Promise of Zion, Volume IV of the Barrington Family Saga
This book opens with James observing the preparations and departure of handcart companies for which he feels a great deal of concern. Later he learns of the ill fate that met these companies, which are some of the most famous stories of our church history. I believe that when James observes the faith and determination of these people, his own faith is strengthened. And hopefully the reader will feel a little bit of that same faith. When we know the outcome of the situation, it can be hard to read about the onset of it. As I wrote it, I found myself wanting to shout, “No, don’t go! Wait until spring!”
A few of my children have had the opportunity to participate in handcart treks, sometimes going to Martin’s Cove and actually crossing the Sweetwater. Through their experiences and the things they were taught, along with doing some research of my own, I learned that a greater purpose was served through these faithful Saints. The spirit of their sacrifices went deep enough that it can be felt by us in our day and strengthen our testimonies as we face a different kind of hardship. Even though this is barely touched on in the book, its meaning is deeply profound for me.
I took a little shift in this book, as I often like to do when a series moves along. I introduced a new character and got into his head and showed the family from his point of view. In this case, the new character is a young man who eventually ends up marrying Iris, James’s daughter from his first marriage. Casey and Iris have kind of a rough relationship, but its evolvement takes place while they prepare to go west and throughout the journey there. Hence, the relationship becomes somewhat of a metaphor for the rough and challenging exodus taking place.
As this family prepares to go west, leaving behind many comforts and luxuries, it is a grand example of the kind of sacrifices the Saints made. Being with the Saints, and having the blessings of the temple in their lives, was more important to them than anything! I wonder sometimes if we lose that perspective. A very dear friend of mine said to me once (when I was extremely discouraged and struggling), “What was the goal of the pioneers?” My silent answer was, “Survival.” But she said, “It was eternity. They did what they did because they wanted the blessings of eternity.” That’s had a huge impact on how I’ve come to view the challenges of this life. It’s not just about overcoming a trial; it’s about being the person God wants us to be so that we can have every promised blessing.
At the beginning of this book, it becomes evident that James has a serious health problem. Right off, I saw this as an important factor in the plot, and a part of me believed he was going to die as soon as they got to Salt Lake City. In the end, I felt strongly that he should live, and it made for a truly happy ending.
In the epilogue, I had the family move to Alpine. I actually wanted them to leave Salt Lake City right away, because I didn’t want them to have to face the challenges that I knew were coming to the Saints there. In the back of my head I’ve pondered the possibility of writing a story where the characters live in Alpine, and to illustrate some of its history. Since it’s become my hometown, I think I would really enjoy that. And the Barringtons, of course, would show up in that story. So far, it’s just a remote possibility. But maybe, one day . . .