Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Thoughts from the Trek
My favorite part of the trek was preparing for it. I loved attending all the trek firesides and learning more about the pioneers. From all the stories, the thing that impressed me most was that the pioneers were real people that had the same feelings as we do today. They may have spoken and dressed differently but they still feared others’ opinions of them, they still placed a high value on their worldly possessions and comforts, yet they were willing to face persecution, poverty and even death in order to follow the Savior, Jesus Christ.
In preparing for the trek a story in The Book of Mormon stood out to me. In an attempt to call the people of Zarahemla to repentance, the prophet Alma asks “. . . you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?” (Alma 5:6) The same can be asked of us about the pioneers. We are asked to remember their sacrifices so as to keep us humble and encourage us to repent and come unto to Christ.
Alma 5:7 “Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.
8 “And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay they were not.
9 “And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.”
The Lord did great things for our pioneer ancestors and continues to do great things for us.
While on the trek, we hiked to the entrance of Martin’s Cove where we left our handcarts and ate a snack before trekking in. While we ate, trek organizers passed out envelopes to each family containing name tags with names of real pioneers along with their story. We wore the names as we went through the cove. After returning we ate lunch, then loaded up our handcarts and moved on to our next destination, the Sweet Water River Crossing Monument. As we were walking, I turned around to find that Mark and Ivy were gone. I couldn’t see them anywhere. Another woman with my handcart explained that one of the organizers had taken Mark and Ivy because the pioneers they represented had died on their journey to Zion. I was heartbroken! They were taken without warning, and although I knew they were not really gone, I missed them and my heart ached for those pioneers who lost their loved ones – often without warning – to that terrible thing called death. A friend of mine also lost her husband and was left to carry their daughter alone. We sat next to each other during the devotional and cried as we felt each other’s pain, for we knew we had experienced the tiniest taste of what the pioneers experienced. After the devotional we pressed on, but as I looked back in the distance I could see all of those who had been taken, following along behind the last handcart and I imagined the spirits of those deceased pioneers silently walking alongside as their families pressed on, anxious for their welfare and supporting them in their trials.
We were soon reunited with our lost family members as we prepared to cross the Sweet Water River. But later the men were once again taken from us, this time to the U.S. Military to serve in the Mormon Battalion. As I explained to Millie that her father had been called to war, my heart went out, not only to the pioneers, but to all those families who are parted from a loved one to military service – never knowing the outcome of their absence. A trial I hope I will never really have to face.
So with Ivy on my back and Millie crying in the handcart for me to hold her, I helped push our cart up the amazingly steep and sandy hill known as the women’s pull. We were the last cart and observed that speed was our friend in keeping the cart moving forward. We raced up the hill, but slowed quickly as our feet and carts sunk in the sand. To our amazement the women from the first handcarts, knowing our plight from experience, dropped their own carts and in the true spirit of the Relief Society, ran down the hill to help ease our burden, pushing until our cart finally reached the top. The men watched silently in appreciation of the women in their lives – some crying or holding back tears. Emotions were high from the intensity of the experience, and I too wanted to cry. Mark put Ivy on his own back once more and stroked my arm and back as we listened to the medley of “As Sisters In Zion / We Are As the Armies of Helaman” play. I felt as though he had gained a new appreciation for me, and I had gained a new appreciation for the women of my ward. We must learn from the experiences of others and helped those who come after us. And even when we feel all alone, the Savior is always there to help us.
I’m so thankful for the opportunity this experience gave me to gain these insights. The pioneers are not so different from us. We are all brothers and sisters and children of God. We all have our challenges – we aren’t asked to give up everything like the early saints, we’re only asked to hold true to our baptismal and temple covenants and endure to the end and I know that if we do this we will be blessed with Eternal Life. Remembering the pioneers will help us do that. This is my testimony.