Promises to Elizabeth, Part 3: Elizabeth Alone


(Based on the life of Elizabeth Beardall Mower)
The eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled (Mormon 8:22).

Gravely ill with a fever, young Elizabeth Beardall receives a blessing from Latter-day Saint missionaries in which they make four promises. The first two—that she will be healed and join the Church—have been fulfilled. The accomplishment of the third—that she will travel to Utah—begins in 1863 when her family sails for America from England. But America is a large country, and the end of the voyage is only the beginning of the journey. When the family finally reaches the Missouri River, they still have far to go.

“Stay here with the baggage,” Father said. “I’ll get the family and return shortly.” Elizabeth nodded and tried to look brave as she watched him hurry off the boat. She turned to look across the muddy waters of the Missouri River. It was wide, but nothing compared to the Atlantic Ocean her family had crossed on the sailing ship Cynosure. She decided that if she could survive the eight-week crossing from England, she could certainly endure a one-day trip down a river.

“Are you going to the Salt Lake Valley?” a woman asked her.

“Yes,” Elizabeth replied. “I can’t wait to get there to fulfill my third promise.”

“Third promise?”

“Yes. When I was very sick, the elders promised me I would get well, join the Church, go to Utah, and be a mother in Israel.”

The woman smiled. “That’s wonderful. Perhaps we’ll be in the same wagon train. I’m Sister Rowley.”

Elizabeth shook her hand. “I’m Elizabeth Beardall, and here comes my family.” Elizabeth pointed to where her parents and brother and sister were hurrying up the road toward the boat.

“Oh dear,” Sister Rowley said as the sailors bustled around the deck. “I hope they make it in time!”

Elizabeth’s family was still a block away when the boat pulled away from the dock. “No!” Elizabeth cried. “Wait!”

Sister Rowley put her arm around Elizabeth. “There is another boat tomorrow. Your family will come then. Don’t worry. I’ll tell the Church leaders that I will take care of you in the meantime.”

When they got off the boat in Florence, Nebraska, Elizabeth waited outside a business office while the Rowley family went inside. When Sister Rowley came out she was smiling. “It’s all settled, my dear,” she said. “You can come with us.”

Elizabeth frowned. “With you? But I need to wait for my family.”

Sister Rowley looked around at the noisy crowds and shook her head. “I can’t leave you here alone. Your parents will be told where to find you. And by leaving now,” she added with a twinkle in her eye, “you’ll hasten the fulfillment of your third promise.”

Elizabeth felt tears prick her eyes. She knew that the trip would be hard, but she had never imagined she might be making it by herself. And what if she never saw her family again? Was any promise worth that?

Sister Rowley seemed to read her thoughts. “It will all be worth it in the end,” she said. “Our sacrifices may seem great, but God has promised us a much greater reward.”

As the wagon train rolled westward, Elizabeth kept busy washing clothes, gathering buffalo chips for fuel, and fetching water. But at night when the company gathered around the blazing campfire to sing and dance, Elizabeth missed her family terribly. She found comfort in the evening star that shone in the western sky. It seemed to whisper, “God is over all. He knows your secret sorrow and will not forsake you.” Elizabeth knew that she was not really alone.

After two weeks of travel, the company stopped for repairs. Elizabeth asked Sister Rowley what she could do to help. “Go out and play, dear,” Sister Rowley told her. “You have been too solemn. You need more laughter and fewer tears.”

Elizabeth nodded and went to join some children who were playing marbles and rolling hoops. The other children were kind, but the games did not cheer Elizabeth. Suddenly a boy called out, “Who is that stranger coming into camp?”

Elizabeth saw a man in the distance, hurrying toward them. She looked more closely, hardly daring to believe her eyes. It was her father! She ran to him, and he clasped her in his arms. Both were crying for joy. “We were only a day behind,” Father said, “but I despaired of ever catching up.”

“I knew we’d be together again someday,” Elizabeth sobbed. Now, with the Lord’s help, they could continue their journey to Utah and to the fulfillment of the third promise.

Author’s Note: There were many more challenges for Elizabeth on the trek west. Elizabeth’s mother gave birth to a baby boy on the trail, and Elizabeth had to nurse her mother, tend the younger children, and do her mother’s chores as well as her own. Once Elizabeth was out washing when a sandstorm hit. She became lost and wandered for three days before she was found. Finally in October 1863, her family arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with little food or clothing. Later, Elizabeth married and became a mother in Israel as foretold. All the Lord’s promises to her were fulfilled.

[illustrations] Illustrations by Paul Mann