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Youth Trek: What Can Make It Useful?

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 11, 2014

A friend whose new calling has her deep in preparation for her stake’s Youth Trek this summer asked for my thoughts on a couple of Trek-related issues. With the arrogance of someone who has never been on Trek, and who can count on two fingers the number of teenagers she sees more than twice a year, I hoped these thoughts might be of interest to Keepa readers – or, more importantly, might draw some of your thoughts that would be helpful to my friend.

I am a convert. I do think our ancestor stories are very important, but the stories they will be hearing are not everyone’s story.

Even as someone with Mormon pioneer ancestry, I sympathize with this point. I resent all the attention given to two handcart companies, who were a small fraction of the ten handcart companies, who were a tiny minority of the hundreds of overland companies. My family came with a wagon company – what do I have to do with the particularities of the handcart experience? It doesn’t take much imagination to magnify my frustration to what might be felt by someone whose Mormon heritage consists of what she is passing on to her children, not what she inherited from her ancestors.

Looked at another way, though, you have more in common with the handcart pioneers than I do. Except, perhaps, for the youngest children, they were all converts. Except for the few returning missionaries among them, they had never known the Pentecost of the Kirtland Temple, never lived in Nauvoo, never heard Joseph Smith preach. The expectation that the Church would someday “return to Jackson County” must have felt a little strange – how do you “go back” to a place you’ve never been? What in heaven’s name were they doing out there on the plains of Wyoming?? Maybe you have more personal insight into that than many people who do have pioneer ancestor stories.

My favorite Keepa posts are the stories I uncover about those who are not the stereotypical Latter-day Saints. I’ve written about a Japanese woman, a Turkish man, various Germans, Norwegians, Argentinians, Tahitians, and Armenians. I don’t have personal ties to any of those places – no ancestral ties, no mission experience, not even a tourist stamp on a passport. But I claim a tie to them that is more than genealogical, because something in their experience as Mormons is something I recognize, something I take pride in, something that I share with them. They’re my people. I’m part of them. I don’t have any handcart DNA, but they’re my people, too.

I wonder if, rather than concentrating on ancestral ties, or lack of them, looking for what you (and the first- or second-generation members among the youth in your stake) have in common with them as Latter-day Saints isn’t much more important in the long run. We sing some of their songs. We pray using many of the terms they used. We carry the same Bible and Book of Mormon. We have the same hope in Christ and the same expectation for a future life. Why were they out there on the desert in the first place? What would make you leave your home, and draw you to an alien place you could reach only after great hardship? It’s that that’s the point of Trek, isn’t it, rather than any genetic descent from those people?

I imagine the pioneers thinking “why in the heck are you doing this? We did this so you don’t have to.” It feels like the stake wants the youth to have this “spiritual experience.”

I’ve never been on Trek, but every description I’ve ever heard seems to focus on what I think is exactly the wrong thing: the physical hardships of the pioneers (the stuff they did so we don’t have to!) We shouldn’t pretend that the minor (and almost certainly safe) blisters and muscle aches experienced by the youth on a weekend trek – where medical safety nets are in place, where they can count on supper tonight and breakfast tomorrow, and all the clean water they need trucked in and handed to them – gives them any understanding of what pioneers faced. Even if it did, that’s the wrong thing to emphasize – we don’t honor and love the pioneers because they endured physical difficulties; we celebrate them because they obeyed the prophetic call to gather, and they didn’t abandon their faith, either in God or in his human servants, when gathering turned deadly.

What bothers me the most about what I have heard about Trek – and which may certainly not be true of every trek – is that some youth leaders try to manipulate teens into having a “spiritual experience” by creating artificially emotional situations – the “death” of a baby doll, the historically inaccurate calling of men into the Mormon Battalion resulting in the traditional “women’s pull.” Even if they’re successful in getting the kids to feel something akin to empathy, it’s an artificial imitation of spirituality. If that’s what teens are taught to recognize as a “spiritual experience,” how are they ever going to recognize the quiet resonance in a fast and testimony meeting, or the still small voice that speaks comfort or brings a scripture to memory at just the needed moment? Unless I’m entirely wrong about what happens during Trek, I think this is more harmful than any good that could come from a jolly old weekend hike in costume.

But I don’t think it needs to be that way, if leaders don’t go for the cheap and artificial.

What if simply getting kids unhooked from electronics for a couple of days, having them do something real (the feeling of shoes on the ground, the smell of sagebrush, the sound of wind on the prairie, the sight of the Milky Way that some of them have probably never seen) clears the way to a real spiritual experience? What if in preparation for Trek leaders didn’t talk about the physical hardship to be overcome so much as about why the pioneers were willing to undergo those hardships?

What if the stake adopted as a theme something like a line from the dorky song in praise of the “Blessed, Honored Pioneer” – “every day some burden lifted, every day some heart to cheer, every day some hope the brighter” – and made it a part of Trek to do that every day? Made it a part of the evening routine to go around the circle and have everyone identify one thing that someone else did to “cheer their heart” that day, or that they saw someone doing to “lift some burden” for someone else? Or anything else you could think of to have the kids practice charity, identify gratitude, recognize some point that really is tied to spirituality more than to physical pain?

I think if leaders don’t try to force a spiritual experience by manipulating emotions, and if they create opportunities for trekkers to live some small part of the gospel that actually helps develop Christ-like attributes, the kids just might have a genuine spiritual experience. If they do, it will be the kind they can replicate over and over when they’re at home and out of the romantic world of Trek. If costumes and flour-sack “babies” and temporary family assignments help to draw the kids more deeply into the game, even though it’s an imitative game, then those props are probably worth it – as long as the game is built around some deliberate opportunities for service or thoughtful consideration of heritage — whether genetic or spiritual heritage.

But that puts a real burden on leaders not to take the easy way of focusing only on the physical trappings, and of planning for opportunities for spiritual growth as carefully as they would if they were working on a Sunday lesson. Otherwise, it’s probably too easy to get completely wrapped up in the surface fantasy and completely miss any deeper, more difficult-to-create heartfelt experience.

Is this just a tradition? or is there a sound reason for doing these expensive things?

We certainly never did anything like this – in scope, in expense, in anticipation – when I was in MIA. My ward did take expensive beach trips and ski weekends that I could never afford to participate in. I never understood the reason for those trips beyond fun. But I think that Trek – as historically inaccurate as it is, as non-essential as it is, as much as it probably is about your stake’s desire to “keep up with the South Jordans/Bountifuls/Mill Creeks” – could be more than mere fun, if leaders identified and emphasized true spirituality and didn’t stress the wrong lesson (“oh-our-ancestors-were-so-wonderful-because-they-suffered-so-much!”)

—oooOooo—

Readers, what do you think would make a stake youth trek a worthwhile experience? I know some of you despise Trek for one reason or another – many reasons being legitimate – but it would be most helpful if rather than simply listing its flaws, you made practical suggestions on how the experience could be improved. (But as always, regular Keepa contributors have much broader latitude for negative responses than newcomers who stop by only to complain.)



22 Comments »

  1. Around here they get to go on the actual Oregon Trail, which is kind of cool. I’ve also never been on a trek, but I have had a couple of kids go on. While the trappings are artificial and some of the activities are contrived, I feel that they are useful because the kids get put into a situation where they have to DO something together. In my mind, it almost doesn’t matter what the activity is – if it pulls them away from teenage self-centeredness for a time, it’s a valuable experience.

    I don’t have a problem with the Women’s Pull (in our stake, they’ve done a Men’s Pull, as well) precisely because it engenders a certain amount of empathy. By the time the trek gets to that point, the kids know how much work it is to move that thing and it is hard for them to stand by and watch the others pull it with half the “family.” I think it’s valuable for them to explore feelings of interdependence and trust in a safe environment. I know that my kids felt that it was worth it.

    Comment by iguacufalls — April 11, 2014 @ 8:10 am

  2. This is a great topic to discuss. Our stake holds a Trek every four years, and it will be this year. They used to make it authentic down to butchering their own chickens, but decided last time that was a little too realistic.

    Anyway, I have somehow found myself assigned to come up with half a dozen or more handcart pioneer stories. If I understand correctly, the stake divides the youth up into families with a “ma” and “pa” and provides each member of the “family” with a pioneer story so each youth has a specific pioneer to identify with. When my daughter went four years ago, she was paired with a Danish pioneer.

    The pioneers they have so far for this year are:

    David Reeder Family
    Eliza and James Hurren Family
    Emily and Julia Hill
    Patience Loader and her family

    I really don’t want to hijack this discussion, but does anyone have any suggestions of handcart pioneers or rescuers with compelling tales? So far I’m thinking about Cyrus Wheelock (of course!) (rescuer), Tom Bankhead (African American slave; rescuer), Jane Archer Nightingale and family (Martin Company), and others, but need some diversity in experience as well as in male/female ratio.

    Comment by Amy T — April 11, 2014 @ 9:25 am

  3. Our stake’s trek this year is a Book of Mormon Journey. For four days, they’ll hike around to different places where one ward at a time will reenact a Book of Mormon story. They’ve already started rehearsing. The kids have a study guide/journal for their Book of Mormon study that started in January and will end just before the trek. So far I think it will be a great experience.

    My son is on a mission in Canada, and told us that this is what his stake there does:

    http://canada.lds.org/moronis-quest-2013

    Comment by Carol — April 11, 2014 @ 10:06 am

  4. We don’t do Treks in my neck of the woods. I agree with the overall sentiment that we shouldn’t build artificial emotional situations. On the other hand, I don’t think it hurts to introduce some realism into the trek experience. The teens can make of the experience what they want. To me it’s no different than reading the placards placed along Parley street in Nauvoo, except instead of reading about hardships of the saints, a similar (albeit not real) experience is introduced. I have mixed emotions about any of these treks or similar ideas. On the one hand, I’ve had youth express some spiritual growth as a result of such activities. On the other hand, the experience tends to fade with time. I prefer the consistent ho hum of sacrament meeting to the emotional “high” from EFY, treks, youth conferences and the like.

    Comment by IDIAt — April 11, 2014 @ 10:32 am

  5. No. 1: Don’t overplan

    No. 2: Do prepare sufficiently that no one gets injured, malnourished, or dehydrated.

    No. 3: Don’t manipulate or force spiritual experiences.

    No. 4: Do find something of historical relevance close to home – in New Mexico, we walked Mormon Battalion route. There’s a Mormon History component to geography anywhere in the world. Walk from Hereford to Gadfield Elm, England. Torino to Torre Pelice, Italy. The Honeymoon Trail in Arizona. Walk part of Jane Manning’s route from Connecticut to Nauvoo. Walk the routes of any 19th (or 20th) Century missionaries in your area. The list is endless. Historical reenactment is fine, but make it real, not silly or manipulative. Hike to a Temple!

    There is enough experience in real-life experiences that we don’t need to make them up.

    Link to a story on our Mormon Battalion Hike: http://www.moderatebutpassionate.com/2011/08/running-galisteo-river-in-search-of.html

    And, if you’re still on handcarts, I have an ancestor you can adopt, Elinor Jenkins Vaughan:
    http://johnelinorvaughan.blogspot.com/2013/08/eleanor-jenkins-vaughan-hulet-matriarch.html

    http://www.moderatebutpassionate.com/2014/03/claiming-legendary-teapot-and-colander.html#more

    Comment by Grant — April 11, 2014 @ 11:22 am

  6. My son did the traditional handcart trek with the women’s pull and all that. Here’s what he liked:

    The girls dressed in dresses. More importantly, not pants and skirts so low that his eyes were always drawn to their bums. Even when girls have long shirts, they constantly have to pull them down and the movement is always there. A dress with a waist at their waist makes them move differently. His attention was on their faces and he was surprised. It took some thinking to work out what the difference was. Everyone was less self conscious.

    The setting made it easy to be friends with both boys and girls. It seemed that the regular flirting rules were suspended. They worked and walked side by side and connected naturally. He had plenty of opportunity to step in and help and be a gentleman. He could act with more kindness and courtesy and they didn’t just respond with awkward giggles. The costumes made everyone feel a little silly but that was a good thing to have in common. Not the usual nervousness about clothes and “do I look perfect?”

    He said that when he later saw girls in the stake that he had met on the trek, he didn’t recognize them at first, or was a little disappointed in the way they looked and acted when they were back to normal. But he was still able to approach them easily as friends and dates. He still has a special connection with his trek sisters.

    Comment by Carol — April 11, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

  7. I have mixed parentage. Through my mother I’m sixth generation LDS, while my father was a non-member. I’ve never been on a trek. My daughters had grown up before the youth in our stake went on a trek. My gggrandfather met the Martin Company midway between Martin’s Cove and Sixth Crossing. Obviously, I’m an expert.

    I treasure two pioneer experiences. The first is when I was young and listened to my grandmother recount traveling by wagon from Utah to settle in northern Wyoming. It was a real experience told by someone who was there. I believe that many members today have a “pioneer” experience to share that will resonate with others and help them feel the Spirit. They can be valuable alone or as part of a trek experience. There is nothing contrived or artificial when listening, for example, to a one time prisoner in a Russian camp talk about The Word of Wisdom and choosing between infected water or coffee.

    The second was at Rock Creek Hollow when I stopped there on a whim, long before the church acquired the site. I remember standing there alone on the prairie while the wind blew and picturing, since it was bleak in July, how barren it must have been in the winter of 1857.

    I don’t know if a trek gives the kids time and space to reflect and look back or even a chance to be alone. Alone time can be mighty important since conversion is not a group experience.

    Comment by STW — April 11, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

  8. I admit that as a youth, I did go on a couple of church beach trips. But that was a 3 hour drive from us. I wasn’t in Nevada.

    I also never went on a pioneer trek. That didn’t come in to style until later. But 3 of my kids have been on such treks and generally enjoyed them. They enjoyed getting costumes together, and the girls sewed their own.

    Our stake held its Trek on the Marriott ranch, because any historically accurate location was much to far away. (They bus them to Palmyra and Kirtland, but no farther.) The campsites are provided with porta-potties so that the landscape is not fouled by group after group coming through. The stake tried the ‘slaughter your own chicken’ routine, but after some of the chickens were kidnapped and hidden in porta potties, they decided there was just too much drama and discontinued it before my time.

    My favorite story is not something that is easy to replicate (because they tried.) My number three kid is pretty musical. When he went on a pioneer trek, he took along his harmonica. During the emotionally manipulative ‘women’s pull’ he took it out and started playing Come, come, Ye Saints to accompany them up the hill. Then he played hymns each night at the camp sites. He was glad he did and several of his leaders told me how much the appreciated it.

    Four years later, the stake tried to organize harmonica lessons before the pioneer trek, but I don’t believe anyone actually carried through and learned to play. I think my youngest considered taking a fife (she’s a flautists), but decided against it.

    One good thing about growing up in DC was that we did get to hear a lot of ‘pioneer’ stories from converts. I remember a number of 4th of July celebrations and sacrament meetings that never really mentioned the history of the US. Instead, we hear “how God blessed me so that I escaped and came here.” Somehow that was enough said.

    I like the idea of trying to bring in more recent pioneers–converts who have had interesting experiences in changing their lives and joining the church. And try to avoid too much emotional manipulation. I think it’s enough just to confiscate all electronics and then let real life experiences take their place.

    Comment by LauraN — April 11, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

  9. For the record: never went on trek; my best guess as to whether or not I would have enjoyed it is that it would have been directly related to how kindly and respectfully the adults and other youth treated me, which has been pretty much the measure of how I feel about any activity from then to now. But it sounds like you don’t really have a choice as to whether or not it’s happening, and I have ideas, so…

    I definitely agree with the idea of using more recent pioneer experiences, from real people who are in your area.

    In fact, it seems to me that maybe one of the best lessons we can take from remembering our pioneer ancestors is how hard it really is to be a convert– maybe they keep reminding us so that we know it’s not Other People who have trouble joining a new religion, but Us as well. I realize that this is sort of the inverse of how many converts experience the focus on 19th century pioneers, but I don’t think it has to be that way.

    I remember that one of my moments when I was most pleased with myself in any calling, ever, was near pioneer day. We sang about pioneer children; then we sang about Nephi’s Courage; then I asked if anyone in our primary had, like Nephi and like those early pioneers, come to our country from a different place. One child, from Taiwan, stood up. We sang to her, to honor her pioneer spirit. I think it would be really cool if the focus on Trek was about ALL kinds of pioneers, and about the courage it takes to be a pioneer.

    (Also, you will be completely unsurprised to learn that I LOVE the new Pioneers in every land portion of the Church History website. That would be a great place to start for a wider variety of pioneer stories– but I would bet an awful lot that you have not a few interesting-enough, hair-raising-enough stories right in your own stake, if you ask around.)

    Comment by S — April 11, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

  10. I went on one trek as a youth, but I don’t remember much about the details. It seemed to be more of a “let’s do this tough thing” activity rather than “let’s re-enact the pioneer experience.”

    I did a trek three years ago as a “parent.” I was actually surprised at how well things went, and how well the “children” in our “family” did. One definite benefit was their developing friendships with each other (our stake tried hard to mix up wards in the “families” as much as possible, so most of them didn’t know each other at the outset), working together, taking turns at various duties (cooking, cleaning up, etc.), and helping each other out.

    I’m not really a history expert, but I tried to do some studying beforehand and put things into context as much as possible as I told stories along the way. I’d like to think that helped the kids have a better experience, understand more of what the pioneers went through, and maybe relate some of that to their lives in the here and now.

    I do have several ancestors that came by handcart (including two in the Martin company), and one ancestor that was in the first rescue party, so that personal connection was especially interesting to me, but as I told stories I tried to draw out generally applicable points for those kids who didn’t have pioneer ancestors.

    And pioneers or not, everyone had ancestors that lived in eras without automobiles or cell phones or the niceties of modern life — there’s something for everyone to relate to.

    (If I stay in my current calling for another year, I will likely get pulled into some of the planning for a trek in our new stake next year, so I’m hoping to get more good insights from the comments!)

    Comment by lindberg — April 11, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

  11. Oh, and why the emphasis on handcarts versus wagons? Certainly it’s for the same reason they used handcarts in the first place — much cheaper, and they require much less skill. Anybody can pull a handcart, but who these days knows how to drive oxen, even if it were practical to come up with teams and wagons?

    Comment by lindberg — April 11, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

  12. Thank you, Ardis.
    This post will keep on giving. It’s going in my file. I shall pull it out in three years at trek time.

    I never went on trek but my husband tells me that there was a strict no-candy policy when he went. In preparation he sewed packs of candy into the hems of his clothing.

    Comment by Diana — April 11, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

  13. I don’t believe in trek. I agree that trek seems emotionally manipulative and expensive. I would rather see the youth participate in a meaningful service activity like habitat for humanity. My daughters and sons hated the women’s pull. First, the boys were told to feel sorry for these poor girls who had to pull the cart. The girls were told they should appreciate the boys. What happened was the girls managed just fine and the boys just felt useless. I don’t think we help women by having men pity them. I don’t think we help men by making them unnecessary. In Salt Lake Trek costumes are sold at Deseret Book and seem expensive and silly. I imagine modern day pioneer teens could find populations anxious and needing help. Think of what an impact on communities a hundred or more LDS teens could have at a battered women’s shelter, on a Native American reservation, working with refugees to learn English or read, or simply associating with other interfaith groups who help the poor and needy. I have sent 5 children on trek. They all had a great time, but the sacrament/testimony meetings that followed strained credibility. Do angels really help healthy well fed teens push handcarts on a four day trek?

    I hope we change direction and honor our ancestors through meaningful and authentic service. What a spiritual trek we could create.

    Comment by mummsie — April 11, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

  14. A couple of conference talks come to mind:

    The Spirit of Revelation

    Wide Awake to Our Duties

    In the first one, Elder Bednar compared feeling the Spirit to having a light suddenly turn on in a dark room and watching the sunrise. I have felt the Spirit both ways and I believe both types of experiences are valuable. Revelations intended for the entire church have been given in both ways. I never went on a trek, but my leaders did put effort into other activities that were intended to bring about the sudden light in a dark room effect. I treasure those memories and I have never forgotten the way I felt. But the only reason they were effective was because I was also actively doing the little things. My friends who were less active would attend these same events and leave proclaiming they were going to change, but then they would go home and continue as before (swearing, dressing suggestively, attending church only occasionally, etc.) Oh, and the most meaningful activities were experiences like being a YCL at Girl’s Camp where I had opportunities to serve, be a leader, and share my own testimony.

    In the second link, Carole M. Stevens shares an experience doing the women-only portion of the trek that several people have mentioned. She gained more from the experience than marveling at how much the pioneers suffered. She realized that she wanted to keep her testimony strong and growing so that she would never let her sisters down spiritually.

    Definitely make time for personal reflection, scripture study, and prayer. One of my few frustrations with Girl’s Camp was that I was so busy attending activities and firesides where they were telling me to do those things that I never had time to actually do them at Camp.

    Comment by Marcelaine — April 11, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  15. I’m sorry, but I just have to say this.

    The expression “on trek” is like fingernails on the chalkboard to me.

    Except that fingernails on the chalkboard don’t actually bother me at all. So the expression is like the proverbial fingernails on the chalkboard to me.

    Carry on.

    Comment by Left Field — April 11, 2014 @ 10:24 pm

  16. I’ve got my 18 year old nephew visiting, so I asked him. He said, “No, it’s not trek that is emotionally manipulative. That’s EFY.”

    Comment by LauraN — April 11, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

  17. Left Field — I’m sympathetic to this kind of thing (whenever someone says “I graduated high school/college,” I mentally respond, “Well, you shouldn’t have”), but I don’t know what you would prefer here. “We trekked last summer”? “This is our year to do trek” or “to trek”? “We’re doing a youth trek in Wyoming”?

    What will keep the nails off your chalkboard?

    Everybody else, thanks for terrific suggestions. Those of you who have actually been involved with this activity (I’m avoiding the whole grammar issue there), either personally of through your youth, certainly have ideas that are far better than anything I could come up with in untested theory. The friend whose questions started this is reading everything you suggest and actually sounds enthusiastic about the possibilities.,

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 12, 2014 @ 2:46 am

  18. To my ear, trek as a noun requires an article or a possessive. “This is our year to do a trek.” “The youth had a spiritual experience on their trek.” “When is the trek?”

    “We’re going to take trip.” similarly seems like an article is missing. On the other hand, “going on vacation” seems just fine. I think the difference is that “going on vacation” depicts vacation as an abstract condition. “I’m on vacation” describes my personal condition, whereas “I’m on a vacation” describes the discrete thing I’m doing.

    To me, “I’m on trip” or “I’m on trek” sound weird because I don’t think of either trip or trek as words that describe my personal condition, whereas vacation does sometimes describe my current personal state. I guess I think of a trek as a discrete countable thing I might do, not an abstract condition I would be in.

    Comment by Left Field — April 12, 2014 @ 7:11 am

  19. And while I’m venting, let me just add that another expression that grates on me is “return missionary.” Is that like a “retire police officer”?

    And words ending in -ist being used as a plural without adding the s.

    Comment by Left Field — April 12, 2014 @ 8:57 am

  20. While living in upstate NY, I noticed that the Hill Cumorah Pageant also frequently lost its article and just became Pageant. I’m going to Pageant, taking friends to Pageant, etc. I prefer the articles, but maybe some people are paying by the word.

    Comment by LauraN — April 12, 2014 @ 8:58 am

  21. I cringe when people talk about the Mormon Batallion and handcart pioneers as though they happened at the same time. If you really want a women’s pull as a part of a pioneer trek, you can bring up real life examples like my ancestor, Lucy Ward Cole, who pulled a handcart with other single women in the Willie Handcart Company.

    Comment by mahana — April 12, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

  22. It appears that I am one of the few posting that actually trekked as a youth. It was the mid-80s, so it was sort of a mix between David Bowie and Eliza R. Snow. It was a long time ago and I was less mature emotionally and mentally, but I have strong memories and impressions from the experience.

    Diana’s comment about candy (12) is about me. I don’t know if I had any ancestors that were smugglers, but I definitely connected with them if I did. (I may be descended from Han Solo, but I haven’t done my genealogy back to that long, long ago.)

    The word around the Company was that the leaders intentionally walked us on the first day until we started breaking emotionally. We finally stopped around 2:00 am (according to a smuggled watch, which was a very 80s plastic cube affair). I remember sleeping while I was walking. And I remember how delicious the cornmeal mush was (although when I had my Mom make some for me when I got home it was awful and I haven’t eaten it since).

    We did the women’s pull. Some of the boys were crying. I still recall being really impressed with how tough the young women were, grunting and shoving and not at all dainty all the way up the hill. It makes me think not of the Mormon Battalion, but of those husbands and fathers that had died and no doubt aided their loved ones, broken hearted, as best as they could from the spirit world.

    We killed a turkey. We read the scripture from Doctrine and Covenants about the Lord giving everything to us to use with thanksgiving and that idea has always stuck with me. Also, watching the knife go up under the beak has always stuck with me. It’s probably good for a city boy to see it at least once. Also, I remember drinking water with sticks and bugs in it and not worrying about it.

    We had time to be alone with scriptures and prayer in the wilderness. This was a good thing and I included it in our (non-trek) Youth Conference last year.

    I remember two of my “siblings” making out by the fire with a blanket over their heads. That was weird, even if the family relationship was make believe. Also, I probably wished it would have been me.

    I can’t say how much my trek experience developed my faith, but I think it did. It was certainly a unique experience that I grew from and that I still reflect on. But I was worried then, as I am now, about the cultish weirdness of breaking teenagers down physically and emotionally, giving them new families, and then telling them that this is what “spiritual” means. I have heard a letter read in Sacrament Meeting advising us to avoid groups that do just that. You have to avoid an “I’ll Build You a Rainbow” experience.

    Comment by Lonn L — April 13, 2014 @ 6:59 am

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