. Then sometime after December of 1888, a man named Clark brought a copy of the Latter-day Saint’s Millennial Star, published in England, to Sarah’s door. In it was the following ad, “Wanted: Elder William Ashton is very anxious to learn the address of any one or all of his daughters, Betsey, Sarah, and Mary who emigrated from Stockport, England on the 18th of May, 1856. They crossed the plains in one of the “Handcart Companies. Brother Ashton’s address is Charlesworth, near Broadbottom, Derbyshire, England. –Utah Papers please copy.”
After 33 years apart, William was reunited with his family.
If I take one thing from this unusual story it is that no matter what happens to us and our families, continue on in faith, and God willing, all will be made right in the end.
Tell My Story Too by Jolene Allphin p. 159-160
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Artwork by Julie Rogers

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Christmas: Alvin Smith


Christmas: Alvin Smith

It was just before Christmas, 1835. Joseph went to a scheduled debate at the home of his brother, William. During the course of the evening’s events things got a little heated between the participants. Joseph commented that such behavior was not becoming of the men involved. William became angry, and then violent. It became a fight between the Prophet Joseph Smith and his enraged brother, William. In the end, Joseph was sorely injured, and the Smith family was torn into factions.

In the days that followed, letters passed back and forth between Joseph and William. It was in one of those letters, at the very end, that Joseph wrote this most tender prayer,

And now may God have mercy upon my father’s house. May God take away enmity, from between me and thee, and may all blessings be restored, and the past be forgotten forever. May humble  repentance bring us both to thee, O God, and to thy power and protection, and a crown, to enjoy the society of Father, Mother [&] Alvin. (!/paperSummary/letter-to-william-smith-18-december-1835&p=8 )

Joseph prays to be with Alvin in the eternities, and therein lies a beautiful story. Alvin was the oldest living child of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. He was a noble and obedient son; faithful to his family, and God. November 19, 1823, Alvin passed away suddenly, leaving his family shocked and stricken with grief. “We all, with one accord wept over our irretrievable loss,” wrote Mother Smith, “and we could not be comforted, because he was not.”

At his funeral, many friends and neighbors paid their respects, not the least of which being the lovely girl Alvin had been engaged to marry. Alvin was much loved, respected, and missed. However, the minister who preached the funeral sermon intimated Alvin had gone to hell, because he had never been baptized. This comment deeply hurt the family, especially Joseph Smith Sr. It opened a wound in the soul of Joseph Jr. he would carry to his latest days. “I remember well,” he said, “the pangs of sorrow that swelled my youthful bosom and almost burst my tender heart when he died.”

Yet Alvin had died not baptized and not a member of any organized Church. Would Alvin be saved or was he everlastingly damned? From 1823 to 1836 this question must have torn at Joseph. His prayer that he and William could be together with Alvin in the next life represented a profound search for consolation.

Imagine then the joy of this night—January 21, 1836, on the third-floor, attic story of the Kirtland Temple, in Joseph Smith’s office. It is a night of glorious visions and heavenly manifestations for Joseph and many others. In the course of that night was one vision, perhaps more significant for more people than any other. Joseph said,

The Heavens were opened upon us and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out, I cannot tell.” Joseph witnessed the Father and Son enthroned in glory. He saw the ancient patriarchs, and then he said, “I saw…my father and mother; and my brother Alvin that has long since slept.

How could that be? The voice of the Lord came to Joseph, “all who have died without a knowledge of this Gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God…. For I the Lord will judge all men according to their works, according to the desires of their hearts.”

Alvin represented all the righteous dead of all the ages–he would be saved! Two months later the keys of Elijah were restored, and in Nauvoo on August 15, 1840, upon hearing the doctrine of baptism for the dead revealed, the weakened and enfeebled Father Smith requested that Alvin be immediately baptized, and it was done.

Christmas is the gift of a Savior who will save all men in all ages of the world that are willing. Merry Christmas!


Doctrine and Covenants 137

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Christmas, Come Unto Me

wise men

Christmas-Come Unto Me

The most important, most joyful, and most holy of all feasts among the Jews was the Feast of the Tabernacles. It was an 8 day celebration held in the late autumn that marked the end of the festival season. Each day of the Feast, except for the last, a procession led by the priests and Levites would descend the Temple mount to the pool of Siloam where they would draw water, walk back up the hill amidst the most jubilant of celebrations from participants and onlookers, ascend to the Temple, and pour that water, which was considered to be living water, on the altar. During this the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem would chant “O Lord, save us we pray!”

“It was said that he who has not seen the joy of the drawing of the water at the Feast of the Tabernacles does not know what joy is.” (Bible Dictionary p. 673)

The pouring out of the water and the plea for salvation represented the coming age of the Messiah when joy and salvation would be poured out upon the Lord’s people like rain and living water would flow forth from Jerusalem to all nations.

On the 8th day of the Feast—the day that was called “The Great Day,” this ritual was not performed. It was on that day when this ritual was most missed that Jesus, known across all Jerusalem, stood in the Temple and announced “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scriptures hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37). That moment would have been spellbinding—electrifying! He was declaring to all Israel that he was the Messiah and salvation and joy was found in Him. “Come unto Me!”

The great doctors of the law came to him though yet a boy and he taught them. His mother came seeking help and he turned water to wine. A leper came pleading and Jesus touched and restored him. Nicodemus came by night confused and Jesus taught him. Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue came pleading for the life of his daughter and it was given. Mary and Martha came weeping and Lazarus was called forth from the grave into their arms. The woman of Samaria came to draw water and was given living water. A drowning Peter reached out for Jesus and was saved. A woman with an issue of blood—unclean—came, reaching out to Jesus. She was made whole and sent her on her way rejoicing. A man possessed of a legion of devils ran wildly down the hill to Jesus. He went away whole bearing a powerful witness. A blind man cast off his beggars garment and came to Jesus. He was welcomed and healed. As will we all—no matter who or what we are—then as now, we are all welcomed, loved, and lifted.

It is Christmas, come unto Christ and find rest to your soul. And when the season is over—come back again—every day, until finally, he comes to you.

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On Sale Now!

“This Child: A Testimony of Christ and Christmas” is on sale now! Get this for some wonderful people in your life to let them feel the true spirit of Christmas during this holiday season. Don’t miss out on this great deal! Click here

This Child picture

A Testimony of Christ and Christmas

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January 21, 1836 A Night of Vision

1204HopkinsonA, 4/26/05, 10:05 AM,  8C, 5042x6232 (579+798), 75%, Image Craft re,   1/8 s, R102.0, G78.8, B96.7

January 21, 1836—A Night of Visions

The Lord will reveal himself to us when, where, and how he pleases. It is not by the will of man that revelation comes, but by the will of God.

Thursday January 21, 1836, Kirtland, Ohio. 16 men entered the Kirtland House of the Lord and climbed the winding staircase to the third floor west office of Joseph Smith. They had washed and prepared themselves and now were there to attend to the ordinance of sacred anointings as found in the Old Testament.

Joseph Smith Sr. being the oldest man present and the Patriarch, sat in the chair first. The First Presidency gathered around him, consecrated oil, and then anointed and blessed him each in turn. Father Smith then rose and began to anoint those who had just blessed him. Then the members of the Presidency blessed each man following his anointing. Afterwards the other men in the room were similarly anointed and blessed.

That significant night the spirit of the Lord was poured out in rich abundance. “The House was filled with the glory of God,” and many received visions and the ministrations of angels, and so testified. Among them was Joseph Smith Jr. who received one of the greatest and most comforting revelations ever given to man. He said,

The Heavens were opened upon us and I beheld the Celestial Kingdom of God, and the glory thereof….I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire; also the blazing throne of God, whereon was seated the Father and the Son. I saw the beautiful streets of that Kingdom which had the appearance of being paved with gold.

Then Joseph described seeing several people including his father and mother who were both yet alive. Clearly, this was a vision of future events. But then Joseph saw his brother Alvin, who had died back in 1823 at the age of 25. How could Alvin be in the highest heaven with God since he had never had the opportunity to be baptized?

Joseph was then given the answer to one of the greatest theological questions of the millennia—what about all those who live and die and never have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and receive it ordinances? Are they saved, or damned, and if so, what is the justification for either. The Lord said,

All that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts shall be heirs of that kingdom. For I the Lord will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

Joseph then learned that all children who die before they come of age are automatically saved in the highest heaven of God. Can you imagine the joy just for Joseph alone who had lost his beloved brother Alvin and his own children to death? They were saved and he would see them again!

It did not stop there! Joseph also saw into the terrestrial kingdom. He saw the Twelve Apostles and the Savior in their midst in foreign lands. He saw those Apostles escorted into the Celestial Kingdom of God, and many other things did he see, he said, “which the tongue of man cannot describe in full.”

This night would begin a rich Pentecostal season lasting about 15 weeks in which more saints witnessed visions, angels, spiritual gifts, and even the Savior himself, than perhaps any other time in history. And the point is this—it is history—written, recorded, signed and certified by eyewitnesses who were there.


Artwork by Glen S. Hopkinson

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Mary Jane McCleve

I'LL NEVER LET GO, Elizabeth and Richard Paul Bradshaw

Mary Jane McCleve

August 21, 1851, Mary Jane McCleve was baptized in the Irish Sea not far from County Down in the northeastern part of Ireland. She was baptized at night to escape persecution. As her family studied the Gospel the desire to go to Zion and find faith, freedom, and a piece of ground all their own became their dream. Finally by Christmas 1855 the family prepared to make the journey. For Mary Jane, it would be hard to leave family, friends, and the beautiful land of Ireland. Even more trying was the sweetheart she left behind

Mary Jane and her family bought a handcart at Iowa City, Iowa and joined the Daniel D. McArthur handcart company. They departed June 11, 1856 at 11:00 AM bound for Salt Lake City. The glamour of the journey soon turned to the tedium of the trail. If it was not the hot choking dust, it was the miserable slippery mud. Nevertheless Mary Jane’s father pulled on with the family helping as best they could. As they passed into Wyoming, Mary Jane prayed that she could endure to the journey’s end. O, how she missed Ireland. “Surely the Lord must have a purpose in bringing his Saints through this experience,” she said to herself.

The company crossed over South Pass. Again Mary Jane looked out at the desolate landscape and thought to herself, “It was…a bleak sight to see that dry sagebrush terrain before us. It looked so forlorn. Oh! For just one view of my beloved Ireland. I couldn’t help but wonder,’ She said “what we had given up for the gospel. Surely our destination looked better than what I could see today. “Please Lord, help me not to lose faith.”

Bone weary and worn, the emigrants pushed on. Then, just two days outside of Salt Lake City, Mary Jane’s beloved father, John, died, having courageously pulled his handcart and his family until he could go no further. Mary Jane described her feelings.

We thanked our Lord for not letting him suffer too long, But Oh! How I hated to leave him there in that lonely spot. Amid aching hearts and many tears, we buried him by the side of the road…and erected a little marker by his silent grave. I loved my kind Father and it was almost more than I could stand to go on without him. That incident seemed to be a turning point in my life, for I pulled and pushed on that handcart every foot of the way from there on. Up and over the mountains toward and into the Salt Lake Valley.  Oh! how I worked with tears streaming down my face, praying for understanding. Why? Why?  Was it worth my Father’s life? Oh! Lord, help me!

My friends, this story is for every one of you who has wondered if all their sacrifices for their faith were worth it. I witness to you that it is. Thank God there are still people among us who love their faith more than life itself.

Mary Jane finally reached that point where she could look down into the Salt Lake Valley—the Zion of God, the City of Peace–that she and her family had dreamed of for so many years.

A calm feeling came over me,” she said, “…I wanted to run down the mountain and reach our journey’s end I was so thankful for being one of the chosen few. If only Father could have been there to enjoy that sight with us. Maybe he was, for I surely felt close to him that very moment.


Artwork: Julie Rogers

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The Will to Go On

pioneer woman and baby

The Will to Go On

The Lord once said, “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Evidently, that cross gets very heavy and there is a temptation to put it down. The following are two examples of those determined to carry their cross to the end.

Christopher Hultberg, his wife, Karna and their children Anna Catrina aged 7 and Anders age 3, left Sweden bound for Zion. They sailed from Liverpool on the ship Westmoreland and arrived in Iowa City June 9, 1857. They were organized into the Christian Christiansen handcart company and set out for the West. However, as they crossed Iowa, Karna became ill. When the company reached Florence, Nebraska it was determined that the company would travel on to the Valley, but all those, and there were a number, who were ill and unable to walk were advised to remain behind and wait for another season. The Company left on July 9, 1857. The first night out on the trail an inspection was performed and the Hultbergs were among those recommended to turn back. But Christopher was determined and after coming this far, the disappointment of not reaching Zion was too much bear. With his wife willing, he continued on following the company—pulling the handcart loaded with his wife and two small children. This he did for days and then “when he was too far from base to be sent back, he rejoined the company. Much of the way he had pulled his two children and even his wife on the cart, through his superior strength and unquenchable desire to proceed.”


And again–

Along the Overland Trail there is a portion of that trail in Nebraska that passed through deep and drifting sands. July 19, 1857, was a most memorable day for the Christiansen Handcart Company as they passed through those sand hills at a considerable distance from fresh water, pulling their burdened carts. Seventeen miles they pulled that day. Those who were there left this record. “The struggling efforts of human beings under such conditions are almost impossible to imagine. It was a severe strain upon the physical strength of the men and women who toiled almost to the point of exhaustion. Indeed, some of the emigrants were so overcome by the superhuman efforts required of them that they fell exhausted by the way-side and were unable to reach the camp at night. All day long they had toiled without water.” The Company finally reached the Wood River spent and famished. Among those who endured the terrible suffering of the journey pulling the cart through deep sand was Anna Marie Sorensen.

After reaching the River that night, Anna Marie quietly retired from the company into some nearby willows where she gave birth to a baby girl, Julianne Marie Sorensen. Witnesses then said, “On the morning following she appeared again with her infant in her apron ready to pursue the journey. She had not murmured; her courageous and devoted soul knew no obstacles to the goal of her ambition.”

The Company would not hear of it and preparations were made for the courageous mother to ride for the next few days. When the Almighty said “O ye that embark in the service of God see that serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day” this has to be what he meant.


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