Blossoming as the Rose

(Based on the personal history of Richard Isaac Mills, Sr.)
I will provide means whereby thou mayest accomplish the thing which I have commanded thee (D&C 5:34).

Daniel pushed the handcart with all his strength. His arms and legs shook from the effort. He saw sweat run like tears down Jane’s face as his sister pushed beside him, while their parents strained to pull the handcart. He saw his mother’s mouth moving and her eyes shut, and he knew that she was praying for strength.

The last few weeks had been difficult. The food supplies were low. Each person in the handcart company was allowed only two cups of flour a day. There hadn’t been any meat for days. Daniel didn’t mind the hungry feeling as much as the weakness. And now they had come to this stretch of the trail without sufficient energy to pull the handcarts through the deep, dry sand.

Daniel’s father set the cart handle down and said, “Let’s all rest for a few minutes.”

Jane crumpled into a heap at Daniel’s feet. He sat down by her and gingerly lifted one of her feet. He tore another little strip from the bottom of his shirt and wound it snugly around her foot.

Her shoes had worn out weeks ago. At first, she had tried walking in the soft dust of the wagon-wheel ruts. But her feet had become so sore that much of the time she either had to crawl or have Daniel carry her piggyback. Any time she had to stand, her feet bled painfully. “Tell me again about what the Salt Lake Valley will be like,” she said.

Daniel sighed. At least she hadn’t asked how many more miles they had to go. “The missionaries said that the beginning of a beautiful city is already there. Thousands of people have arrived in the valley, and a temple has been started.”

“Will we live in the city?” she asked next.

“The missionaries said some of us will stay there, but some families will be called by Brigham Young to settle towns and cities many miles away.”

“What is the land like? Is it beautiful?”

Daniel tore another strip from his shirt to wrap her other foot. He wondered if she was missing her flower garden. “Well, the missionaries said it was land that no one else wanted. That’s one reason the Saints hope to be able to worship and build Zion there without the persecution that we’ve had elsewhere. And we’ll make it beautiful. After all, the scriptures say that the desert is going to ‘blossom as the rose.’” *

Jane smiled contentedly. Daniel leaned against the cart. He knew that Jane had been waiting to hear, “blossom as the rose.” For some reason that gave her comfort. Tears sprang to his eyes as he looked at her. Her clothes were worn and her feet were blistered and scabbed, but never a complaint escaped her lips. Her testimony that God was calling them was firm and sure. He wished that he felt that way.

He had at first. But lately, with so many adversities, he had begun to wonder. Why wasn’t God helping them? Why had the journey been so difficult? Did he really want to be planted in this new land—especially a desert—after all?

Daniel looked around. Not a handcart moved. Most of the company were doing as they were doing—resting. His parents moved closer to him and Jane. His father pulled off his hat and bowed his head in prayer. “Dear Father,” he pleaded, “Thou seest our situation and knowest our needs. We pray that Thou wilt bless us that we may live to yet serve Thee and to build up Thy kingdom. …”

“Pa, look!” Daniel whispered as soon as the prayer was over. A large cloud of dust was moving toward them.

“Is it a buffalo stampede?” Jane asked.

The attention of the whole company riveted on the growing dust cloud.

“I think it’s Indians, Pa,” Daniel whispered. Jane moved close and put her hand in his.

The Indians stopped a short distance from the weary company. The sun shimmered on the sand, and waves of heat could be seen as well as felt. One Indian dismounted and slowly approached the handcarts. Daniel hugged his sister protectively. He heard Mother’s sharp intake of breath.

The Indian went to where Father stood and stared at him for several moments. Without taking his eyes off Pa, he took hold of the cart handle and began to pull it. It moved sluggishly, protesting with loud creaks. At his signal, the other Indians got off their horses and pulled the handcarts through the sand. Their somber faces sometimes broke into smiles, as though they were having fun. A great cheer arose from the handcart company.

By evening the handcarts were on solid ground again. The pioneers began to fix their meager meal to share with the Indians, who now unloaded fresh buffalo meat from two ponies. As Daniel helped one of the Indians unload some of the meat, he noticed a pair of moccasins tied to the saddle. If only Jane could have them for her feet!

Perhaps there was something he could trade for them. All through supper, he hardly noticed the taste of the roasted meat as he thought about the moccasins. His only possession was a broken pocketknife. He pulled it out and looked at it. Very little of the blade was left. No, he couldn’t ask his new Indian friend to trade for it. It wasn’t a fair trade. He put the knife away.

Morning came early. The Indians stayed for breakfast, then they and the Saints prepared to go their separate ways.

Mother leaned her mirror against the wagon wheel. Daniel took the comb from her hand and began to comb his hair. He had long since quit grumbling about this morning ritual. Even though it seemed silly to him to comb his hair in such circumstances, he knew that it was important to his mother.

The astonished face of his Indian friend filled the mirror beside his own. The Indian examined it front and back. He pointed to the mirror then to himself. Daniel nodded. “Mother, I think he wants this mirror.”

Mother looked up from the campfire. “After all he has done for us, if he wants it, let him have it.”

Daniel lifted the mirror off the wheel and put it into the hands of the Indian. Within minutes the man was back with his horse. He put the reins in Daniel’s hand. Daniel understood that the Indian wanted to trade his horse for the mirror.

Daniel smiled warmly at his friend, shook his head, and handed him back the reins. The Indian pulled a long rifle out from under his saddle blanket and offered it to the boy. Again Daniel shook his head. His friend climbed on his horse, looked at him for a moment, then disappeared in a cloud of dust.

Daniel sighed. He had wanted to ask for the moccasins, but he didn’t know if it was fair to ask for more when they had already been given so much.

The next morning he was abruptly awakened by his sister. “Daniel, come quick! Look what Heavenly Father has blessed me with.”

There on her bedding lay the beautiful moccasins. Daniel gently slipped them onto her feet. The Indians had helped them get out of the sand, then given them food, and now his friend had left footwear for Jane! In his mind and heart the thought blossomed—Heavenly Father had answered their prayers!

[illustrations] Illustrated by Mark Robison