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Consider for a moment the resilience of those people who finally came through the canyons into the valleys of these mountains. Many of them had weathered the apostasy of Ohio and the mobs of Missouri and the assassins of Illinois and still they turned their faces west and made the desert blossom. We would do well to remember their durability when our own challenges fill us with fear. The tribute to them that follows is sweet to me because my father was born in St. Johns to the son of one of the very first settlers in that area.
This work is true. The character of this people is a marvel to me, and it has a pathetic side to it. I have traveled among this people from Mexico to Canada, and I know whereof I speak. I say to the young and rising generation: I am willing to take off my hat to these horny-handed, white-headed broken-down men who have made it possible for us to exist in this mountain country. I say God bless these aged men. If you want examples, any object lessons, go down to Saint George and see what it has cost to settle that country. It is a number of years since I was there, but I found ninety widows. Some of the best men in the whole earth have died to make that country habitable.
Then I would like to take you on a trip down to Arizona, in the St. Johns country. I preached Faith there once, but I want to tell you I haven’t got enough faith to stay in such an undesirable country. You talk about good people; you talk about righteous people; I tell you there are people in this city who are not worthy to unlatch their shoestrings. That hard country, and their obedience to the Priesthood of God, has made those men great characters. You can’t discourage them. They will build a dam across the Colorado River every five years, if it washes out the next day; and live on dry bread and molasses Yet, that is their home; that is their country; there they worship God.
Then you go up in the Big Horn country, then up into Canada, and then think what it has cost to make this country what it is. But, every time some of us weak-kneed young fellows encounter a difficulty we break for the woods, and we give up our rights and sell them for a little pottage. (Elder J. Golden Kimball: C.R., April 1908)
These men and women might have written in their hearts with fire the words the Lord spoke to Joseph Smith in D&C 122:9. Joseph, incarcerated in the hell-hole of Liberty, had just heard a divine recitation of the scope and nature of trials he would yet face in his life. At the conclusion, the Lord said to him, “Hold on thy way.” (D&C 122:9)
Those men shoveling sand and rock into the Little Colorado, only to watch it wash away, understood. They had a hard job to do, but the assignment came from on high, so they would just “hold on their way” and get it done.