The October dawn was cool as I helped load our belongings into the covered wagon. The weight in my 10-year-old heart was heavier than the bundles of clothes and food I carried. It just isn’t fair, I thought. I don’t want to leave our home and my friends and travel to an unknown place.
It was 1877, and our home near St. George, Utah Territory, was already far away from Salt Lake City. Now we were moving even farther away.
Mother called, “Mary Agnes, please make sure everything is cleared from the back porch before we leave.”
As I made my way around the house, I thought back to the day six months before when my father had returned from the dedication of the St. George Temple. Mother and I had stayed home because my baby brother was ill. One look at Father told us something serious had happened.
Mother spoke first. “William, what is the matter?”
Father took her in his arms, and with tears streaming down his face he said, “We must leave our beautiful home.” He could say no more.
Leave? How could we leave? After years of saving we had finally been able to buy farmland and build a comfortable home for the 10 of us. We had horses, cattle, and other farm animals. We lived near my grandmother and my cousins. I was able to attend the school in town. Who would ask us to sacrifice all this?
Later I heard my parents discussing what was happening. Families were needed to extend Church settlements farther south. President Brigham Young had asked our family to move. He counseled my father to sell all we had so we would not be tempted to return to Utah. We were needed in Arizona.
Arizona was a place where there was very little water and nothing to see. The prophet had called people there last year. Many had returned to Utah because they could not endure the hardships. Father said almost no greater sacrifice could be asked of him.
Mother’s voice brought me back to the present. “It is hard to leave, isn’t it, Mary Agnes? Do you know the real reason we are moving?”
I shook my head.
“We are going to Arizona because the prophet called us to go,” Mother explained. “Remember my telling you about when I was your age and my family lived in Nauvoo? After the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed, there were contentions with our neighbors. The Brethren told us to leave our homes and move west. There our lives would be spared, and we could worship in peace.
“It was terrible to leave our home, but there was nothing else to do unless we turned away from God, the Brethren, and the Church. We made the long, hard journey to Salt Lake. We sacrificed again when we followed President Young’s direction to leave there and settle here.
“Now we have been asked to go to Arizona. We do not have to go. No one is forcing us. We are not fleeing for our lives. We could find reasons not to go. This time the struggle to obey comes from within.”
Mother hugged me as she continued. “The Lord said that when we receive a commandment ‘whether by [His] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same’ (D&C 1:38). Our prophet has spoken to us. I know he speaks for God. Your father and I decided long ago to follow the prophet, no matter what the sacrifice.”
The Spirit warmed me as I listened to Mother’s testimony. I felt strengthened for the uncertainties ahead.
As I climbed into the loaded wagon, I took one last look at our old home, then turned to face the trail to Arizona. I realized that I, too, had a testimony of God’s representative on earth. Like my parents, I decided I would follow the prophet—even to the last frontier.
[Following the Prophet]
“We have been promised that the President of the Church, as the revelator for the Church, will receive guidance for all of us. Our safety lies in paying heed to that which he says and following his counsel.”—President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency (“Continuing Revelation,” Liahona, August 1996, 6)