Atwood, Millen, "Account of His Mission," Deseret News [Weekly], 26 Nov. 1856, 300-301.
By Elder Millen Atwood, Tabernacle, Nov. 16, 1856.
[REPORTED BY GEO. D. WATT]
. . . . I did not go to England for gold or silver, but to preach the gospel and gather the poor. We started home with a goodly number on board the ship Thornton, and they were of the class that br. Brigham wrote for when stating, 'if they have not a sixpence in the world, they are the ones to bring here.' The people that came from where I was laboring were perfectly destitute; we had to buy everything for them, even to their tin cups and spoons. And let me tell you, the fare they had on the plains was a feast to them.
They never regretted having to leave their homes, and they are not insensible of the liberality which has been extended to them by the people of these valleys. They have prayed and fasted day after day, and night after night, that they might have the privilege of uniting with their brethren and sisters in these mountains. Many bore testimony to the gentiles that the day would come, although their heads were silvered o'er with age, when they should see br. Brigham in the Valleys of the Mountains. They had borne that testimony so long that it had become like 'sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal' to the wicked around them, who said that their way never would be opened. But the Lord opened the way in a manner they looked not for, and they were willing to draw a hand cart, or to take a bundle on their shoulders, or to come in any other way that might be counseled in order to enjoy the blessings you enjoy this day.
If you could hear the prayers, and see the tears for the privilege of enjoying what you do this day, you never would feel that you have done too much in assisting them.
I will here say, to those who have come from England and been in these valleys some time, that it seems to your friends that are still there as though you have forgotten them, and the promises you made to them at the last shaking of the hand. But when br. Brigham offered his property so liberally, and the word came that they should gather from England, it ran like fire in dry stubble and the hearts of the poor Saints leapt with joy and gladness; they could hardly contain themselves.
Will they be willing to pull a hand cart? Yes, I felt it; and I felt that it was the right way, and that it would gather more people than any other that had been adopted; and I have never, since I have been in this church, seen the Scriptures so forcibly fulfilled, as I have seen them this season.
With all their wagons and animals they have scarcely brought one blind or lame man to these mountains, but we have gathered up the lame, the blind and those who had not walked a step for years, and brought them on litters or hand carts to this place.
I never enjoyed myself better than in crossing the plains in a hand-cart company. The Spirit of the Lord did accompany us and the brethren and sisters enlivened the journey by singing the songs of Zion. They would travel 16, 18, 20, 23, or 24 miles a day and come into camp rejoicing, build their fires, get their suppers, rest, and rise fresh and invigorated in the morning.
I have seen some so tired in England, after traveling only 5 or 6 miles to a conference, that they would have to go to bed and be nursed for a week. We stimulated the hand-cart companies with the words of br. Brigham, which went through me like lightning. He said, 'If they would rise up in the name of the Lord, nothing doubting, no power should stop them in their progress to reach this place.' It was in his words that they trusted to perform the journey, and they were determined to see his words fulfilled.
I have walked day by day by the side of the hand-carts as they were rolling, and when the people would get weary I have seen them by dozens on their knees by the road side crying to to the Lord for strength, and there are scores now in this city who walked from Iowa city to Fort Bridger, and some who were weak and feeble at the start grew stronger every day.
So long as you kept the bundle on the hand cart and stimulated them to lay hold of it, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and it seemed as though angels nerved them with strength; we could out-travel the cattle and might have camped 15 miles ahead of them every night, if we had had the provisions with us. I told br. Brigham that I believed we could beat ox, horse, or mule teams. The gentiles prophesied as we came along, that we should never see the Valleys of the Mountains, and laughed us to scorn, and ridiculed the idea of men and women's traversing 1200 miles with hand carts, and they marveled to see the Saints travel on so cheerfully. I said to them, I defy you and your rulers, with all your gold, to gather up a set of men, women and children that will travel with hand carts; you have not the influence to do that, but when br. Brigham speaks the word, see how they go.
They were astonished, and wanted to know what kind of a doctrine we preached to them to make them willing to undertake such a task. I told them that we administered the same kind of medicine to all, and it united them together.
The Saints found, however, a wide difference between singing about going to Zion, and actually going. You would almost have thought that they would take wings and fly like doves to their windows, but when they really got into the work, the tune was a little different; but the great majority stuck to it, and those who were good for nothing left us at Florence.
We have not suffered a thousandth part as much as you think we have. Since I have arrived I have heard such tales of woe, though I do not know who could have told them to you. I know that br. Brigham and the honest in heart here have suffered more in their spirits than we have in our bodies. We did not suffer much; we had a little bit of snow, but that was nothing; and we had enough to eat as long as it lasted, and when that was gone you furnished us more; we fared first rate.
Some that met us would gaze on us, and tears would run down their cheeks, while we were smiling, laughing and singing, and wondered what they were crying for; but after they had been two or three days with us, they would tell us that they had altered their notions. I am in for hand-carts, any way; and if I had a father or mother in old Babylon I would like to see them roll a hand cart across the plains.
I am glad that I went on my mission, and that I have done as I was told. I often thought of the words of br. Brigham. Men would be sent on missions and, before they had time to commence their labors, would be on their way home again. Br. Brigham said, 'I wish I could find men who would stay until they had performed their missions.' I felt determined to stay until I was called home, if it had been to the resurrection morn.
The majority of the people that have come with us have done about as we have told them, and in that they have prospered. We have been united, and we have accomplished what we have.
I was surprised when I saw the relief wagons loaded with garments, stockings, shoes, blankets and quilts that had been liberally contributed and sent out to minister to us. I never saw the like, and I marveled and wondered where it all came from. . . .
I do not feel to find fault with the providences of the Lord; and as for the hand carts, I am in favor of them. But, while I think of it, I do not want everybody to think that the women can beat the men at pulling hand carts, for they cannot do it. While there was a man to each hand cart and a couple of women, the women could work their fingers on it like playing on a piano; and the smallest women had as much to eat as I had. The women did first rate and had a determined spirit; but had the men and women been loaded and rationed in proportion to their sex, we could have brought in as many men as women. You women should not get flattered up that you can beat the men, for you cannot do it. I am willing to give women all the credit they deserve, but I am also zealous that they do not entirely rob the men. . . .