Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Organizing begins in winter's cold

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18, 1997

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Sunday, Jan. 17, 1847:

Worship services were held in the various wards throughout Winter Quarters. At a council meeting in the evening, Elder Willard Richards read President Brigham Young's "Word and Will of the Lord" (D&C 136) revelation to the Twelve, the seventies, high council and bishops. The revelation was unanimously accepted. President Brigham Young then addressed those present and stated that the Church had been led by revelation "just as much since the death of Joseph Smith as before."

Monday, Jan 18:

The arctic-like weather at Winter Quarters continued, with a temperature recording of 20 degrees below zero. Wilford Woodruff recorded that it was the coldest season he had ever experienced. In spite of the cold, Elder Woodruff, along with several others, spent much of the day digging dirt from an embankment and then using it to cover the roof of his house. During the early evening, President Brigham Young preached to those who had been assigned to be in his (and Heber C. Kimball's) company. A total of four pioneer companies would be organized and headed by Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, Ezra T. Benson and Erastus Snow, Orson Pratt and Wilford Woodruff, and Amasa Lyman and George A. Smith. President Young warned his company that iniquity would not be tolerated in the Camp of Israel and he did not want any to be members of his company who were not willing to obey "The Word and Will of the Lord." He further instructed that each company would be responsible to take an equal proportion of widows and orphans.

Tuesday, Jan. 19:

Wilford Woodruff organized his pioneer company, consisting of 40 men. He recorded that those company members who were present "entered in a covenant with uplifted Hands to Heaven to keep all the commandments & Statutes of the Lord our God And to sustain me in my office." After seeing to her domestic duties, Mary Richards, in company with her sister-in-law Jane Richards spent much of the day at the home of their friend Maria Burton. Sister Burton not only provided the women with a fine supper, but entertained them with several tunes on her accordion.

Wednesday, Jan. 20:

At a council meeting held at the home of Heber C. Kimball, the Twelve conversed on the subject of the proposed immigration to the mountains. During the meeting, Harrison Burgess arrived from Nauvoo and delivered the mail in addition to 11 packages of newspapers.

"All other business was laid aside," wrote Brigham Young, "that we might have a chance to devour the news and look over the Millennial Star."

Thursday, Jan. 21:

Cold conditions continued at Winter Quarters. Lorenzo Dow Young wrote, "The weather is cold and all that we can do is to make our family comfortable." The Twelve met in council most of the day.

During the evening hours, President Young met with the high council, then with the Twelve who read from the Millennial Star and other papers until midnight.

Friday, Jan. 22:

The Mormon Battalion rested at Warner's Ranch. The ranch, established by Jonathan Trumbull Warner in 1845, became a major stopping place for immigrants coming to California along the southern trails. Because of the weak and exhausted condition of the men and animals, Cooke ordered one day's rest. Some of the men enjoyed a relaxing bath in a hot spring that formed a small stream near Warner's house. One Mormon soldier noted that by moving up or downstream, a person could regulate the desired temperature for bathing.

Saturday, Jan. 23:

At Winter Quarters during the evening, a meeting and a dance were held in the Council House. During the week, workers completed the building with the installation of a wooden floor. President Brigham Young was on hand to dedicate the building and to be part of the inaugural gala. Following the dedicatory prayer, as William Pitt's musicians struck up a lively tune, the senior apostle, in company with fellow apostles Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and Ezra T. Benson, participated in the first dance of the evening. President Young retired around 10 p.m., but the dancing continued until 11.

Sources: Richard E. Bennett, "Finalizing Plans for the Trek West," BYU Studies 24 (Summer 1984): 314-15; A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, pp. 246-50; The Diary of Hosea Stout, pp. 229-30; "Diary of Lorenzo Dow Young," Utah Historical Quarterly 14 (1946):154; Exploring Southwestern Trails, pp. 217-31; "Extracts From the Journal of Henry Bigler," Utah Historical Quarterly 5:54-55; Journal History of the Church; "The Journal of Robert S. Bliss, With the Mormon Battalion," Utah Historical Quarterly 4:84-85; Journals of John D. Lee, pp. 54-56; Manuscript History of Brigham Young, pp. 505-09; Winter Quarters: The 1846-1848 Life Writings of Mary Haskin Parker Richards, pp. 106; Wilford Woodruff's Journal 3:118-23; John F. Yurtinus, "A Ram in the Thicket," pp. 472-73.