If the suffering the Saints endured on the plains of Iowa is measured strictly in terms of deaths, it would appear the Saints suffered little. While many deaths were recorded at Winter Quarters and beyond, the journals of the first group to cross Iowa list only nine deaths, five of which were children’s. Even if some died unrecorded, it is unlikely that many more than nine people died in the first group.
Regardless of the small number of deaths, however, the exiles endured great suffering. They were forced to leave their homes with less than two weeks of provisions and flee into the middle of a winter which froze the mile-wide Mississippi River. Immediately, several accidents occurred because of the poor preparation and the inclement weather. In addition to the accidents, the freezing rain and snow increased the spread of disease while it impeded recovery. Furthermore, the patched tents and wagon covers afforded little comfort to those who were ill. Mothers even gave birth under these adverse conditions. Yet in spite of their tremendous afflictions, the Saints generally remained objective and even retained a cautious optimism. Though they suffered, they lived; hence they had reason to thank their Creator and Sustainer of Life.