Hello I was wondering if you know the name of the old pioneer in President Faust’s story in a talk he gave called The Refiner’s Fire? Thanks for your help.
Isn’t that a wonderful story that President Faust told? This story has been relayed many times, and the man was always referred to as “an old man.” In reality the man spoken of in President Faust’s talk is Francis Webster.
A little history about this man.
He came to American from London with his wife, Ann. He had plenty of money and had planned on outfitting himself and his wife with a wagon and oxen to pull it. In fact he had already made all of the arrangements for these items before reaching America. He chose instead to follow the counsel of Brigham Young for those with the means to assist those poorer families in their quest to make it to Zion as well.
So Francis and Ann instead joined the Martin Handcart Company with nothing more than a handcart and the supplies they could take. They did this even knowing that a baby would be born during the journey.
They arrived in the Salt Lake City after much hardship. Two days later they continued on to Cedar City, Utah to assist in settling that area.
At one point in Cedar City there was a Sunday School class attended by many adults. The conversation of the Martin Handcart Company came up, and many derogatory remarks were made regarding it. Many of the remarks were directed towards the church and the leadership of the church.
Francis Webster stood and uttered the words that we have heard in President Faust’s talk.
‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes! But I was in that company and my wife was in it, and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited here was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities!
‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me! I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there.
‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No! Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.”
After that trek with the Martin Handcart Company, Francis Webster went on to become a leader in the church in Southern Utah.
What a great man of faith.