Mary Jane McCleve
August 21, 1851, Mary Jane McCleve was baptized in the Irish Sea not far from County Down in the northeastern part of Ireland. She was baptized at night to escape persecution. As her family studied the Gospel the desire to go to Zion and find faith, freedom, and a piece of ground all their own became their dream. Finally by Christmas 1855 the family prepared to make the journey. For Mary Jane, it would be hard to leave family, friends, and the beautiful land of Ireland. Even more trying was the sweetheart she left behind
Mary Jane and her family bought a handcart at Iowa City, Iowa and joined the Daniel D. McArthur handcart company. They departed June 11, 1856 at 11:00 AM bound for Salt Lake City. The glamour of the journey soon turned to the tedium of the trail. If it was not the hot choking dust, it was the miserable slippery mud. Nevertheless Mary Jane’s father pulled on with the family helping as best they could. As they passed into Wyoming, Mary Jane prayed that she could endure to the journey’s end. O, how she missed Ireland. “Surely the Lord must have a purpose in bringing his Saints through this experience,” she said to herself.
The company crossed over South Pass. Again Mary Jane looked out at the desolate landscape and thought to herself, “It was…a bleak sight to see that dry sagebrush terrain before us. It looked so forlorn. Oh! For just one view of my beloved Ireland. I couldn’t help but wonder,’ She said “what we had given up for the gospel. Surely our destination looked better than what I could see today. “Please Lord, help me not to lose faith.”
Bone weary and worn, the emigrants pushed on. Then, just two days outside of Salt Lake City, Mary Jane’s beloved father, John, died, having courageously pulled his handcart and his family until he could go no further. Mary Jane described her feelings.
We thanked our Lord for not letting him suffer too long, But Oh! How I hated to leave him there in that lonely spot. Amid aching hearts and many tears, we buried him by the side of the road…and erected a little marker by his silent grave. I loved my kind Father and it was almost more than I could stand to go on without him. That incident seemed to be a turning point in my life, for I pulled and pushed on that handcart every foot of the way from there on. Up and over the mountains toward and into the Salt Lake Valley. Oh! how I worked with tears streaming down my face, praying for understanding. Why? Why? Was it worth my Father’s life? Oh! Lord, help me!
My friends, this story is for every one of you who has wondered if all their sacrifices for their faith were worth it. I witness to you that it is. Thank God there are still people among us who love their faith more than life itself.
Mary Jane finally reached that point where she could look down into the Salt Lake Valley—the Zion of God, the City of Peace–that she and her family had dreamed of for so many years.
A calm feeling came over me,” she said, “…I wanted to run down the mountain and reach our journey’s end I was so thankful for being one of the chosen few. If only Father could have been there to enjoy that sight with us. Maybe he was, for I surely felt close to him that very moment.
Artwork: Julie Rogers
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