Moving? Tomorrow? It can’t be time already, thought eleven-year-old Sarah as she folded the last of her mother’s dish towels and put them into a barrel. The family had been planning for the past few weeks to leave Kirtland, Ohio, for Missouri with some of the other Saints, but they didn’t know exactly what day they would leave. This morning Sarah’s father had come into the kitchen and told his family that tomorrow was moving day.
Sarah wasn’t really surprised that they had to move. For the past year people who were against the Church and its members had caused the Saints a lot of problems. How vividly she remembered the day when her family had been sitting in the Kirtland Temple for their Sunday meeting and several ruffians had come into the room carrying knives and guns. Brandishing their weapons and shouting, they had disrupted the services. Sarah could still remember how frightened she had been that day. Joseph Smith’s father had been conducting the meeting. He’d sent for the police, and the intruders had been ushered out of the temple. After that, the meeting had gone on without interruption.
Just a month ago, when spring was in its glory throughout the Kirtland area, Father had told Sarah that she must do all that she could to help Mother get ready to move. However, Sarah had tried to convince herself that they wouldn’t have to do it. How can I leave Kirtland? she’d wondered. We’ve never lived anywhere else.
Kirtland was the place where Sarah and her brother John and sister, Laura, had all been born. Another brother, two years younger than Sarah, had even been buried in Kirtland shortly after he was born. It was the place where Sarah and her parents had been taught and baptized by Brother Sidney Rigdon. Brother Rigdon had been their minister when they had all belonged to the Campbellite Church, and the whole family had loved him. They had been glad to read the Book of Mormon when he had brought it to their home. It was only right that Brother Rigdon had baptized them when they were sure that the gospel was true.
Sarah had been excited about turning twelve in the fall and going with her best friend, Mary, to Sister Eliza Snow’s school for girls. But Sister Snow’s family and Mary’s family had already moved to Missouri, so there would be no school. She had hoped that someone else would teach the school once things settled down a little. But things hadn’t settled down.
The rest of that day and night went quickly. Suddenly it was daybreak and time to leave their home. When the wagon was packed, the whole family climbed aboard, with Father sitting on the front seat to drive the oxen he had bought only last week. John, looking very big for a seven-year-old, sat next to Father. Five-year-old Laura and Sarah sat in the back of the wagon with Mother. They all watched Kirtland grow smaller as they joined the other wagons leaving the city.
The first few weeks of the trip seemed especially long because of the slow pace of the oxen. John and Laura had been excited about the trek at first, but even they calmed down as time passed. One night Sarah was awakened by the low voice of her father. There was something in the sound of his voice that frightened her. She crawled out from under her blanket and drew back the wagon flap.
The worried look on Father’s face eased a little when he saw her. “Sarah, I need your help. Your mother has a high fever. Can you go to the river and fill the bucket with some water?”
Sarah was afraid. Mother had never been sick! She had always been the one to take care of others when they were ill. Quickly Sarah filled the bucket and returned to the wagon. All night long she and Father took turns wiping her mother’s face with damp cloths to keep her cool. Mother was too sick to say a word, and this really upset Sarah. By morning Sarah realized that she must take care of her brother and sister and fix whatever breakfast she could put together. She knew that she must remain calm so that John and Laura would not be frightened by Mother’s illness. Quietly she woke the children and told them what had happened.
“Will you go and get some small pieces of wood to start the fire, Laura?” she asked. “You’re really good at finding wood.” Turning to her little brother, she said, “John, if you can get some larger pieces, we can build a fire together.”
John crawled out from under his blanket and began to work without complaining. Sarah was amazed at how helpful her sister and brother were. They seemed to know exactly what to do.
Sarah cooked breakfast and quickly cleaned everything up. Mother didn’t seem much better, so Sarah stayed in the back of the wagon and put soothing, damp cloths on her mother’s face. Father had been able to fix a lid on a bucket so that the water didn’t spill with the wagon’s movement. Because the children helped so much, the family was able to keep up with the company.
Sarah spent every spare minute planning and cooking meals, keeping their clothes washed, and tending Mother. Laura and John gathered wood each night for cooking, and they helped in any other way they could. John found some empty wooden spools, and he and Laura were busy making a surprise for the family.
One morning Sarah awoke and realized that her family had been gone from Kirtland for six weeks! Mother was almost well, but she still let the children take care of things together. How proud she was of Sarah’s cooking and John and Laura’s fires.
“Do you know what’s happened to us, Sarah?” Mother said softly. “With the Lord’s help, we are relying on each other now. This is what we’re supposed to do. If I hadn’t been sick, you children would never have been able to show your father and me the many things you can do for our family.”
Before Sarah could reply, John and Laura climbed into the wagon holding something under a cloth. Father climbed in behind them and said, “I don’t know what these two are up to, but they made me stop everything to come and see what they’ve made.”
The children uncovered a checkerboard made from a weathered board, and a set of tiny checkers made from the spools John had found. Laura beamed and said, “John rubbed charcoal on some spools to make the black pieces, and I colored the other ones with some berries we found along the way. We thought everyone could take turns playing checkers.”
Sarah felt tears come to her eyes. She would miss Kirtland and its happy memories, but she was taking with her the best part of those memories—her family.