The journey on the whole, though tiresome, was not otherwise unpleasant. He enjoyed the society of his fellow emigrants, and felt that he had been blessed of the Lord beyond his most sanguine hopes; for notwithstanding his feeble condition when starting, he succeeded in walking more than three-fourths of the way across the plains. He had also been cured of the asthma with which he had been so long afflicted - not suddenly, but so gradually that he hardly realized that he was outgrowing it.
He had also been benefitted otherwise by the experience gained on the journey. His views of life had become broadened by travel, and by the evidences of thrift and enterprise which he witnessed on his journey through the states, as well as by the possibilities of development he could foresee in the great and boundless west. He felt like a bird released from a cage after a lengthy confinement therein. He enjoyed his freedom and learned to commune with nature as he never had done before. His knowledge of human nature had also been very materially added to since leaving his native land. There are few conditions under which human nature can be studied to better advantage than while making such a journey over sea and land as that which he had passed through. The crowding together of a large company in the hold of a ship for eight long weeks, with meager accommodations and food generally insufficient and frequently bad, is certain to develop selfishness, [p.27] impatience and irritability where these qualities exist even in latent form. His fellow passengers were actuated by the noblest motives in migrating. They had accepted the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, some of them at the sacrifice of material comforts, and most of them at the cost of friends and prestige. Some of them had been sneered at and persecuted in their native land, and had their former friends and relatives turn to be their bitter enemies, solely because of their accepting and of adhering to such an unpopular creed. They had withstood all that, and, with faith still unshaken, were willing to brave other trials and face the hardships of this long voyage and journey, and the problems incident to life in a new and wild country, to gain religious freedom, and because they regarded it as a divine requirement. But human nature, even though tempered by religious convictions, is apt to assert itself sometimes, and the helpless, dependent condition of Niels placed him in the position of a spectator, with ample opportunity to observe all that passed, and to study human nature during the voyage as he never had done before.
Disputes occasionally arose among the passengers, which sometimes waxed warm and developed into angry quarrels, all of which Niels noticed but never took part in. Possibly because he was always an observer of but never a participant in these affairs, he was several times appealed to as an arbitrator, to decide between the disputants and effect a reconciliation. Without making any pretensions to judicial wisdom, he was, through strict impartiality, and tact in offering reproof without giving offense, and especially by appealing to the religious obligations of the parties to the strife, enable to do effective work as a peacemaker, and to gain respect therefore. He couldn't refrain from indulging in a little [p.28] mental philosophy on such occasions, and making note of the fact that the tongue is a dangerous member if allowed to wag too freely.
Three times during the voyage the ship had taken fire, always at night, as a result of the cook's carelessness, and a general panic among the passengers, if nothing worse, was narrowly averted. Upon the first of these occasions the fire had gained sufficient headway before it was discovered for a rather large hole to be burned through the floor almost directly above where Niels had his bunk, and when the first alarm was sounded Niels looked upward and saw the fire and noticed the presence of smoke in the hold. He was able to "keep his head" and helped in some measure in quelling the excitement of his fellows, many of whom became almost frantic when they learned that the ship was on fire, and that the hatches were fastened down, so that the passengers were shut up in the hold like rats in a trap.
It occurred to Niels that the hatches had been closed by order of the ship's officers to prevent a panic. He saw the futility of rebelling against the measure, and counseled calmness and patience; and was so calm and self-possessed himself that some of the more excited ones listened to him, made a strong effort to control themselves, and seemed ashamed at having been overcome by alarm.
The overland journey on the cars and the eight weeks' trip by ox train in crossing the plains were not less fruitful in opportunities to study character under trying conditions, and for the personal display of those amenities that distinguish gentility from boorishness and Christian charity from heartless selfishness. . . . [p.29]
BIB: Lambert, George C. Comp., Treasures in Heaven (Salt Lake City: privately published, 1914) pp. 27-29. (CHL)