Emily Hill, age 20, and her sister, Julia, age 23, were members of the Willie Handcart Company. Faithful to the cause they espoused, the sisters’ deeds were consistent with their beliefs. In traveling through Iowa, Emily and Julia were handed anonymous notes as inducements to stay there and not continue to Utah. They faced many trials but continued on.
When the advance rescue party found the stranded handcart company in October, Emily recognized Joseph A. Young as one of the missionaries she had known in England. Upon seeing her, Joseph burst into tears. Why do you cry, Brother Young? she asked. Oh, because you look so starved, he replied, and the provision wagons are [miles] away. Then, feeling in his pocket, he produced a small onion. Eat this, he said. Emily didn’t eat the onion right then but carried it in her hand. Near the fire lay a man who was near death. Emily sacrificed the onion to this man, and he afterward declared that it had saved his life.
Before leaving England, Emily was given a blessing in which she was told she would “write in prose and in verse and thereby comfort the hearts of thousands.” Today, we sing three verses of a poem she wrote, as the hymn entitled “As Sisters in Zion.” One of the original 10 verses of that poem includes these words:
“We’ll work with a will, while the angels are scanning our aims and our actions from morning till night.”