It is a long, quiet drive from Utah to New Mexico. The green, lush landscape of Northern Utah transforms into the stark sand beauty of the desert as one travels south. As I made the journey homeward, my thoughts quietly reflected on the events of the three weeks I spent as an extra in "17 Miracles."
It occurred to me that my ancestor lived with the ancestors of many of the other extras from May until October, 1856. For a half of a year, they associated with one another; eating, sleeping, walking, working, cooking, talking, praying, and struggling together. How many of these extras had ancestors that my ancestor knew and loved? Were they watching the movie being made? Perhaps together? Did it please them that their descendents were associating with one another.
I think they were happy that their stories--of God's miracles in their behalf--were finally being told. I think they want us today to know that God was there for them in their most drastic circumstances of life. Hannah Barwell Saunders, and English emigrant of 1860 (4 years after the Willie and Martin Companies crossed the plains) wrote the following about her own feelings:
"I desire to leave a record of those events and scenes through which I have passed that my children...may understand what their ancestors were willing to suffer, and did suffer patiently for the Gospel's sake. and I wish them to know too, that what I now write is the history of hundreds of others, men, women, and children, who passed through like scenes at the same time we did. I also desire them to know that it was in obedience to the commandments of the true and living God, and with the assurance of an eternal reward--an exaltation to eternal life in His kingdom--that we suffered these things."
These pioneers knew why they went through the trials of gathering to Zion. They knew it was to be obedient to the Lord. They knew it was about keeping covenants. They knew it was for us today. We need to also know it, as deeply and strongly as they did.
After I was home, I was asked if I thought it was worth spending three weeks of my time being an extra. For me, it was worth it. I learned a little about filming--the process and the time! I met some great people. I thought as I drove that long road from Price to Moah that perhaps there was a chance that I had had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the descendents of saints that Elizabeth had known and loved too. Certainly, even just being a part of a movie about them, strengthens our amazement about what they did. We were hot and tired, sometimes even unsettled, but nothing compared to them. We had plenty of water and plenty of food. We could run to the restroom and enjoy reprieve from the heat. We could even move to be under a tree or canopy for shade. If we really wanted to, we could just quit, drive in a car to our nice cool homes, take a bath and relax. They had none of that.
Again and again, I heard others on the set, say, "How did they do it?" I ran that question around in my mind so many times during those three weeks myself. And always I would automatically jump to the next question, "How will we do it in the coming years? How will we do what will be required of us in the future?
The answer comes easily...by following their sterling example. This movie is a very timely lesson. The younger generations need to watch it with discernment and understanding for what it means to them today....tomorrow. Like the ancient Israelites and the 1856 handcart pioneers, they will need to remember. May Heavenly Father bless us with the memory of miracles that come to His faithful saints in times of great distress. His miracles that save.
“But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.