Mormon Historic Sites Foundation Honors Instrumental Figure
By Jerry Wellman, Church News staff writer
- President Robert Lorimer led his stake in completing the temple work for the Willie and Martin handcart companies.
- The stake completed more than 4,000 temple ordinances.
- President Lorimer was also instrumental in the Church’s purchase of several historic properties in the Martin’s Cove area.
Martin’s Cove. Rock Creek. Rocky Ridge. Sweetwater River.
These sites hold special places in Church history, especially when speaking of the James G. Willie and Edward Martin handcart companies, which were caught by winter storms on the plains of Wyoming in October 1856.
Members of these handcart companies, en route to Utah, became the subject of rescue efforts by Church members who left Salt Lake City for Wyoming with wagons and relief supplies at the behest of President Brigham Young.
In 1991, Robert Scott Lorimer, then president of the Riverton Wyoming Stake, felt inspired to lead his stake to accomplish what today is referred to as the “Second Rescue.” With the approval of the First Presidency, the Second Rescue was to complete the temple work for these 1856 pioneers and their rescuers. President Lorimer also negotiated the Church’s purchase of property in Wyoming at Rock Creek and the Sun Ranch, adjacent to Martin’s Cove. For his efforts, President Lorimer was honored by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation with its Junius F. Wells Award at a dinner held in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on November 14.
Previous award recipients include President Gordon B. Hinckley (2005), Elder M. Russell Ballard (2007), and, most recently, Elder Marlin K. Jensen in 2012. The award honors individuals who have given extraordinary service in the preservation of Mormon history.
Glenn Rawson, a noted filmmaker, writer, and television producer, served as master of ceremonies at the event. The award was presented to President Lorimer by Richard N. W. Lambert, the foundation’s vice chairman. President Lorimer’s wife, Desiree Lorimer, and their seven children and spouses were also in attendance. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, also attended, along with several current and emeritus members of the Seventy.
In a video presentation detailing events of the Riverton stake members’ efforts, President Lorimer related inspiration he received when he unexpectedly announced “the Willie project” at the end of a stake conference in 1988. Following that announcement, Kim W. McKinnon, then second counselor in the stake presidency, felt the need for the stake to acquire computer equipment—not understanding then a purpose for the equipment.
During a subsequent visit to a small branch within the stake, President McKinnon reviewed with President Lorimer the need for the equipment and, in a moment of inspiration, President Lorimer said, “I know why. It is the Willie people. … Their temple work is not done.” Upon their return to Riverton, they checked some of the names from these handcart companies and confirmed that the temple work had not been done.
As detailed in the video, the stake was energized by President Lorimer to complete the temple work, beginning with a special stake meeting on July 21, 1991. John L. Kitchen, then first counselor in the stake presidency, described the excitement felt in the stake as more than 4,000 temple ordinances were completed for members of the Willie and Martin handcart companies.
In 1992 President Lorimer was instrumental in the Church purchase of property at Rock Creek and in 1995–96, the purchase of the Sun Ranch, adjacent to Martin's Cove, where the Martin’s Cove Visitors’ Center is now located.
Members of the stake also assisted with development and construction of bridges, trails, handcarts, and improvements at both locations. One such structure the stake built is located near Martin’s Cove. Constructed at the request of President Hinckley, the bridge over the Sweetwater River is known today as the Veil Crossing Bridge.