The first is the story of Joseph Stanford Smith and his wife, Arabella. This is a story that has been told at least once in General Conference (April 1982, by Elder G. Homer Durham), and more recently by Elder Holland for a regional stake conference broadcast address delivered on September 12, 2010, at Brigham Young University ("Faith to Answer the Call"). The Smiths and their three young children were some of the first members of the church to take part in the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition to San Juan country in Southern Utah. As part of their journey they had to cross the Colorado River gorge. The Mormon explorers found a narrow slit in Glen Canyon, 2000 feet above the river, which they blasted wider with dynamite and then built a primitive, very steep road down to the river. The road was so steep that to get a loaded wagon down it, a dozen or more men and boys would pull on ropes tied to the back of each wagon so that it wouldn't run over the team of horses trying to get it down from the cliffs. Stanford Smith had been helping to get wagons down all day. Finally, only his wagon was left at the top. The rest of the group apparently forgot about him and went on ahead. Here I quote from Elder Holland:
"Deeply disturbed that he and his family seemed abandoned, Stanford moved his team, wagon, and family to the edge of the precipice. The team was placed in front and a third horse was hitched behind the wagon to the rear axle. The Smiths stood for a moment and looked down the treacherous hole. Stanford turned to his wife, Arabella, and said, 'I am afraid we can’t make it.'
She replied, 'But we’ve got to make it.'
He said, 'If we only had a few men to hold the wagon back, we might make it.'
Replied his wife, 'I’ll do the holding back.'
She laid a quilt on the ground, and there she placed her infant son in the care of her three-year-old, Roy, and five-year-old, Ada. 'Hold little brother ’til papa comes for you,' she said. Then positioning herself behind the wagon, Belle Smith grasped the reins of the horse hitched to the back of the rig. Stanford started the team down the hole. The wagon lurched downward. With the first jolt the rear horse fell. Sister Smith raced after him and the wagon, pulling on the lines with all her strength and courage. She soon fell too, and as she was dragged along with the horse, a jagged rock cut a cruel gash in her leg from heel to hip. That gallant woman, with clothes torn and a grievous wound, hung on to those lines with all her might and faith the full length of the incline all the way to the river’s edge.
On reaching the bottom and almost in disbelief at their accomplishment, Stanford immediately raced the 2,000 feet (607 m) back up to the top of the cliff, fearful for the welfare of the children. When he climbed over the rim, there he saw them literally unmoved from their position. Carrying the baby, with the other two children clinging to him and to each other, he led them down the rocky crack to their anxious mother below. In the distance they saw five men moving toward them carrying chains and ropes. Realizing the plight the Smiths were in, these men were coming to help. Stanford called out, 'Forget it, fellows. We managed fine. Belle here is all the help a fellow needs.' (See David E. Miller, Hole-in-the-Rock: An Epic in the Colonization of the Great American West, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1959, pp. 101–18.)
The second story President DeVries told this morning was again related to his recent severe burns. One of his doctors told him to point and flex his feet as many times as he could each day. When President DeVries tried this the first time, he felt a deep stab of pain and started bleeding profusely. He stopped, unsure if the doctor knew what he was talking about. He did not trust him, and could not bring himself to continue the exercises. Soon another doctor came to see him. This doctor is President DeVries' close friend, and one of his counselors in the Stake Presidency. He asked his friend about the exercises. His friend agreed with the first doctor that this was vital for the proper healing of his feet and legs. Because he trusted his friend, President DeVries started to do the exercises and continued them faithfully until they were no longer necessary.
President DeVries tied these two stories into the theme of the conference, "Press Forward Saints." He shared with us the scripture 2 Nephi 31:20
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."
He said that because of his trust in his friend at the hospital, he had the perfect brightness of hope he needed to press forward in the agonizing exercises. Sister Arabella Smith was steadfast, firm in purpose, unwavering in her determination to pull back on that rope so that her husband, the team, and the wagon could make it safely to the bottom of the cliff.
He asked us to think of these stories as we sang the closing hymn, asking the Lord to help us see one small step we can take to press forward now. The step Dan and I took this afternoon was to get out the calendar and schedule together which days we will go to the temple for the last three months of the year. That felt really good.
I want to be like Belle Smith. I want to hang on for dear life to the people and principles that matter most, and I want my family and friends to be able to say that I was the help they needed. I hope I won't forget that story.