I was wrong. Right from the start.
I appreciated the experience from the beginning but it was not until nearly the end that I recognized the reasons for its powerful impact. The Pioneer Trek of yesteryear changed lives by replicating parts of the pioneer’s physical trials. The physical hardships brought spiritual experiences. This modern Pioneer Trek changes lives by connecting us to real pioneers via re-enactments and real stories. On the way, it also provides some physical challenges. Both Treks bless participants with a significantly increased appreciation for the pioneers. Both Treks create sacred spaces that give access to spiritual experiences. Both Treks change lives. The Roy West Stake Mosida Pioneer Trek of 2018 changed my life
Lance and I were “Ma” and “Pa” to a group of six teens:
- Braxton: guitar player, father flies helicopters for oil rigs in the Gulf, likes art
- Caitlin: likes art and writing, chatters, without guile
- Corbin: loves his truck, self employed mechanic, hard worker, problem solver
- Ryan: on the swim team, teaches swim lessons, sincere, very helpful
- Georgeann: angelic, hard worker, loves outdoors and being around people
- Maddie: loves soccer, hunts birds, strong, a great friend
The trail was basically flat but it was not easy. It was often sandy, gravely or coated with a fine dust that was up to 3 inches thick. Add 97 degree F heat, no shade and wickedly strong winds and the trail became legitimately heinous at times. (The first day 38 people went the to medical tent and 8 people went home, two of them in ambulances.) It was hot and devilishly dusty. I have never been filthier in my life. We felt for the pioneers who trudged across Iowa’s, Nebraska’s, and eastern Wyoming’s barren plains.
The missionaries who run the Mosida Trek site are inspired experts. We stopped intermittently along the trail to listen as they shared pioneer stories--inspiring stories of miraculous events that elicited awe at the pioneer’s courage and increased appreciation for their sacrifice. They led us in songs before the Women’s Pull, inspired us to obedience at the River Crossing, and motivated us to kick up even more dust in a company-wide square dance after a long day and exhausting day of eating dust on the trail--an act that surely qualifies as miraculous.
First the square dance…. The first day was long and hot. With dinner under our belts, most of us looked forward to nothing more than collapsing on our sleeping bags. We certainly were NOT looking forward to dancing. Yet dance we did. Almost all of us. Many more of us than originally intended on dancing. And all of us who danced had fun. Four square dances. A hundred teens. And a 100% fun ratio. Surely it was a modern day miracle.
Women’s Pull….. Knowing that I am strong, I mostly did not worry about the Women’s Pull. There were no hills and they told us it was only ½ mile. How hard could it be? I was pretty sure I could pull the cart by myself, if I needed to. And I knew I did not need to. The plan was to put 7 females on each cart. Heck, under normal conditions there were no more than 6 to a cart and only 3-4 of those were actually working. I figured it would be easy. And it was physically. I was not prepared for the emotional impact.
Prior to the pull, they separated us from the men. We sat reverently on a hilltop and sang hymns. Beautiful hymns. Spiritual hymns. And, for me, tear eliciting hymns.
As sisters in Zion, we'll all work together;
The blessings of God on our labors we'll seek.
We'll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We'll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.
Yep. That is what we do. As God’s daughters, a.k.a. sisters, we work together. God blesses our labors as we build up His kingdom, comforting the weary and strengthening the weak. Yep, yep, yep.
And we did work together. The trail might have been difficult had there been only 2-3 girls to a cart; the dust was inches deep and the carts were fully loaded. There were 5 of us on our cart and it was not difficult at all….because we were all working together….as we do in “real life”. I am so grateful for my sisters in Zion.
My lessons from Women’s Pull were not limited to my experience. Bree, one of my young Young Women, said excitedly of her Women’s Pull experience, “I got to be in the yoke!”. Her older, stronger Trek siblings had done all the pulling to that point. Women’s Pull gave her a chance to contribute. It was a good experience for her and a good lesson for me.
The River Crossing…. When I first learned about The River Crossing I was more than mildly offended. At The Crossing, the men carry the ladies across a simulated river (a water channel 30 feet long and 36 inches deep), delivering them safe and dry to the other side.. I can walk across the river by myself, thank you very much! Who says I need a man to carry me across? No sir!!
My “No sir” turned into a “Yes, thank you”. Once again the missionaries worked their miracles. Hearts were softened, including mine. After sharing stories about the early pioneer’s Sweetwater River crossing and about the re-enactment of that event by 3 modern “pioneer” young men, we were invited to let the men carry us, to give them the opportunity to perform a physical manifestation of the service they can render as holders of God’s priesthood power. We accepted the invitation--all of us--and they rose to the occasion--all of them.
It was beautiful. Revenant. Respectful. Real. Each lady was carried across by a trio of brethren, two men making a four-handed seat and one acting as a spotter. The men lined up, carried the ladies across, and then returned to the line to carry again. Every woman and girl, regardless of size or girth, was treated as a lady, carried safely across, and set gently on the opposite shore. It was truly beautiful.
Men and boys were invited to take their real-life wives and sisters across. Miles stepped forward to carry Grace. (Grace is taller than he and slightly heavier.) Single-handedly, one arm around her shoulders and one arm under her legs, he brought her across the river. Tender. Very.
The sons in my Trek family--Braxton, Corbin, and Ryan--manipulated so that they were at the head of the line when it came my turn to be carried across. Sweetly and safely, those teenage boys carried my not-insignificant mass to the opposite shore. Tender. And humbling.
Service has two sides. Christ commands us to serve each other. In order to serve, there must be people willing to accept service. Both sides require humility….and both sides offer blessings.
Trek was truly a blessing. Lance and I were blessed with a fabulous Trek family. We were blessed to associate with absolutely wonderful adults, men and women who sacrificed family and vacation time to make the Trek experience possible for the youth. We were blessed to learn about pioneers and experience a titch of what they did. However the most significant blessing, for me, was the courage, determination and strength I saw in my sweet Lance.
Several months prior to Trek, the stake encouraged Trek participants to prepare for the experience by earning a “Trail Award”, The award could be earned by doing three required activities and three optional activities in three separate categories. The Trail Award pamphlet was distributed and largely ignored….but not by our family. Encouraged by chocolate ice cream bribes, my children and spouse agreed to work on the award together every Sunday afternoon. An hour of working on the award earned a large bowl of ice cream. Game on!
We worked on it semi-faithfully through March and April, reading the required scriptures together as a family and recording thoughts and feelings in our journals (and eating ice cream). In May we watched “17 Miracles” together, learned how to make brownies in a dutch oven, and found stories about our ancestors on familysearch.org. Using the ap David found (Thanks David for the detailed instructions!), we also found ancestor names and did temple work for them.
One of the required activities was to log 36 hours of exercise. For Miles (who was on the track team), Grace (who was taking a Fit for Life class so she could graduate), and me (who exercises an hour every other day), this was an easy requirement. Lance’s story was a little different. With less than 2 weeks before Trek he still needed to log 30 hours. Not happening. I was sure he had procrastinated himself out of the award and wrote him off, thinking there was no way he could do it. He assured me that he would do it. And he did.
He spent an entire Saturday walking around the west desert looking for arrowheads: 8 hours. He walked home from his parents house Sunday: four hours. He walked home from my parents house Monday: 4 hours. He walked home from church, home from Bishopric meeting, and home from grocery shopping: 3 more hours. The Monday before the Wednesday that Trek started he completed his 36 hours. Miraculous.
And he walked the entire Trek. Cramming physical preparation is not the best way to prepare for Trek...and he was not in ideal shape at the start. It was not easy for him. In fact, it got to the point that it was down right hard. VERY HARD. His right heel hurt. His left calf hurt. Both hips hurt. His back hurt. He consumed ibuprofen by the fistful. “I hurt so many places,” he said ruefully, “that I don’t know where to limp.” But he kept going. It would have been super easy to tap out--the opportunity was easily available--but he did not. He walked every step, step by painful step.
And that is how we do it, isn’t it? On Trek and in life. Moving forward, step by sometimes very painful step. Finding joy in the journey as we love and serve each other. Making connections with God and His children. Creating and/or recognizing sacred spaces that give us access to spiritual experiences. Carry on!
All photos from https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/faith/following-in-their-footsteps---mosida-handcart-trek-site/article_17f7dd61-c230-55ec-a8b6-81e6904c8939.html