Amanda Higbee was frightened. Papa had warned her about the wicked men who hated Mormons. The previous May Papa had baptized her, and it had been the happiest day of her life. Today was the worst, or so Amanda thought. Papa should have come home last night, but he hadn’t. Mama said not to worry, but Amanda was afraid some of the wicked men had caught him.
In the next room a door slammed, and Amanda rushed out. But instead of it being Papa, it was her brother Josiah, yelling, “Ma! The mill’s on fire! Walker’s barn is burning, and they’re heading toward the Robison’s!”
“Who are ‘they’?” asked Ma as Josiah tried to catch his breath.
“A mob of Missourians. They had guns and torches and everything! I heard them say that they were going to burn all the Mormons out of Jackson County.”
If Ma was frightened, she didn’t show it. Instead, she gathered her children about her and said, “Children, your father warned us that this might happen. I’m afraid it won’t be long before they’ll be here. Listen carefully. This is what you must do …”
After listening to Ma’s instructions, the children quickly obeyed. Mary gathered up the bedding, while Josiah brought the wagon around. After handing Joseph a bag of grain, Amanda helped Hannah with the cooking gear. In the distance, a reddish glow lit up the sky, and Amanda could hear men shouting. A few pieces of furniture were loaded into the wagon, and then the Higbees were off, with Josiah driving.
On the road ahead they saw several of their friends and neighbors. The Robisons and Walkers had escaped in time, as well as the Stones and Ewells. Amanda waved to Elizabeth Robison, but Elizabeth just stared past her. Wondering why, Amanda turned around and saw wagonloads of people coming from every direction. Behind them were burning farms and houses. Amanda started to cry. It was too much: Papa was lost, their home was gone, and now they were fleeing for their lives!
“What’s this?” Ma said, turning around. “Tears, Amanda? Hannah, you too? What you need is a good story.”
Amanda didn’t think a story would help, but Ma continued anyway. “Did you know that we are just like the Nephites in the Book of Mormon?” she asked.
“We are?” Josiah asked, “I don’t remember anything like this happening to them.”
“Oh, yes, Josiah,” Ma replied. “The Nephites were driven from their homes many times. Like us, they believed in a prophet of God, and because of their belief, they were often persecuted and sometimes put to death.”
“Did they have a prophet named Joseph Smith, too?” sniffled Hannah, wiping away her tears.
“No, Hannah. But there were many other prophets. Let me tell you about a prophet named Abinadi. When he preached to a certain king by the name of Noah, the wicked king refused to believe Abinadi’s words. He ordered his men to bind Abinadi and kill him by setting him afire.”
“Did they really burn him?” asked Amanda.
“Yes. But one of the king’s men, Alma, believed what Abinadi had taught. When Alma tried to save him, King Noah became even angrier, and he ordered his men to kill Alma too. Luckily Alma escaped from the king’s guards and hid.
“Alma repented of his sins and preached privately among the people the things that Abinadi had taught. Every day more and more people came to listen to Alma. In time over two hundred believers were baptized.
“One day,” continued Ma, “King Noah heard about Alma’s success and sent out an army to destroy Alma and his followers. However, when King Noah’s army reached the forest near the Waters of Mormon where Alma and his people had been gathered, no one was there. Heavenly Father had warned Alma, and everyone had escaped.
“After traveling in the wilderness for eight days, Alma found another beautiful place for his people to live. There they built houses, planted crops, and were very happy. They lived in peace for several years. Then a group of Lamanites and apostate Nephites found them. They were as bad as King Noah. They made Alma and his people slaves; they beat them for believing in Jesus Christ, and if any of Alma’s people were discovered praying to the Lord, they were to be put to death.”
“You mean the Nephites were killed just for praying?” gasped Mary.
“How would the Lamanites know if they were praying—did they have spies?” asked Josiah.
“I don’t know, Josiah,” Ma replied. “But the Nephites were brave people. They outsmarted the Lamanites by praying in their hearts. Heavenly Father heard their prayers and said to Alma, “Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go with thee and deliver this people out of bondage’ (Mosiah 24:17). Then He caused the Lamanites to fall into a deep sleep. While the Lamanites were asleep, the Nephites escaped. Soon they found a country with a good king, Mosiah, and they lived there in peace and prosperity.”
“I liked that story, Ma,” said Amanda. “Please tell us another.”
Everyone agreed, and soon their mother was telling them about Alma and his adventures in the city of Ammonihah. While her mother explained how Alma and Amulek escaped from prison, Amanda realized that she had forgotten all about her own problems.
When nightfall came, the Higbees looked for a place to spend the night. Rain had started to fall, so they decided to camp in the shelter of an overhanging bluff. Some of their friends camped near them, and for a while everyone felt safe. Then, about two o’clock in the morning, the rain turned into a raging storm, and a small stream near the camp became a roaring river. Amanda watched in horror as trees and bushes were swept away. Grabbing her belongings, she joined the rest of the family as they raced for shelter. Earlier, Josiah had spotted a cave near the top of the bluff, so they headed toward it.
Because Ma had become very ill during the night, Brother Carr offered to carry her to the cave. Walking next to them, Amanda felt like crying again. And when she saw that the cave was filled with wild hogs, she was terrified. But she, Mary, and Josiah decided that the family needed the cave more than the hogs did. So, grabbing sticks, the children attacked. The hogs fled.
Ma was carried in as soon as the cave was cleaned out as well as it could be. Too sick to lie down, Ma spent the rest of the night sitting in her chair. Amanda curled up between Mary and Hannah. Sharing a wet blanket, they tried to sleep as lightning crackled, thunder boomed, and babies cried.
Morning came, and with it the sunshine. A familiar voice awakened them. “Hello! Anybody up there?”
Amanda ran from the cave, shouting, “Papa! Papa! You’re safe! You found us!”
Behind her came the rest of the family. Soon everyone had been hugged and kissed. Then Papa explained how he had found them. After hiding for several days, he had returned home to find it burned and his family gone.
“Did you cry, Papa?” asked Amanda, snuggling closer to him.
“Yes, Amanda. I cried, and I prayed. Then this morning I rode into camp and heard about some crazy kids who had chased wild hogs out of a cave so that their mother could get in out of the rain.” The children smiled proudly, and father finished by saying, “Do you realize you probably saved your mother’s life?” He picked up Ma, and they all worked their way down the hill, a complete family once more.
Later that day the Higbees stood near the bank of the mighty Missouri River, where many of the Saints were lined up, waiting to cross over. These people had just fled fire, flood, and mobs. However, hope was in their hearts, for ahead of them was a new land. Like the Nephites, they would again plant crops, build houses, and live in peace for a few years. Their hard times were not over, but for now they were safe and happy to be alive.
The Higbees’ turn on the ferryboat came, and they began the crossing. Looking at the brown waves slapping against the sides of the boat, Amanda felt sick. Oh, Heavenly Father, she silently prayed, help us.
Heavenly Father did help them. They made the trip safely—all except Ma. She was nearly unconscious when Papa carried her up the bank. Some women, seeing her condition, rushed over to help. Within minutes a tent was put up, and Ma was carried inside.
“Is Ma going to die?” asked Hannah fearfully, trying to peek into the tent.
“No,” replied Papa. “Your mother’s baby is ready to be born.”
And sure enough, at that very moment they heard the cry of a newborn baby.
“Yippee!” yelled Josiah. “We just got us a brother.”
“It could be a girl,” Amanda reminded him.
But Josiah was right. Cradled in Ma’s arms was a beautiful baby boy.
“Look at his little fingers and toes,” Hannah whispered.
“Hello, baby!” said Joseph.
“His eyes are so big,” sighed Amanda.
“What’s his name?” asked Josiah.
“Let’s call him Alma,” Ma suggested, and everyone agreed.