Special Witness: Faith of Our Fathers


Joseph B. Wirthlin
From an April 1996 general conference address.

Faith of Our Fathers

As we look to the future with optimism, we should pause and look back on the faith of our humble pioneer forefathers. Fearing more of the mob violence that had claimed the lives of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum, Brigham Young announced that the Saints would leave Nauvoo, Illinois, in the spring of 1846. Most of those in Nauvoo believed that was what the Lord wanted them to do.

In 1846, more than 10,000 Saints left their “City Beautiful” and struck off into the wilderness of the American frontier. They did not know exactly where they were going, precisely how much distance lay ahead, how long the journey would take, or what the future held in store for them. But they did know that they were led by the Lord and His servants.

When Newel Knight informed his wife, Lydia, that the Saints would have to leave, she responded with great faith, saying, “Well, there’s nothing to discuss. Our place is with the Kingdom of God. Let us at once set about making preparations to leave.”

Lydia Knight’s devoted submission to what she knew was God’s will typifies powerfully the faith of those heroic early Saints.

The first company of pioneer families to leave Nauvoo drove their loaded wagons and their livestock down Parley Street—a street that became known as the “Street of Tears”—to a landing where they were ferried across the river to the state of Iowa. Chunks of ice floating in the river crunched against the sides of the flatboats and barges that carried the wagons across the Mississippi. A few weeks later, temperatures dropped even farther, and wagons could cross the river more easily over a bridge of ice.

On the first of March, the advance company began its push westward across Iowa. Hardships caused by cold, snow, rain, mud, sickness, hunger, and death challenged the faith of these hardy pioneers. But they were determined to follow their leaders and to do, no matter the cost, what they believed fervently to be the will of God.

Let us remember those pioneering Saints as we strive to be valiant servants. May we honor the faith of our fathers by giving our own faithful service to this great cause. May we “follow the prophet” (Children’s Songbook, 110–11) and by so doing “come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God” (Jacob 1:7).

One More River, by Glen S. Hopkinson