1489: September 12th, 1856 -The Worst Regional Conference Ever – John Larsen

On September 12 Franklin Richards, a member of the 12 and his travel companions caught up with the Willie handcart company. They held a conference in which they insulted and ridiculed the company for their lack of faith. The GAs then said they wanted fresh meat. They made the company slaughter their “fattest calf” which they did and the GAs took the meat with them.

A member of the 12 literally took provisions from the Willie handcart company.

In the podcast we will give the basic background of the handcart trek, how the Lord’s anointed were absolutely trash, and then discuss how the worst failure of Mormon History is celebrated widely every year.


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  1. Thank you John Larsen and Mormon Stories for this important episode. My ancestors from Birmingham , Eng. were in the Ellsworth handcart company 9/26/1856. European and Scandinavian members after WW2 were encouraged by the missionaries to come to Zion (SLC) and were told the church would help them. The truth was, after they arrived in SLC, they were taken advantage of by LDS employers and landlords. My mother and her family were some of those post war immigrants.

  2. I have a Larsen relative with a very similar story to John’s of being sent over as a small child only for the mother to come and have to track down the children later. Perhaps John is my long-lost cousin?

  3. Great to hear John Larsen again. Listened to all of his Mormon Expression podcasts and now pleased he´s teamed up with Mr. Dehlin. Love all you are doing for our community. Sadly, I live alone in the mountains in Spain, so can´t join in, but you make me feel so much less alone. xxx Many thanks to you all.

  4. Brigham Young had them whipped to Utah because he needed more SLAVES.

    Brigham Young was not a prophet. He was a ROBBER BARON. He was a God-Father. He was a War-Lord.

  5. Learning about the handcart companies broke my shelf. Even from whitewashed, faithful sources, it was clear that following the brethren had led directly to shattered families, unspeakable pain and needless death. When I finally admitted that, I recognized that following the brethren had also led to much pain and very little joy in my family.

  6. Wow, its amazing how the church paints the Handcart companies in such a whitewashed way, and yet we hear the other side of the story.

    Never was taught any of this. My wife came from people on the Willey handcard company and we knew it was brutal – we just didn’t know the brutality was not just caused by the weather…

    Good podcast. Wish I had known this 45 years ago.

  7. Currently listening to this episode, but had to pause to comment. Mr. Larsen, I appreciate your passion! Please keep yelling! Our Oakey ancestors, who crossed the plains with Willie & Martin companies, need voices like yours to bring about the truth toward their suffering and sacrifice.

    Thank you.

  8. All of the things discussed here have haunted me since first going on the trek., as it was called in 2008 . We were each assigned names to research we were then put on busses and we traveled 10 hours into Wyoming our tents were blown flat to the ground we experienced many things including snakes and blisters and the outrageous treatment of many of our youth because they snuck onto the buses electronics or they acted like teenagers. As we were introduced to the historical character of ephriam hanks my 44 year old tbm soul began to whither, that experience did more to undo my unshakable faith than anything I had ever experienced before or since. It was in fact a spiritual awakening for me . A self proclaimed unshakable 5 th generation high priest on my way to the celestial kingdom with my family in tow . MARTIN’s cove is still one of the holiest places I’ve ever been. There is in fact a stillness. A serenity there that is indescribable. I later looked for that feeling when I attended the temple in salt lake it was there that I realized our plight is nearly as desperate as we wait for leadership to trek out to our modern day members, floundering in this world John and John so well described at he end of this podcast. I encourage everyone who reads this to take some time and do the research, and then visit that place . I’ve drifted many light years from the church in the ensuing years I’ve kept my wife and my children who are all grown now .my work has taken me past there several times in the past two years . My heart goes out to those who dared to believe enough to leave everything to go to the hell that would have been the salt lake valley way into the 1890s . Ephriam hanks was in fact one cool mountain man . And his pact with God to never take the life of a laminte , makes him my favorite lds character of his time . Maybe 150 years from now you 2 johns will be seen in a similar light ! Thanks . We need to remember there is a god out there and this life experience wasn’t meant to be a walk in the park it was and is an October walk in the middle of Wyoming.

  9. I really enjoy that JL simply recites facts about the church that expose it as intellectually bankrupt. I haven’t listed to Mormon Stories for a long time as I grew to find the “stories” to be rather emotional, it seems, to show that the church is cruel and awful (which, of course, it is). I have tremendous compassion for individuals brutalized by the church and hope they find benefits and support in the podcast.

    In my opinion, the best way to reveal the warts of the church, its leaders, its policies, and convince listeners is to detail the facts of its history and current status as JL does and how JD used to do years ago. The reality of the facts of what the church was and is compellingly exposes it as cruel and awful. Thank you for this approach. I rather prefer the factual review of the information and the church. Respectfully, hearing personal accounts of emotional struggles with the church and its history is less useful for me.

  10. One of fifteen – what power, what influence. If just one of those 15 men would find the morality to talk reality in the weekly Thursday meeting the influence for good could be immense. What Holland really meant, is I’m one of fifteen cowards. Not one of them have the courage to stand for good – so he is correct one coward has no ability to make change happen.

  11. I am deeply disturbed by all of the Holocaust comments. While I recognize the torture and suffering these pioneers were subjected to is horrifying, it absolutely pales in comparison to orchestrated mass murder of 6 million Jews.

    We need to stop comparing things that aren’t genocide to the Holocaust. I’d recommend reading this article to brush up on why careless Holocaust comparisons are offensive.


  12. Great episode!! Loved new historical facts that have been buried.

    Now Willard Richards makes more since. That turkey created the pearl of great price and now i see how the lies and hippocrasy blends. I will learn more about willard richards…he was not a saint.

    Another example of great memebers serving and the church doing NOTHING is the bountiful childrens foundation. They are allowing children within their own church to starve and be malnurished. When debated within the Q15 if church should assist or adopt the program they stated ” we do not want.the members to become dwpendent on the program, and the memebrs should be self sustaining” what ???????

    Self sustaining, a 2 year old mal nourished child?

    They want the money and claim to build up the kingdom and serve thw poor. The very poor children are throughtout their membership and their cries go ignored. Thw Q15 has blood in their hands and are shameless in tbeir deceipt.

    So other members are donating their own money and time….nof the church. The church only donates use of the chapel for distribution of food supolements and educational classess. The church provides NO financial funds. But watch tbey wilk take credit for this program eventually.

  13. I didn’t think this episode would affect me as significantly as it did. I was shaking by the end at the pain of my ancestors. When I went looking for more information I found this article by Will Bagley that has even more interesting information about a steam engine Brigham Young was having brought across the plains at the same time. According to the article, Young diverted resources that could have been used to save these poor souls to get his beloved engine across the plains instead. It’s an interesting and heartbreaking read:


  14. Thanks John L., John D. and Cara, the hand cart journeys are one part of Mormon history that needs to be told in a more balanced and honest way. The history produced by the church is very cherry picked, sanitized and written with the intent to prop up the “one true church” naritive. Any history that deviates from that by giving a more accurate and full account including it’s failings, atrocities and the stories of its victoms is shunned by the leaders and members. I would love to hear more podcasts that cover the stories of the victoms of Mormonism. People like Henry Bailey Jacobs, Mary Burton (Shrewsbury), Thomas Lewis who was casterated by a Bishop Warren Snow, all the women who were lied to and forced into polygamy and the many people that were murdered for one reason or another.

  15. Timothy F. Sharp

    Thanks to both Johns for bringing us this episode. I listened to it when it first came out, and I am coming back to comment because I found it so compelling that I could not stop thinking about it. So I ordered the book Devils Gate, by David Roberts that Mr. Larsen uses as his primary source. I am reading it now.
    I also wanted to call to everyone’s attention that Mr. Roberts passed away in August of this year. He was a talented writer, a fine historian, and a remarkable mountaineer.
    His obituary is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/25/sports/david-roberts-dead.html
    Thanks Again.

  16. Great episode, I appreciate the time and effort, and the stories shared. I may have gotten the time line mixed up so bear with me, but John mentioned there was no way the handcarts could make it in 60 days, then goes on to tell the story of Richards catching up to the party and taking their fatted calf. He mentioned that when Richards caught up to the party they were four weeks ( 30 days) and 600 miles into the journey. Doesn’t that put them halfway there in 30 days?

  17. I also cried listening to this and shared it with several family members. I am the 6th generation of Milo Andrus, a devout polygamist, Mormon and wagon train captain. It is indeed true that Mormon leadership have always lived in luxury while the majority starve and struggle just like today. It is obscene the church hoards money when so many struggle. I believe with the ease of research and ability to learn, understand and access the truth will bring the church to chaos, and I adore Mr. Larsen who seems to care more for the truth than most tithe paying mormons do.

  18. That first “Italian” handcart company with French names were probably the Waldensian Saints (ethnically French but usually Italian speaking). I have ancestors from the first group to come over (Bertoch). Only three children survived the journey, and they were sent to live in a dugout alone on Antelope Island. Good times.

  19. One of my favorite sacrament meetings talks was one from a man who had moved his family to Utah from Missouri in 1985. It was hard. He then read excerpts from his journal and compared it to journals from saints in the handcart companies. It was heartbreaking. Some in the congregation spoke angrily against him for trying to make the church look bad. Facts and reality don’t matter in this church. Information from actual saints on the plains were brushed aside in favor of the lovely faith promoting lies of the church. So devastating to know I bought into that.

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