Sunday, January 9, 2011

We Will Cross the River

Today I was very moved by a sermon delivered at the Pleasant View 7th Ward in Provo, Utah, where I was visiting. Emily Eliason told a beautiful story about the pioneer Mormons and the courage required by them to leave Nauvoo and cross the Mississippi river in the winter. Some did not, and there were long term consequences for those that did not pay the dear price of crossing the river and the plains with the faithful. Thanks, Emily, for inspiring us. This is my tribute to your story.

We Will Cross the River
by Gideon Burton

Let us be strong enough to cross the river,
the February river, dark with ice;
to take hard gifts provided by the Giver,
the gifts of hunger, want, and sacrifice.
Let us be strong enough to walk the plains,
to leave behind what we with toil have sown;
to brave a wilderness of mud and rain
and find what can't be found in peace at home.
Let us be strong enough to bear their pain
when children weaken in the dark and cold,
when some depart while we repeat their names,
the same we prayed since birth and will till old.
     We step into the chill of certain loss,
     For we have known His hand and voice, and cross.

Photo: flickr - mpilote


  1. One of my favorite sonnets yet.

    One of my ancestors, Caroline Eliza Nickerson, recorded in her personal history a little about her experiences at the Mississippi River:

    "In 1846 we left Nauvoo after having our endowments in the temple of Nauvoo. Now was the time of trial, for in crossing the Mississippi River the boat was sunk by the helm [being] tromped off by one of our oxen. Twenty-two souls were on the flatboat. All seemed lost, but [for] another miraculous escape. Now all seemed lost, but it was on a sand bar and the wagons were all under water. But they burst off the cover of our wagon and all crawled up and held onto the bows, my little girl, three years old, saying, 'Lord, save my little heart.' Not one soul all was well at last, through the mercy of God."

    Caroline goes on to tell how she had to cross back to Nauvoo on business, and then bore another son. A day after her son's birth, she crossed the river again, "living out of doors and traveling for seven weeks before [my baby] was even dressed in a house after the first day."

    She concludes her narrative of death and redemption, belief and trial, with the following sentence:

    "This is only a little of my suffering."

  2. Wow, Kathy, that is amazing. A perfect companion to Emily's story and the poem. Thanks. What a legacy for you.

  3. This is brilliant. Both the story and the sonnet.