As the last of the Martin handcart company entered the valley, Brigham Young stood before a conference in Salt Lake City. He recounted the peril of the Saints traveling in the snow and declared that they had a great labor ahead: “we had supposed that we should see the kingdom of God established on earth and Zion become the joy thereof, by merely gathering to the several Stakes; and that then our labors would be done and we should have nothing to do but sit and sing ourselves away to everlasting bliss; but we will find that preaching the gospel is but a small portion of the labor that is upon us.”
Brigham declared that they would take the pioneers in among them – that he would take them all if no one else would – and that they should treat their frostbite and starvation. In doing so, he uttered counsel that has persisted with us:
The afternoon meeting will be omitted, for I wish the sisters to go home and prepare to give those who have just arrived a mouthful of something to eat, and to wash them and nurse them up. You know that I would give more for a dish of pudding and milk, or a baked potato and salt, were I in the situation of those who have just come in, than I would for your prayers, though you were to stay here all the afternoon and pray. Prayer is good, but when baked potatoes and pudding and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place on this occasion; give every duty its proper time and place.
Reliving the settlement of the Great basin in my mind, I take in the destitute and thaw their frozen feet. I administer food and prayers. Then I wonder why it is so difficult for me to do much less today.
Brigham Young, Sermon, in “Remarks by President Brigham Young, Tabernacle, Nov. 30, 1856,” Deseret News, December 10, 1856, 320.