“Get up,” a mother called to her daughters one morning. When none of the three daughters stirred, she called again: “Come, girls, this will never do.”
Many a mother can identify with this situation, herself fatigued, perhaps melancholy, and her daughters seeming to have lost that spark of self-motivation.
Such a mother’s concerns are hardly idle, in this day and age, for great demands fall upon the shoulders of sisterhood. When these demands link with the world’s expectations through the media, life can become overwhelmingly discouraging.
That mother’s name was Amy Britnell Loader, and she called above the wind on the snow-clad, sub-freezing high plains of Wyoming in 1856 just a few weeks after her husband succumbed to exposure and starvation.
Journeying with the Edward Martin Handcart Company, this family was among those who heeded the call to travel west to the Salt Lake Valley and settle away from those who would persecute them. The company, along with the James G. Willie Handcart Company, was caught in early snow storms in central Wyoming and many suffered and died as a result.
This widow, Amy Britnell Loader, was left with five children, including the three older daughters mentioned above. Her call to get up became literally a life or death matter.
“Patience, get up and make us a fire,” called this mother. Replied Patience: “I told her that I did not feel like getting up. … We none of us ever felt so weak as we did that morning.
“So she asked My sister Tamar to get up and she said she was not well and she could not get up.
“Then she says, Come, Maria, you get up. … [but] she was feeling bad and said that she could not get up.
“With this mother says ‘Come girls, this will not do.’ “
Amy Britnell Loader then struggled up from her old quilt, drifted with snow. She called to her daughters: “I believe I will have to dance to you and try to make you feel better.”
With that, recalled Patience, “poor dear Mother she started to sing and dance to us and she slipped down as the snow was frozen and in a moment we was all up to help our dear mother because we was afraid she was hurt. She laughed and said I thought I could soon make you all jump up if I danced to you. Then we found that she fell down purposefully for she knew we would all get up to see if she was hurt.”
Then, adds Patience, “She said she was afraid her girls was going to give out and get discouraged and she said it would never do to give up” (Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868, trail excerpt Reminiscences, Patience Loader Archer; Church Archives; some spelling and punctuation corrected).
Today’s women might face challenges of a vastly different kind, but perhaps also exhausting and discouraging. Where Amy Britnell Loader struggled with the physical survival of her children, today’s mothers struggle for the spiritual survival of their children.
In 1856, the Loader family dined off a cow’s head, well boiled; starving, they dragged it along for a second day. The children watched helplessly as their own father and other fathers died around them.
Today’s families live surrounded by a media wilderness. A weak moral code facilitates today’s media.
Thin plot lines resort to violence, gore and immorality to provide compelling stories to an increasingly hungry population. Women are often exploited in the media; modesty becomes an impediment as one media company outdoes another in indelicate excesses and objectifying. Violence and romance become immediate fleshly experiences of no consequence except to young viewers who afterwards fail to see themselves in a true light.
Entertainment-starved family members plug in headphones with damaging sounds, and view screens with damaging images. The young seek to be nurtured from media with less nutrition to it than an over-boiled ox bone.
No wonder mothers become discouraged.
“Come girls, this will never do,” calls Amy Britnell Loader from a previous century.
Somehow women of today must re-learn that they are persons of destiny, daughters of God with a divine nature.
Their lives obeying gospel values, knowing God, can be infinitely richer than anything portrayed by the media.
Young people must learn that a union formed with God at its head is deep, powerful, enduring and equipped to make its journey across this generation’s frosted plains.
When sisters of today see another fall down, may they not judge the reason why.
Though tired and discouraged, may they spring to their feet as a gospel sisterhood, ready to help.
May they learn that criticism, false values and discouragement are to be discarded as litter.
When the journey is over, may our sisters agree with Patience Loader Archer:
“I can testify that our Heavenly Father heard and answered our prayers and we was blessed with health and strength day by day to endure the severe trials we had to pass through on that terrible journey.
“We know that if God had not been with us that our strength would have failed us and our bodies would have been left on the plains as hundreds of our poor brothers and sisters was. I can truthfully say that we never felt to murmur at the hardship we was passing through. I can say we put our trust in God and he heard and answered our prayers. …”
Amy Britnell Loader and her children reached the Valley safely.