The Virtues of Those Who Have Gone Before

This is a guest post by Shelli Simmons.Shelli was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated with honors from a local Business College. Following the marriage to her “High School Sweetheart”, she worked in the business industry until the death of her 2½ month old son from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Shelli spent the next eighteen years at home raising three beautiful children, serving in church callings and assisting her husband with his business ventures. During her service as a Stake Young Women’s President, Shelli had the opportunity to organize two Stake Pioneer Handcart Trek Youth Conferences which began a twelve year journey in research and intensive study of the lives of the members of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies.

While stranded on Rocky Ridge, located in a very rugged and remote area of Wyoming, my husband and I prayed to know what to do. Though we were prepared with cold weather gear, we were not prepared for an overnight stay in this remote area with no cell phone service and no shelter from the storm that was blowing in. After exhausting all other options to repair the rented snowmobile, efforts to finish a photo shoot were abandoned and we began hiking back to our truck located some five miles away, in hopes that we would reach it before darkness set in and the threatening storm descended upon us. The wind was piercingly cold and the hike through the deep snow was difficult and it gave me much time to reflect upon the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies that trekked over the same terrain in 1856 with very little protection from the harsh and unforgiving elements. This experience was one of countless others during my remarkable twelve year journey into the lives of the Willie and Martin handcart companies that inspired the book Across The Sea, Across The Plains.

There comes a time in each of our lives when it becomes important “to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his own life”¦” Gordon B. Hinckley

Though our modern day lives are of a much different nature than those early pioneers who traveled to the Salt Lake Valley in 1856, we have so much to learn from their strength, courage, love, compassion and devotion. I am currently working on a project that focuses on this subject and would love to hear how looking to the past has become a compelling motivation for you in overcoming the difficulties of life and by doing so how it has helped you gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future? Please contact me on Facebookor at