Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blog Tour: Follow Me to Zion: Stories from the Willie Handcart Pioneers, by Andrew D. Olsen and Jolene Spendlove Allphin; Art by Julie Boswell Rogers

Follow Me to Zion: Stories from the Willie Handcart Pioneers, by Andrew D. Olsen and Jolene Spendlove Allphin; Art by Julie Boswell Rogers
2013, 272p, LDS Non-fiction
My Rating=5+ Stars
Source: Received copy from publisher for an honest review

James G. Willie knew the trek would be arduous when he left Iowa City in July 1856, leading 500 handcart pioneers on a 1,300-mile journey across the plains.

But he could not have known that his people would run out of food while still hundreds of miles from Salt Lake City nor that the winter of 1856 would begin in the middle of October with prolonged, severe storms. Sixty-nine members of his company would die along the way. Yet from this tragedy emerged triumphant stories of personal endurance, courage, heroism, and unwavering faith.

Follow Me to Zion recounts 20 compelling stories of members of the Willie handcart company and their rescuers. Dozens of full-color images by artist Julie Rogers enrich this keepsake volume, which pays tribute to the men, women, and children who have become enduring witnesses of the power of faith and sacrifice.

Here you will find excerpts from their own accounts of the journey, learn what those faithful pioneers did after reaching the Salt Lake Valley, and read reflections on their lives by descendants.

The simple words “Follow Me to Zion,” cross-stitched onto small pieces of fabric kept in the journal of a handcart pioneer, are an invitation that still calls to us today.

The stories and paintings in this beautiful volume can inspire us to live true to our faith and reach out to help others do likewise.

I've heard many stories of the Willie Handcart pioneers and seen the movie 17 Miracles (I still want to see Ephraim's Rescue) and have always been amazed by the faith the pioneers displayed through all their trials. This book is incredible! First of all, it's absolutely gorgeous with thick pages and beautiful illustrations. Here are examples of some of the pictures and you can view more here. I also love that these stories are compiled into one book which makes them easier to find and read.

This picture represents one of our favorite stories from the movie 17 Miracles so I read this chapter with my children. Ann Jewell Rowley originally came from England. Her husband died before they left England so she started the journey as a single mother with 8 children. In mid-October, the food supply was dangerously low and it appeared they had no food at all. She remembered two hard sea biscuits she had in her trunk which were left over from her sea voyage. She didn't think it was enough to feed her family, but remembered the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes and knew that with God nothing was impossible. She put the biscuits in the dutch oven, covered them with water and asked for God's blessing. Then she covered it and put it on the coals. When she took the lid off a little later, she saw that it was full of food. Her family knelt to thank God for this miracle and were able to eat well that night.

I really like this picture because I think it depicts the journey and how they all had to work together to make it, and unfortunately many of them still died along the way. There are so many other wonderful pictures, so be sure to check them out.

This book starts with an introduction to Captain James G. Willie and how he came to be their leader. It also talks about the decision to move forward even though it was so late in the season. It then goes on to highlight other individuals and families who were part of the Willie Handcart Company. We get their story, an Epilogue so we know what happened to them after they reached Salt Lake and Reflections of a Descendant. There are also photographs of some of the landmarks and monuments that are currently found in Wyoming, and other photos related to their stories.

The last chapter is dedicated to their rescue. Salt Lake didn't know they were coming and were stunned when Elder Franklin D. Richards arrived in Salt Lake and told them about two large handcart companies and two wagon companies that were still on the trail. The handcart companies were limited in what they could bring so Salt Lake would send relief teams with fresh supplies to meet the companies halfway. Since they didn't know anyone was coming, those supplies weren't there. Brigham Young realized the urgency of the situation and sent rescue teams out right away. It took another month to get the Willie Handcart Company to Salt Lake. During that time, there were many miracles that occurred and still more heartache to endure. 

This is a great book to read when you need a good cry! I read many of these stories through tears and find myself once again amazed at their faith and strength. None of them complained about their journey and they never criticized anyone for decisions that were made to continue on (they actually knew at the beginning that it could have been just as rough if they had stayed in Florence for the winter, and there are stories about how rough it actually was for those that did stay behind). This is a great book to read when I think I have it so rough. I feel like my problems are small compared to what they endured and am grateful for the strength I feel from their stories which inspire me to be better and carry on! I highly, highly, highly recommend this book!

About the Authors

Andrew D. Olsen is an editor for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the author of The Price We Paid: The Extraordinary Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Pioneers. Andrew and his wife, Linda, are the parents of 3 children.

Jolene Spendlove Allphin has a love for the 1856 pioneers and rescuers that continues to grow. She has published nearly 300 biographical sketches of them in Tell My Story, Too. Jolene and her husband, Michael, are the parents of 11 children.

Julie Boswell Rogers is an acclaimed artist who has won many awards. Her art has been featured in Church publications, visitors’ centers, and the Church History Museum. The book Emma, the Elect Lady contains many of her paintings of Joseph and Emma Smith. Julie and her husband, Russell, are the parents of 5 children.


Paij Slater said...

I love this! I now know what book to buy my dad for Christmas! He loves all things that deal with this time in history!

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