You may be thinking that no normal teenager would do this willingly. You also couldn't be more wrong.
"Every summer, many Mormon youth between the ages of 12 and 18 walk the journey Mormon pioneers took over 150 years ago.
In 1997, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints re-created the pioneer journey from near Omaha, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Since then, Mormon youth around the United States have increasingly taken part in pioneer treks — a simulated journey of the early Church pioneers, including some of the experiences and trials the pioneers may have faced.
Mormon pioneers began leaving Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1846 to escape persecution. About 70,000 pioneers made the trek in covered wagons or on horseback to the Salt Lake Valley. Another 3,000 came by handcart.
Local Church leaders have encouraged youth to participate in the pioneer trek so they could understand the sacrifice early members of the Church made, as well as provide positive examples of courage and faith."
A Trek Family
Adults as Ma, Pa, Big Brother, Big Sister, and the youth as the children.
in 1846, the United States Government asked the Mormons for 500-1,000 men to enlist for service in the Mexican-American War. These men had to leave their families as they were journeying across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. President Brigham Young prophesied that "not a single battalion member would be lost to hostile action." This prophesy was fulfilled and not even one shot was fired by a battalion member except at a herd of rampaging bulls. The women's pull gives these girls a small glimpse at the hardships the pioneer women and families faced as their husbands and fathers were called off to war. It is also very difficult for the boys and men to stand aside and watch their new sisters and Ma pull the handcart alone up such a difficult hill. They felt a little of the heartache that those husbands and fathers felt as they walked away knowing the struggles their families would go through without them.
Many pioneers faced extreme physical difficulties as they crossed the plains. Especially hunger. The kids on this trek were only given water and an orange until they finished the first leg of their trek. When they finished that day, they were given broth and a roll. I had a really hard time with this at first. Ryan and Sean were not deprived of food at any time on their treks. This stake has always done it this way, and I realized that I needed to have more faith that Troy would be ok. Kent and I decided that we would fast on the first day of the trek too. We both serve with the youth at church, so it seemed like a good way to show them our love and faith that they could get through this difficult first day by being hungry right along with them.
A funny story about no food on this first day of the trek came out when we went to The Cheesecake Factory the Saturday night Troy got home. We saw many church members there who had been on the trek and we were all there to celebrate Father's Day that next day. As we were talking to another Ma and Pa from the trek, they said, "Troy, wasn't that broth just terrible?" Troy answered, "No way! It was the best thing I've ever eaten in my whole life!" Clearly, those that planned this trek understood something that I needed to be reminded of: Only when we sacrifice, do we truly learn to appreciate what we have. What a great lesson for my 16 year old son to learn!
Anyway, Troy is also pretty private about his feelings and tried to hold it in. As the day progressed, he felt he might give up, but he decided to pray for help from Heavenly Father. He remembered a talk given in church a couple of weeks before that referenced this talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Grateful in Any Circumstances" and the woman speaking gave some suggestions on how to have a positive attitude when things in life are hard. One of those suggestions was to smile. Troy decided to try that and to think about all the things he was thankful for and he felt himself become happier and more able to handle the hunger and difficulties he was facing that day.
Incidentally, a couple of the adults on the trek told us that they had observed Troy closely and that he never once complained, he worked extremely hard never taking a break from pulling or pushing the cart, and had a wonderfully positive attitude during the entire trek. We are so grateful for Troy's willingness to turn to his Father in Heaven when he was having a hard time and eternally grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who hears our prayers and strengthens us when we need Him.
Family Bonding and Object Lessons
Some time was spent as families discussing gospel principles and using activities to reinforce those principles. Troy really enjoyed these activities and said that they were very fun.
They were required to wash each other's hair. Troy said this was actually a fun thing to do. Below is Mandy Collins, Troy's "trek sister." Troy washed her hair and then she washed his. He's the rear end on the left! Ha! I asked Mandy about the hair washing and she said, "Troy did a great job washing my hair! I was surprised because I didn't think a boy could wash my hair that good!"
The Latter-day Saints had planned to leave Nauvoo, Illinois and head west in the spring of 1846. Unfortunately, mobs were attacking and threatening them and so the leaders of the church felt it was imperative for them to embark early, in February of 1846. The mobs became more and more brazen and destructive in the following months and the violence culminated when the Nauvoo temple was set on fire by an arson.
This frightening time was re-enacted on the trek, so the youth could better understand the faith and courage of these pioneers.
If you are an animal rights activist, you may want to skip this next part!
They brought real live chickens for the youth to butcher, pluck, and cook for dinner.
This hymn was written as they crossed the plains. It is a very special song to members of the church and conveys the amazing faith and commitment these pioneers had to their God and their religion.