Art and early Church members’ words can help us imagine what the pioneers felt when they were forced from Nauvoo.
At the final dedicatory service for the Nauvoo Illinois Temple on June 30, 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) asked those in attendance to walk down Parley Street to the waterfront on the Mississippi River. Though it was a hot, humid day, President Hinckley asked everyone to imagine that it was a bitter cold day in February 1846. That summer evening, more than one thousand Latter-day Saints walked down Parley Street, now referred to as the Trail of Hope.
Today those who visit Nauvoo can also walk the Trail of Hope and imagine that it is a bitter cold day in February and how the pioneer Saints felt when they looked back at the temple for the last time. Plaques line the Trail of Hope with quotations from pioneers who left Nauvoo on that February day or during the following months.1 They help us imagine what it was like.
Mary Field Garner, 10 years old when the mob drove her family to leave Nauvoo in September 1846, tells how her family hurried to pack food, cooking utensils, clothing, and bedding. With the bread dough risen and ready to bake, Mary’s mother simply took it with them to bake after they crossed the river.
During one of the earlier crossings of the river, a boat sank, and Hosea Stout recounts how several Saints were tossed in the cold and unrelenting waves.
Describing some of the pioneers’ first camps, Gilbert Belnap states that some had only a sheet drawn over a few poles to make a tent. He remembers hearing the crying of children and the groaning of those sick with fever.
Zina H. Jacobs Young gave birth to a baby boy after traveling about 80 miles west. She says she did not mind the hardship because her life had been preserved and her baby was so beautiful.
Some Saints were unable to go west. Martha Ann Smith was five when she said good-bye to her dear but feeble grandmother Lucy Mack Smith, who shed bitter tears knowing it was the last time she would see her son Hyrum’s family.