Peder and Helena Mortensen had eight children ages 28-6; Morten (28), Kirstine (24), Anders (22), Hans (19), Lars (13), Mette (11), Mary (9), Caroline (6). As soon as Peder and Helena heard the gospel they accepted it quickly. The Mortensen family decided to sell their home and farm in Denmark and gather with the Saints in Utah. Leaving their home was the first of many sacrifices the Mortensen’s would make. Their oldest son, Morten, was asked to remain and preach the gospel. Lars recalled “We had forsaken friends, relatives, and now were asked for the eldest son to be left and separated from us, perhaps never again to be together in this life.” was part of the Willie handcart company.
The thought of being separated was difficult for this closely bonded family, but an even greater worry was that they would need Morten for the long journey ahead. “Our family was not in a very good condition for such a journey,” Lars said. Peder had been crippled by an accident in his youth and suffered from rheumatism. The oldest daughter, Kirstine, had a bad knee. The two youngest children were nine and six.
Peder was promised by those in authority if he would come with the handcart company and help others to come, that not one of the family should be lost. The mission president told them, “if you will consent to his staying and filling a mission, I promise you in the name of the Lord that you shall, everyone, reach the land of Zion in safety and that God will protect you on land and on sea.”
The hunger also took a toll on the family members. Mette said “As we neared the mountain, suffering became intense, especially from hunger and cold.” Mette’s younger sister Mary begged her mother to give her all the food she could eat just once and she said she would never cry again. This was what Mette described as the darkest hour for their family, one day Hans pulled the handcart off the trail and lay down beside it, telling his mother he couldn’t go another step. “We children stood by crying, thinking of the terrors in store for us,” Mette said. Helena found a little brandy she kept for medicine and mixed it with water, with a crust of dry bread and gave it to Hans. “Be brave, my boy,” she said. “We must go on.” By the time they got going again, the other handcarts were far ahead. The Mortensens didn’t reach camp until after dark, but Mette was happy the crisis had passed. “Oh! How thankful we were,” she said.