We are a responsible people. The best example of responsibility towards our fellow man is exemplified in the Willie and Martin Handcart Rescue.
President Brigham Young issued a dramatic call from the pulpit during the October 1856 General Conference where he asked for immediate volunteers and supplies to rescue the ill-fated companies.
Both the Willie and Martin companies left far too late in the travel season to insure their arrival before the start of the winter. In July, at Winter Quarters, the companies held a meeting where they recognized that it was too late in the season to travel but decided to travel anyway. The companies continued even after not receiving the expected resupply at Fort Laramie in late September. They burned much of their clothing and bedding on the trail to lighten their load. When they were faced with 18 inches of snow and sub-zero temperatures on Oct. 20th, they were largely unprepared. Eventually the rescue teams from Salt Lake City reached them and by the end of November brought them into the Salt Lake valley.
We, in the LDS faith, hold our responsibility to others sacred. The handcart companies made poor decisions and they became victims of their poor decisions. Rather than letting them succumb to their decisions, however, the Brethren made the call and the people answered-- sacrificing so much to help their fellow man. Joseph Smith made the point: “[We are] to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all, wherever [we find] them.” (Times and Seasons, 15 March 1842, 732)
We as a people do not subscribe to the concept of failing to help. We are charged to treat others as we would like to be treated (Luke 6:31). We as a faith do not let people pass away on the plains regardless of why or how they got there. We as a people feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide for the widow, dry the tear of the orphan, and comfort the afflicted. To be LDS, to be of the faith, means to care for others regardless of how they got to the point that they need help. To be LDS means to give of our time and talents to ease another’s burden. These ideas are at the heart of our faith; these ideas go hand in hand with being progressive and a faithful member.
(This post is number three in a series. Part one is here, and part two is here.)
(Correction: an earlier version of this post said that Brigham Young's call for help came in the 1845, not the 1856, General Conference.)
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