Here in Utah we celebrate Pioneer Day on July 24th, commemorating the pioneers coming into the Salt Lake Valley and settling here in 1847 (I bet other states have similar celebrations- I would love to hear about them in the comments below). There is a lot to be learned from the pioneers. We can find strength from their stories of faith, endurance, sacrifice, and obedience. Because of this, our stake does trek every 4-5 years.
If you haven’t heard of Pioneer Trek, it’s where groups reenact the pioneers trekking to Utah from Nauvoo. We dress in pioneer clothing, pull handcarts and experience just a tiny part of what they went through, crossing the plains. Many difficulties were faced on the trail which promoted faith and perseverance.
This past June I had the opportunity to go on our stake trek with my husband and two oldest children. When my husband asked me, last summer, to join him on trek this year I was not thrilled. I don’t care for camping and my life is busy enough without giving a week of it to something like camping. Plus I knew I would have to find someone to take my 3 youngest (I know others are as busy as I am, and hate asking them to take my kids for days), and then there’s the PREPARATION… But because I love my husband, when he asks, I do. So I planned to go.
For many months of preparations I had a bad attitude, I acted like this was such a burden; to go to meetings, to buy items needed, to prepare physically and spiritually. It took me till the Sunday before trek (Father’s Day) to change my attitude. I decided that I would do my best to be positive and have fun, and try to make it fun for those around me.
That night around midnight, Derrel (my husband) started feeling yucky, and ended up spending the night in the bathroom. Monday, the day before trek, he was still so so sick. I have never seen him so sick in all our 20 years of marriage. I thought for sure we wouldn’t be going on trek. And I have to admit, I was a little bummed. I had found all the positive things about it and talked myself into how great it was going to be.
That morning our good friend and home teacher came over and he and Harrison (my oldest son) gave him a blessing. Afterward, when he was still in need of the bathroom’s constant companionship, I called the doctor and made an appointment. The doctor said he had Gastroenteritis and that he should NOT go on trek, as he was already dehydrated and he would “be trekking with an IV bag, if really he wanted to go.” The doctor sent him home with anti nausea pills which worked well. Derrel was able to keep fluids down again and slowly moved from the bathroom floor to the bed by that night. By late afternoon, my 12 year old, Tucker, started having the same symptoms and at that point I figured we wouldn’t be going, at least the first day.
So, I talked myself out of trek, sad that I wouldn’t be experiencing it with my two oldest. But I thought of all the things I would be getting done while home. I concentrated on getting Emma and Harrison ready instead and didn’t pack anything for Derrel and I.
The next day, 1st day of trek, Derrel and Tucker both woke up fine, completely fine. So now it was on again, Derrel would just have to work on rehydrating all day. But we hadn’t packed and we had to be to the church early because both of us were speaking at the trek send off. Plus my husband had to finish up a few things for work that didn’t get done the day he was sick. There was no way we could ride up with the kids on the buses… Again, good friend/home teacher to the rescue (what would we do without the Bucios). Bro. Bucio and his wife were on the food committee and they were driving their own vehicle up with a few other food committee members, and had space for us. They offered to wait for us and drive up a little later, giving us time to pack and finish work, just what we needed.
Lo and behold, my 8 year old, Will, came to me and said his tummy hurt. Throwing hands in the air now, I wondered, ‘what am I to do. I’ll just have to stay home and send my husband off.’ I felt like I couldn’t leave a child with flu like symptoms with my sister- in-law for a couple of days then on to my sister (with a newborn) for a couple more days. ‘Could his tummy ache just be that he is hungry, anxious that we are leaving, excited to be with cousins?’ We needed to go speak and I figured I would see how he was doing when we got back.
As I sat on the stand, ready to speak, I was still iffy about wether I would go or not and felt the need to give my sister-in-law something. The thought came to me, HAVE FAITH. GO TO TREK. So, I texted her that we would be going and to plan to have the boys. We gave our talks and saw the kids off on the buses. Then rushed home to pack.
The 6 hour drive wasn’t so bad, other than the speeding ticket in Rawlins, WY (come to find out, 3 other cars in our group got a ticket from the same officer-rose tattoo on his forearm). Not even 2 minutes after we got there to Martin’s Cove, and I climbed out of the car, a sweet sister (who I’d never met before) came and hugged me tight, thanking me for saying kind words to her daughter a few weeks before, at Seminary Graduation. I felt such love and gratitude for being there already.
My husband and I were not Ma and Pa, but went up as stake leaders- wanderers. We had no responsabilities but to support and love the trail boss, Ma’s and Pa’s, Food committe and the youth. My husband did have to speak a number of times, but I was just there to enjoy. I watched as kids struggled and grew through those struggles. I saw support and love for each other throughout the families. I made new acquaintances and built relationships as well. And we experienced some neat things that can only be done there, at Martins Cove.
A story was told of a woman who took each of her children across the ice cold river on her shoulders so that they wouldn’t have to suffer the wet/cold. I thought of my own 5 children. As much as I hate the cold, I would do the same for them, and maybe in a way I am. I have always been a stay at home mom, taking care of my children. Sacrificing wordly successes to be home with them. Sometimes barely “keeping my head above water” to give them what they need. Trying to give them a place of refuge from the world. Teaching them to be good people and become converted to the gospel. I am most definitely NOT perfect in any of these things and hearing this story by the side of the Sweet Water River (that was over 7′ deep and unable for us to cross), I resolved to be better, to do even more to save my children from “cold”, or evils of the world.
There’s story of the young men who helped carry many people across the river and later lost their lives from complications of doing so. We too can save people by example and service.
Before entering the cove, my husband spoke about seeking refuge from the storms of life and of how this cove was created for the shelter of God’s people. “The pioneers had many reasons to give up, people were dying all around them. If you are sad because kids are mean. If you feel think life isn’t worth living because you don’t fit in. If you struggle with depression, PTSD, anxiety or mental illness. If you struggle with health problems. If you are struggling with sin and the mistakes you’ve made. Whatever your ‘hand cart trial’, when the storm rages and rations of food short, when the trial seems long, don’t give up. Help is on the way, ‘there are more with us than with them’ (2 kings 6:15-17), rescue will come. Trust Heavenly Father that he has prepared a way.” We walked silently through the cove. I imagined the pioneers seeking shelter from the wind. I know that it was only through God’s power that anyone survived the cold and starvation that the pioneers suffered there.
The women’s pull is always a neat experience. Many of the youth knew it was coming and were a little afraid of the difficulty. The men were taken and women left to pull the carts alone. The stake YW president talked to the girls about the men in their lives. We need to love and respect them. We need to help them honor their priesthood and help each other along the path of life. I think each girl had a different experience throught this. One girl who had been sick most of trek and was pulled in a rickshaw, decided that she wanted to be a part of the women’s pull and help pull the cart. Afterward she was awazed and so excited that she did it. I think she learned that she can do hard things, even when she thinks she has nothing left.
At the end of trek, the sweet missionaries (who we came to love dearly) showed us a video called REMEMBER. It had pictures of people trekking like us, in the summer time, then it had pictures of those same places on the trail in the winter time, packed with snow. Showing us how it might have looked when the Martin Handcart company came through. It had pictures that people had painted of the pioneer stories of that time. Struggling to get through the snow. Suffering cold that would later cause them to lose limbs and sometimes their lives, as they pushed on to get to Utah. My thoughts were, ‘look at what they sacrificed, what they were WILLING to sacrifice to get to Zion and be with God’s people. What are you willing to sacrifice to be closer to God? Time? (for quality scripture study, children/family, more sincere prayers, or for service) TV shows? Comforts of today?’ A lot to think about and take home with me.
Many people would say that the Martin Handcart Company were foolish for leaving late in the season. That they could have saved lives if they had only waited. They criticized the leaders of the church. But the people who survived would testify that they were grateful for the experience: “Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
“‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’” He continues: “‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’” (Relief Society Magazine,Jan. 1948, p. 8.)
When we got home, we found our boys had had a blast with their cousins and aunts… And Will never got sick.
This was my 3rd trek and every time I go, I learn something new. Much like reading the scriptures- each time we read them, something different is learned as we are experiencing various things in our lives. I learned that miracles happen through faith, that I can do hard things, and that I need to sacrifice more for the BEST things.
I encourage you to find a pioneer story and read it in the next few days. Find strength from these people. How will you endure the trials of life?… Through faith? Obedience? Sacrifice? or even just Enduring? Keep on pressing forward and may God be with you always.
SEE THE HAPPY!!