Fire of the Covenant: The Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies

Fire of the Covenant: The Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies

In the summer of 1856, three companies of handcarts were outfitted and sent west from Iowa to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. All went well, and they arrived without undue incident. But two additional companies - one captained by James G. Willie, and the other by Edward Martin - left England late in the season. When they arrived at Iowa City, they were long past the...

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Title:Fire of the Covenant: The Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies
Author:Gerald N. Lund
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Edition Language:English

Fire of the Covenant: The Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies Reviews

  • Brynn Albrecht

    Fire of the Covenant is a book about the Martin and Willie handcart companies. Written as if they had walked together at the same time towards Zion, it shares details of the average “new converts” life. In some instances, the choice to leave a fiance, best friend, or even family members behind had to be made. Once decided, those who went made the tough journey. It often involved many weeks on a boat and months spent shivering. Sacrifices were, at times, extreme. The ultimate testing of faith

    Fire of the Covenant is a book about the Martin and Willie handcart companies. Written as if they had walked together at the same time towards Zion, it shares details of the average “new converts” life. In some instances, the choice to leave a fiance, best friend, or even family members behind had to be made. Once decided, those who went made the tough journey. It often involved many weeks on a boat and months spent shivering. Sacrifices were, at times, extreme. The ultimate testing of faith happened on these trails. Although tough, every person had the same basic background - All were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and had been commanded and instructed to make their way to Utah. During a time period of trial, physical expense, joy, and immense suffering, they painstakingly make their way to Salt Lake City, UT.

    The book helped me consider what it might have been like for me to be a pioneer. As a member of the LDS Church, I have ancestors who walked across the United States. It connected me with them, by showing me determination, human spirit, family relationships, and what it took to get this state started.

    Even for those not of the same faith, I encourage you to read it. It shows a great measure of Utah’s history. Many of the cities, towns, and counties were settled by early pioneers. Everyone experiences faith of some type, even if they are not religious. They have goals that they believe in, and work toward those goals. They will identify with these people, the same type of experiences we may see today. Although we may not have literal wolves trying to tear us apart, we have our own challenges equally as difficult.

    From the author of The Work and The Glory, Fire of the Covenant is a well written, gut wrenching novel. Experience love and romance, death, obedience, and happiness as you walk the trails with the saints. A well researched, good story line, and a major test of faith. I encourage all to read this book.

  • Chelsea McGee

    Loved this book! Strengthened my testimony of the power of God's work even more. Will read it again and again.

  • Emma Barker

    Absolutely LOVED this book!!

  • Janette

    I reluctantly read this book before going on the 2007 pioneer trek to Martin's Cove. I was really worried that it would be extremely sad, and I didn't want to hear a lot of details about the suffering and death that I knew occurred. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the author was able to tell this story accurately, (using actual people and events, as well as fictional characters)… yet inspiringly. I’ll admit, It took about half of the book for me to really get into the story, but once I

    I reluctantly read this book before going on the 2007 pioneer trek to Martin's Cove. I was really worried that it would be extremely sad, and I didn't want to hear a lot of details about the suffering and death that I knew occurred. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the author was able to tell this story accurately, (using actual people and events, as well as fictional characters)… yet inspiringly. I’ll admit, It took about half of the book for me to really get into the story, but once I did, I could not put it down. The courage, faith and endurance of these pioneers are amazing to me, and their story is unforgettable.

  • Serena

    I'm really enjoying this book and trying brace myself for a good cry. I know how this story ends. It has been so good to hear the details of the preparation of these saints and to better understand their story.

  • Cindy

    I've been hearing a lot about the handcart pioneers lately, emigrants who came from Europe to join the Latter-day Saints in Zion, but who were too poor to afford the fees used in outfitting a wagon. So the LDS church organized handcart companies who would travel with a wagon and cross the plains on foot. Most pioneers had to travel on foot anyway, as it was too hot and too uncomfortable to ride in the wagon. But these Saints had to carry all their stuff in handcars which they themselves would

    I've been hearing a lot about the handcart pioneers lately, emigrants who came from Europe to join the Latter-day Saints in Zion, but who were too poor to afford the fees used in outfitting a wagon. So the LDS church organized handcart companies who would travel with a wagon and cross the plains on foot. Most pioneers had to travel on foot anyway, as it was too hot and too uncomfortable to ride in the wagon. But these Saints had to carry all their stuff in handcars which they themselves would push or pull - or both - halfway across the United States, from Iowa City to Salt Lake.

    Most of the companies did fine. But two companies, which were later known by the men in charge of each group, the Martin and Willie companies, arrived so late in the year that they faced a difficult choice. Find the funds to stay there in Iowa until spring or set off and gamble that they would beat the winter weather and arrive without problem. They took the gamble, and winter arrived too soon.

    This is told as non-fictional fiction, a style Lund uses often. He relies heavily on pioneer journals, oral history, and so on, and weaves in real historical figures along with his fictional families, one from Scotland, and two brothers from Norway. It is a long book, and I read that many readers had a hard time getting into the story. But I didn't have any trouble getting interested and found it to read quickly.

    Conditions on the trail went from mildly uncomfortable to totally miserable and were frequently fatal. Many did not survive this journey. The old, the ill, and young children were most likely to die, but even perfectly healthy people would just drop dead from hunger and exhaustion. Those who did survive often experienced injuries that would affect them the rest of their lives. But very few of the handcart pioneers complained later.

    Just yesterday I was driving through Sanpete county, where many of the Scandinavian pioneers were sent colonize after their arrival in Salt Lake. I had to wonder what they thought when they arrived in their rocky, mountainous, and rather inhospitable new home. Were they mainly disappointed? Or were they relieved to finally be in one place, where they could gather and worship, build homes, and know that they could stay put for a while? Or did they figure that any place was better than Rocky Ridge, where supplies were down to four ounces of flour a day for adults, no meat, no winter clothing, no shoes, and no shelter? Surely even the most meager home was a step up. And evidence is all around my home that they didn't sit around and complain, but rather got to work and made their new homes a success.

    This story combines a bit of romance along with all the hardships, which made it more fun to read. I honestly think that Lund pulled a few punches though, as the story could have been even grimmer than he tells it. But it was an inspiring and well written story. 4 stars.

  • Gwenda

    I haven't found much LDS fiction that I enjoyed, but this book was an absolute delight. As historical fiction, it used a lot of real people and settings. Guess what? I found several references to my great-great-grandfather Redick Newton Allred in this book! His nickname was "the bulldog" because he was tenacious about doing what the prophet asked him to do. He headed up the supply wagons that went out to rescue the two handcart companies in desperate situations. Since his provision wagons were

    I haven't found much LDS fiction that I enjoyed, but this book was an absolute delight. As historical fiction, it used a lot of real people and settings. Guess what? I found several references to my great-great-grandfather Redick Newton Allred in this book! His nickname was "the bulldog" because he was tenacious about doing what the prophet asked him to do. He headed up the supply wagons that went out to rescue the two handcart companies in desperate situations. Since his provision wagons were loaded down with supplies, they took longer to travel. At a certain point in western Wyoming, he "hunkered down" with the provisions and waited until the handcart pioneers were found; then he brought the wagons forward to meet them. It was a long wait and most of his men gave up and went back to Salt Lake City, but he wouldn't give up. His story has also been told by President Eyring at least twice in conference. Makes me proud!!! Aside from that personal connection, this story really shows you how the pioneers who suffered in these companies felt. I can't relate to the incredible amount of physical suffering and scarcity they experienced. Not a bad book to read during Thanksgiving week!

  • Mommywest

    When Justin and I and our little family lived in Student Family Housing at BYU at the "turn of the century" :), we would often spend Sunday afternoons (and sometimes evenings) or vacation days reading LDS Church-themed/related books together. We took turns reading to each other, but usually I ended up reading the most. We read the entire Work and the Glory series and Children of the Promise series that way. After we finished those, we read this book together. By the time we started this book,

    When Justin and I and our little family lived in Student Family Housing at BYU at the "turn of the century" :), we would often spend Sunday afternoons (and sometimes evenings) or vacation days reading LDS Church-themed/related books together. We took turns reading to each other, but usually I ended up reading the most. We read the entire Work and the Glory series and Children of the Promise series that way. After we finished those, we read this book together. By the time we started this book, Justin was in grad school and working full time in Salt Lake City, and our oldest daughter was getting old enough that we could only read in bits and snatches at night. It took us longer to get through it, and we were often both exhausted. I remember liking the book, but we read so infrequently that it didn't endear itself to us like other books we had read.

    I wanted to read this book again, partly because I'd just read Brother Lund's most recent book,

    , and it got me in the mood for more pioneer-type historical fiction. I also wanted to read it in more than just bits and snatches so I could get a good feel for it.

    Readers of Gerald Lund's books know that he is an impeccable researcher. You will learn so much about the time periods and events he is writing about, not only through the story, but through the extra notes and experiences he includes at the end of each chapter/end of the book. His descriptions really give the reader a feel for the characters and the places they live in or go to: what they look like, what kind of person they are, the environment they are in, the kind of day a certain experience occurred on. You feel a part of the book. However, many readers will also know that he tends to use the same kinds of phrases over and over to describe emotions and occurences (like "husky voice" to describe someone speaking with emotion, and so on). He also tends to have people who are separated for some time come back together in a "surprise unveiling," where the long-gone person is brought in by another character to the surprise and joy of the other characters, and the way he includes fictional characters in real historical happenings is a bit awkward sometimes. But if you can look past those quirks, you will enjoy his books very much.

    I found myself shedding tears many times as I felt the sufferings of the handcart companies, the angst and sacrifices of their eventual rescuers, and the strong faith exhibited by many people in the story. I also cheered for triumphs and accomplishments, and grieved for beloved characters who died. I am a "likener," I guess, and I took away so many things that could be applied in my life. Overall, this book is an excellent way to get to know the story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies, and it is also just a great story by itself.

  • Adrienne

    Loved the story so much more than The Undaunted. We got right into it and met real people along with the fictional characters.

    Fyi the narrator is not my favorite. Reading this would be preferable to listening. The accents were terrible all around. If he had just done an American I would have loved it but his various European accents weren't even close.

  • Tanja

    "Come, come, ye saints" This song has been going through my head for the last week. I started this book forever ago (about 5 months). I will be honest and say it took me about 100 pages to get into the story. Then I was hooked. And all I have done for the last week is read this 760 page book. I know a bit about the martin and willie handcart companies. I have ancestors that were apart of both companies and survived. I have read their journals and been to martin's cove. This only added to my

    "Come, come, ye saints" This song has been going through my head for the last week. I started this book forever ago (about 5 months). I will be honest and say it took me about 100 pages to get into the story. Then I was hooked. And all I have done for the last week is read this 760 page book. I know a bit about the martin and willie handcart companies. I have ancestors that were apart of both companies and survived. I have read their journals and been to martin's cove. This only added to my experience with the book. This is a story about the pioneers who pulled handcarts. They came late in the season and had terrible weather, no food, and many obstacles to overcome. If you don't know much about these pioneers than I suggest you find out. Lund does a good job showing many of the ways pioneers suffered and how they had joy along the trail. If you go back and study the history it was actually a lot harder than it was portrayed in the book. I have always felt more desperation when reading my families account of the experience, but most of the journals come from the Martin company and most of the book focuses on the Willie company.

    The best part of the book, in my opinion, is the chapter notes. You get little portions of the pioneers journals. I was astounded, as I always am, at the strength these people had. Could I have made it? No! Is it easy to look at the situation and criticize the fact that they came? Yes. But we would be wrong. One of my favorite quotes from a member of the martin handcart company- it is a response to criticism about the companies-

    Francis Webster:

    "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....

    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."

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