Not far from Ben and Josephine's home is the Winter Quarters Visitor Center.
Persecuted for their beliefs and driven from their homes, the Latter-day Saints set out from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1846. They were seeking Zion–a place where they could worship as they pleased. Their destination was Utah's Salt Lake Valley. Thousands of Saints crossed Iowa and encamped on both sides of the Missouri River, including the site of Winter Quarters, where they constructed hundreds of shelters. These temporary towns became safe havens for the Saints–a place to gather strength before resuming the trek west.
I have ancestor's on my mom's side who were part of the Martin Handcart Company. They crossed the plains from Iowa to Utah carrying only what they could load into simple handcarts. They suffered unimaginable trials in order to reach a place where they could be free to worship the Lord.
It was a special thing to be able to take a picture of some of their posterity next to a handcart like the ones they pulled over the plains.
Many of the Latter-Day Saint pioneers died at Winter Quarters. Next to the visitor's center is a cemetery where many of those pioneers are buried. At the center stands this touching statue.
I had seen photographs of this statue before, of a mother and father burying their child in a shallow grave in the cold ground. But as I stood beside it, I noticed something I had never seen before - the form of the child, swaddled and laid to rest.
I couldn't help but weep at the thought of so many who perished and lost loved ones, especially precious children. I am inspired by and grateful for their faith in the Lord that these separations are for a short time until our families will be reunited on the other side.
Now, near the site where so many Saints are laid to rest, stands a beautiful Temple of the Lord. A place where families are sealed together and bound for all eternity. (If you'd like to learn more about LDS Temples, click here.)
What a blessing to be able to visit this inspiring and sacred place. I'm awed by the strength and faith of those early members of the church, especially my own ancestors, who withstood such hardships in order to build the kingdom and worship God. This day was one of my favorites of our trip.
To be continued...