I have been able to paint most of the pioneer messages for the choir broadcast over the last nine years. This year, the story was about the Willie handcart company. They endured terrible hardships as they traveled across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley.
According to the story from Betsey Smith Goodwin's journal, “I will not dwell upon the hardships we endured, nor the hunger and cold, but I like to tell of the goodness of God unto us.” She recounts one day that especially stood out in her memory. The wind blew fiercely. The dark clouds were ominous and threatening. The approaching storm was so violent, the thunder and lightning so frightening, that even the ox teams refused to take another step. The group’s captain stood in the middle of the road, took off his hat, and bowed his head. Soon other members of the company joined him in bowing their heads and removing their hats, until 100 carts had gathered around the captain, who said, “Let us pray.” Betsey remembers that as he poured his heart out in prayer, heaven felt close. The clouds then parted, and the company pressed forward with faith until they reached camp and pitched their tents—just before the storm clouds finally burst open with torrents of rain.
I had to finish this painting early in order to go on a family vacation, and the scope of the painting was pretty daunting--100 handcarts and all their families!? With my husband's help, I decided on this rocky landscape, and to zoom in to about 30 people. I happened to learn that a friend of ours had a handcart, which we borrowed and set up in several different positions, and had my sister's family and a neighbor family who were heading off to trek soon as models. Thank you, Ericksons and Gillmans! The finishing of this painting was a blessing and result of a lot of prayer.