Manna for Mother


(Based on the life history of Louisa Mellor Clark)
He gave them bread from heaven to eat (John 6:31).

“There is enough food for only one more day,” the captain said. “Would you like to eat it all or divide it into smaller portions to last three days?”

The company agreed to divide the food. Louisa’s stomach growled as she and her family accepted their tiny portions. As a member of the Martin Handcart Company, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d had enough to eat.

That night, the company gathered around the fire to sing. “And should we die before our journey’s through, happy day! All is well!”*

Louisa’s sister Elizabeth wiped away a tear.

“Are you worried about Mother?” Louisa whispered.

Elizabeth tried to smile. “A little. But remember Mother’s blessing?”

Louisa nodded. “Yes. It comforts me too.”

Mother had been sick before leaving England, and Father had helped carry her onto the ship. Mother had been given a blessing that promised she would live to see her children reach Zion. Though she improved during the sea voyage, pulling a handcart through the early winter snow and surviving on such little food had weakened her again. Every day she grew worse.

Staring into the dying fire, Louisa tried not to think about the snowy graves that had been dug for so many of her friends along the trail. Instead she thought about Mother’s blessing and the warm feeling of assurance she had felt. Mother, Father, and all six of her siblings—even the two-year-old twins—would make it to Zion safely. Louisa was sure of it!

The next morning, as they plodded through the snow, Louisa’s mother began to stumble.

“Go on without me,” she called to Louisa’s father. “I can’t go any further!”

“You have to keep trying,” Elizabeth pleaded.

It was no use—Mother’s strength was gone. She kissed each family member good-bye. Then she hobbled over to a boulder, sat down, and cried.

“The company can’t wait for us,” Louisa’s father said, his eyes filled with sadness.

Louisa tried to keep her voice steady. “Elizabeth, will you help Father take care of the others?”

Elizabeth’s eyes grew wide. “Louisa—”

“We can’t all stay here, and we can’t leave Mother alone to die,” Louisa insisted. “I’ll stay here. Don’t worry.” She tried to sound brave. “Heavenly Father will help us.”

As the weary company struggled past, tugging their sagging handcarts, Louisa sat next to Mother and watched them disappear over the ridge. Soon Louisa and her mother were alone, listening to the howling wind. Louisa’s skin prickled at the thought of howling wolves.

“I’ll be right back, Mother,” Louisa said. She walked down the trail a short distance and knelt in the snow. “Please, Heavenly Father, wilt Thou protect us from the devouring wolves? Wilt Thou grant Mother the strength to continue so we can reach camp tonight?”

Louisa remained on her knees, waiting. She thought of camp, its welcoming bonfire and loving family members huddled around it. She thought of Zion, still hundreds of miles away.

Even though the chilling wind blew, she felt a warm spot growing in her heart. Yes. Heavenly Father would answer her prayer.

Louisa hopped onto her sore feet and started back up the trail, but something lay in her path. She blinked in surprise. She squinted and crouched down for a better look.

There, in the middle of the road, was a perfectly made pie.

“Oh my goodness,” Louisa cried. “Manna from heaven!” Laughing, she snatched it up. It looked and smelled delicious, like the pies Mother used to make back home in England.

“Mother, I’ve found something!” Louisa called.

“What is it?”

Louisa’s eyes glittered above her rosy cheeks as she placed the pie in Mother’s hands.

She gasped. “Louisa, where did you get this?”

“I prayed for you, and Heavenly Father sent me a pie. I found it on the road.”

Tearfully, Louisa’s mother thanked Heavenly Father for the miraculous gift. She ate the pie and rested awhile.

“I’m feeling much better,” Mother finally said, pulling herself onto her feet. “The Lord doesn’t want us to give up, and I won’t—not ever again.”

Louisa grinned. “Let’s catch up with the others. We can still make it to camp tonight.”

After darkness fell, they met Louisa’s father coming back to look for them. He rejoiced that Mother had regained her strength.

For the rest of the journey, whenever Louisa’s mother felt like quitting, she remembered the gift of the pie and offered a prayer of thanks instead.

Louisa and her family prayed with gratitude all the way to the Salt Lake Valley, where they arrived together safely on November 30, 1856. Mother’s blessing was fulfilled, just as Louisa had always known it would be.

[Hope in the Savior]

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

“Please do not lose hope in the Savior and His love for you. It is constant. He promised that He would not leave us comfortless.” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Press On,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 103.

[illustrations] Illustrations by Mark Robison

* Hymns, no. 30.