Winter Quarters was a resting and preparatory place for the early Pioneer Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as they journeyed on to Utah. Their sacrifice is evident in the graves along the trail. The trials of those strong, stalwart pioneers who dedicated their lives to the Lord are commemorated at the Winter Quarters site. You can feel the heartaches of families that never made it to the Valley. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of the unfairness of what was required of the Saints, but looking closer you can see the Lord building a people of faith, and strength dedicated to a beautiful cause.
In an talk entitled “Miracles of Faith” in 2001, President Hinckley’s spoke on the importance of the Winter Quarters Temple saying:
“Beautiful new temples are now being constructed in Nauvoo, Illinois, and Winter Quarters, Nebraska. They will stand as testimonies to the faith and faithfulness of the thousands of Latter-day Saints who built and later forsook Nauvoo, to move with great suffering across what is now the state of Iowa to their temporary abode in Council Bluffs and in Winter Quarters, just north of Omaha.
The Winter Quarters Temple property adjoins the burial ground of many who gave their lives for this cause which they regarded as more precious than life itself. Their journey to the valley of the Great Salt Lake is an epic without parallel. The suffering they endured, the sacrifices they made, became the cost of what they believed.”
Winter Quarters Sacrifice
In a conference talk in 1942 Elder Stephen L. Richards said this about Winter Quarters:
“Throughout our visit, however, there was ever a strain of sadness. We realized that every accomplishment had been attended with persecution and with sorrow. This was particularly emphasized on our way home from Nauvoo, Cathage and Winter Quarters.”
…”On our journey westward we came to the cemetery at Winter Quarters new Omaha, Nebraska. Within the grounds the Church has placed beautiful statuary and other embellishments to commemorate the heroic dead, more than six thousand of who lost their lives in westward migration to establish Zion in the Rocky Mountains. The chief statue is a representation of a pioneer man and his wife bowed in grief over a shallow grave wherein is laid the body of their child. The feeling that this work of art brings is one of deep sorrow. You must weep with the mother who is to leave her little one on the lonely prairie, never again even to see the spot where her child is buried. But rising above the sorrow are a great courage and a consoling faith that take the stricken parents resolutely forward in their quest for freedom and right and make them know that in the end ”all is well.” On a large fiat plaque are inscribed the names of about six hundred who were buried in this cemetery. Among the names I found my own kin and those of many other families prominent in the settlement of our western commonwealth.”
The people who crossed the plains through Winter Quarters are like me and you. They came with their worries, fears, anxieties, but also put one foot in front of anther to follow the Prophet of the Lord into an unknown land of promise. The sacrifices of the Pioneers built a people, and their sacrifices should never be overlooked.
More Blog Posts:
“The Miracle of Faith” Gordon B. Hinckley April 2001
”In Holy Places” by Stephen L. RIchards Conference Report Oct. 1942 pp.20-23