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Pioneers in our families: Responding with faith and grit when discipleship is hard

Francis and Mary Kerby left behind wealth, prestige and family at their home in the Channel Islands to join Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley

Handcart pioneers Francis Kerby II sits with his wife, Mary Le Cornu Kerby.

Francis Kerby II and his wife, Mary Le Cornu Kerby.

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Pioneers in our families: Responding with faith and grit when discipleship is hard

Francis and Mary Kerby left behind wealth, prestige and family at their home in the Channel Islands to join Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley

Handcart pioneers Francis Kerby II sits with his wife, Mary Le Cornu Kerby.

Francis Kerby II and his wife, Mary Le Cornu Kerby.

FamilySearch

Some Latter-day Saints have pioneer ancestors going back almost 200 years. Other Church members are themselves the pioneers in their families. In the weeks surrounding Pioneer Day July 24 — the annual celebration of the first wagon company entering the Salt Lake Valley — Church News staff members share stories of pioneers in their families, some from the 1800s and some from the 1900s. This is the seventh in the series.

My great-great-great-great-grandfather Francis Kerby II had many reasons not to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He was born Aug. 17, 1821, in the city of St. Heliers on the island of Jersey, which is part of the Channel Islands located in the English Channel off the northwest coast of France.

Named after his father, he was christened into the Church of England, given an education, expected to join his father’s lucrative jewelry business and to live and die on the island like generations of Kerbys before him.

Instead, he and his wife, Mary Le Cornu Kerby, were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ in 1849. Soon after, he left his wife and small children to serve two missions to France. Eventually, the couple saved up enough and left their island home — much to the shock of their extended families — for the Nebraska wilderness where they joined the Oscar O. Stoddard Handcart Company bound for the Salt Lake Valley, all the while adding two more children to their brood.

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Francis Kerby II died Sept. 3, 1914, at the age of 93.

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The Stoddard company was the 10th, smallest and last handcart company to cross the plains. They arrived on Sept. 24, 1860. 

Francis and Mary Kerby built a home in Salt Lake City, but within a few years their family was called by Brigham Young to settle Wallsburg, or Round Valley, in the Wasatch Mountains. Their granddaughter recorded that this was difficult for them since they were “city folks” and knew nothing about farming. Nevertheless, they went. While cultivating a home and farm, Francis Kerby also worked as a painter and glazier throughout Salt Lake City, Provo and Park City.

These pioneers were asked to do hard things for their faith but from what I can tell, they chose to focus on their blessings, In his journal, Francis Kerby wrote of the “privilege” of immigrating to Zion and, after the toil of the handcart crossing, simply recorded: “Arrived in Salt Lake City after a pleasant journey across the plains.”

When my discipleship in Jesus Christ requires hard things from me, I hope I can demonstrate similar grit, positivity and faith.

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