Date: August 01, 2020 05:56AM
'In the history of any people there has never been recorded a case of such gross mismanagement as that of gathering the foreign Saints to Zion in the year 1856.
'Until this disastrous year the emigrants had always made the journey across the plains with ox-teams ...
'The cost of emigration in this way was from £10 to £12, English money, or nominally $50 to $60 in gold – not very expensive, surely, for a journey from Liverpool to Salt Lake City; but to Brigham, in one of his fits of economy, it seemed altogether too costly, and he set to work to devise some means for retrenchment. During the entire winter of 1855-56, he and his chief supporters were in almost constant consultation on the subject of reducing the expenses of emigration, and they finally hit upon the expedient of having them cross the plains with hand-carts, wheeling their own provisions and baggage, and so saving the expense of teams. The more Brigham thought of his plan, the more in love he grew with it, and he sent detailed instructions concerning it to the Apostle Franklin D Richards, the Mormon agent at Liverpool, who published it in the Millennial Star, as the new ‘divine plan’ revealed to Brother Brigham by the Lord, whose will it was that the journey should be made in this manner.' (Ann Eliza Webb 'Wife No 19' ch11 'Divine Emigration – The Prophet and the Handcart Scheme’)
'By the mid-1850s LDS Church leaders needed less expensive ways to move poor immigrants to Utah. The Perpetual Emigrating Fund that loaned to the needy was depleted, and costs for wagons and ox-teams were high. Therefore, Brigham Young announced on 29th October 1855 a handcart system by which the Church would provide carts to be pulled by hand across the Mormon Trail. As a result, between 1856 and 1860 nearly 3000 Latter-day Saint emigrants joined ten handcart companies - about 650 handcarts total – and walked to Utah from Iowa City, Iowa, (a distance of 1300 miles) or from Florence, Nebraska (1030 miles).' (History of Utah)
'Like despots both ancient and modern, Brigham Young eagerly seized on this external threat to consolidate his power. He also ramped up Mormon recruitment efforts in Great Britain and Scandinavia (where Mormon missionaries carefully concealed the doctrine of polygamy) as a way of building up his kingdom. To cut down on the time and expense involved in bringing new Mormons to Zion, Young ordered the construction of handcarts – rickshaw-like vehicles – used to carry the pilgrims and their possessions across the plains.
'The handcart initiative led to disaster in late 1856 as two companies of Mormon immigrants (known as the Martin and Willie companies), promised by Mormon leaders that God would hold back the winter snows, were caught in an abnormally early and severe blizzard. More than 200 men, women, and children died, making the Martin/Willie debacle ‘the worst disaster in the history of America's overland trails’.
'Mormon leaders refused to shoulder any blame for the catastrophe. Jedediah Grant ... laid the blame on the victims ... ‘the same disobedience and sinfulness that had induced spiritual sleepiness among the people already in Zion’. (Will Bagley author Blood of the Prophets)