“Camp of Israel! All Is Well”

By Christie Lund Coles


Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of poems written by Latter-day Saints during the past 150 years tell the story of the pioneers of 1847. The poems that follow sketch their trek, tears, and triumph.

“Camp of Israel! All Is Well”

Accompanying the following poems on the epic nature of the Latter-day Saint pioneer journey is a sampling of artwork from the Fourth International Art Competition. Titled “150 Years of Pioneering,” the exhibition is on display until 1 September 1997 at the Museum of Church History and Art and celebrates pioneering past and present. Approximately 150 pieces were selected from nearly 600 entries by Latter-day Saint artists in 38 U.S. states and 31 countries worldwide. Twenty-two art pieces received Awards of Merit; 15 received Purchase Awards.

Pioneer Journal

Nauvoo
“Today we left Nauvoo, the beautiful;
We saw the temple, towering stark and high,
Our empty houses, then turned to face the dull,
Western expanse of loneliness and sky.”
The words were written carefully and slow,
Each phrase is fashioned meaningful and clear,
Yet, now and then, a small blotch lets me know
The words were interrupted by a tear.
I read her journal over now and see
The gallant preparations for the West.
I understand her words, “God made man free
To worship. We shall yet find comfort, rest,
A spot where every one of us will dare
Kneel down in peace to say an honest prayer.” 1
  1.   1.

    Improvement Era, July 1947, 476.

Camp of Israel No. 2

Written on leaving our first Encampment,
after crossing the Mississippi River.
Lo! a mighty host of Jacob
Tented on the western shore
Of the noble Mississippi,
Which they had been crossing o’er.
At the last day-dawn of winter,
Bound with frost and wrapp’d in snow;
Hark! the cry is, “Onward! onward!
Camp of Israel! rise and go.”
All at once is life and motion—
Trunks and beds and baggage fly;
Oxen yok’d, and horses harness’d,
Tents roll’d up and passing by:
Soon the carriage wheels are moving
Onward to a woodland dell,
Where at sunset all are quarter’d—
Camp of Israel! all is well. 2
  1.   2.

    The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxey Snow, ed. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (1995), 115–16; from the Trail Diary, Feb. 1846–May 1847, holograph, Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

A Widow’s Lullaby at Winter Quarters, 1846

Sleep, my little one—
Sleep while Mother dreams
Of your comely smile
And your small hands cupping my heart;
Of my completeness, holding you;
The happy burden of your trust;
My pride in your unfolding;
The wonders wished for you
Since our first touch.
Even here—
Here in this wind-whipped place,
This savage wilderness,
You have been my courage
And my star.
Sleep, my little one—
Sleep in your narrow bed
Under your coverlet of prairie sod
And stones gently piled …
Sleep, while Mother dreams
And weeps—
Walking the long, lonely miles ahead. 3
  1.   3.

    Ensign, July 1984, 7.

Eighteen Forty-Seven

A strong-winged eagle from far wind-worn cliffs
Alights upon a white-lined buffalo-skull
With these carved words like faded hieroglyphs
Above the cracked eye-sockets, meaningful:
“Camped here July the second, ‘forty-seven.
We made eight miles today.” The eagle unfurls
Its far-flown wings and skims and soars toward heaven
In easy sweep, where the thin-frothed cirrus curls.
The eagle labors aloft between the clouds
Which plunge their misty walls to the horizon;
Like bleached and billowed sails the sea-wind crowds.
And on the desert swift their shadows run.
But those slow wagon-wheels, tight-choked with clay,
Groaned beneath their loads—eight miles that day. 4
  1.   4.

    Improvement Era, Aug. 1941, 472.

This Is the Place

There is a place by prophets long foretold,
Where God would gather Israel in one fold;
Deliver them from wicked tyranny,
And lead them forward to their destiny.
Where is the place?
Oh Lord, our God, for truth and thy dear name
We’re mobbed and beaten, our prophet slain,
Our homes despoiled. In vain we seek redress.
Our only lodging is a wilderness.
Where is the place?
“Be not dismayed,” said one so great and wise;
“We’ll wend our way toward the western skies;
Though wild beasts howl and demons bar the way,
We’ll put an end to this nefarious fray.”
We’ll find the place.
So forth they fared o’er desert, mount, and stream—
A sure fulfilment of their prophet’s dream;
Faith whispered oft: “Jehovah bade the sea
Roll back that ancient Israel might be free.”
We’ll find the place.
Another hill to climb! Oh, weary day!
Will it never end, this arduous way?
The hilltop gained, what wonder and surprise!
A scene of marvelous beauty met their eyes.
A lovely place.
Behold a valley spreading far and wide;
Majestic mountains guarding every side;
Blue skies, a glistening inland sea;
While over all the sun shone gloriously.
Is this the place?
“No,” murmured some. “No mortal could withstand
This awful desolation—this arid land;
There’s not a blade of grass, scarcely a tree;
Let us move on. Oh Lord, we ask of thee,
Show us the place.”
Their leader pondered; with searching gaze
He saw a city beautiful, with days
Of peace, fruitful fields, and gardens fair.
A towering temple, roses everywhere.
He turned and said:
“This is the place!” 5
  1.   5.

    Improvement Era, July 1942, 444.

“This Journey May Appear”

I
No room? But oh, there must be!
I cannot leave these precious things behind
For lustful hands to seize and gloat upon,
I could not bear it! Let me see—
Beneath this spinning wheel—could not we find
A little space? You’re sure? Oh, John,
Please hold me while I look a last farewell
Upon this home we built and loved so well.
II
This cannot be the one place
Above all others God has chosen for his saints!
For this—we left our lands and home behind,
And braved the grasping desert waste?
For this—we hushed the sorrowed mother’s plaints
Lest staking death creep unawares, and find
The rest of us? O God—pray help me see
The blossom that this hiding place shall be!
III
This is the place, my son—
The ensign your great-grandpa helped to build
So long ago; you don’t remember him—
Or me—but brave men like him fought, and won
The desert over to their way of living; tilled
The stubborn soil, and blessed it. Years may dim
Our struggle, but none better knows
The tears that fed this blossoming desert rose. 6
  1.   6.

    Relief Society Magazine, July 1948, 465.

Tribute

Out of my people’s weeping,
Out of their desperate need,
Out of my people’s keeping
Faith with their Christlike creed,
Blossomed the barren desert,
Haven of peace and rest,
High in the mountain fastness,
Empire of the west.
Out of my people’s sorrow,
Out of their pain and grief,
Triumphs a bright tomorrow,
Born of their great belief. 7
Entering the Presidio

Entering the Presidio, 1846, by Howard Post of Gilbert, Arizona, 1996, painting. Purchase Award. “This painting commemorates the arrival in 1846 of the Mormon Battalion in frontier Tucson, Arizona.”

Midwife: Thy Path Her Chosen Way

Midwife: Thy Path Her Chosen Way, by Crystal Haueter of Fair Oaks, California, 1996, painting. Purchase Award. “There are today and throughout the history of the Church countless stories of women with quiet strength—daughters of our Heavenly Father who have selflessly paved the way for future generations.”

Brigham Young, 1847

Brigham Young, 1847, by Robert Keiser of Omaha, Nebraska, 1996, sculpture. “My statue represents Brigham Young as he appeared in a photograph about the time the first wagon train departed from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.”

Along the Trail, Southern Wyoming

Along the Trail, Southern Wyoming, by Walter Rane of Salem, Oregon, 1996, painting, Purchase Award. “This view of the arid land along the Mormon Trail in Wyoming Territory has its own attraction and beauty.”

The Women’s Pull

The Women’s Pull, by Matthew Ivan Cherry of Park Forest, Illinois, 1996, painting. “Inspiration for this painting came from an actual handcart trek that my wife participated in. She learned of the great faith our early pioneers had as they sought a promised land, and she gained charity for her family members.”

Big Brother Leads the Way

Big Brother Leads the Way, by Ann Croft of Meridian, Idaho, 1996, painting. “My work depicts three of the Caminero children from the Dominican Republic. The boy getting baptized is the first child born in the covenant to be baptized there.”

Contemplating Moroni’s Promise

Contemplating Moroni’s Promise, by John Andelin of Williston, North Dakota, 1996, wood carving, Award of Merit. “This wood carving depicts a Russian laborer pondering the scripture inviting people to read and ponder the words from the Book of Mormon (see Moro. 10:4–5).”

[photo] Left: “Fresh Courage Take,” by David Greenall of Kearns, Utah, 1996, photograph. “Part of life is the fact that we may encounter pioneerlike trials. The key is to have pioneerlike faith.”

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Improvement Era, July 1947, 476.

  2.   2.

    The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxey Snow, ed. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (1995), 115–16; from the Trail Diary, Feb. 1846–May 1847, holograph, Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

  3.   3.

    Ensign, July 1984, 7.

  4.   4.

    Improvement Era, Aug. 1941, 472.

  5.   5.

    Improvement Era, July 1942, 444.

  6.   6.

    Relief Society Magazine, July 1948, 465.

  7.   7.

    Improvement Era, July 1947, 427.