Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Inspirations June 13, 2010

Thursday morning my husband kissed me goodbye as he left for a few days. He had the opportunity to attend a Stake Youth Conference with the young people of our ward. Needless to say, but I'll do it anyway, we missed him terribly here at home. My husband, on the other hand, had a wonderful experience. This did my heart an awful lot of good as he has seemed quite burdened lately with hardships at church, work, and even here at home.

The conference was held up at a popular Utah attraction called This is the Place Heritage Park. The youth, ages 14-18, were given the chance to go on a handcart trek. You see, in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormon Church) members were forced to go west in order to find peace from those who opposed them.

Many groups did not have access to horses and wagons, and put all their earthly belongings in a handcart which they proceeded to pull across the vast expanse of the United States until reaching a place Brigham Young, then president of the Church, declard as their new home. The second day at the conference, the youth and leaders were given a chance to recreate one small portion of this trek.

Those who were able to find the necessary items were asked to dress in period clothes, to help get into character. Each "family", consisting of a "mother", a "father", and several "brothers" and "sisters" were given one handcart. Back in the time of the original trek these carts might hold up to 500 pounds. For the purposes of this trek there was no where near that much, but still a good bit of weight was piled in.

Along the journey one family member would get sick and need to climb in to the handcart to be pulled by the other members of the family. They would occasionally be stopped by a member of the Park who tell them stories of real people who had made trek so many years before, recounting experiences, feelings, and difficulties.

The part of the trek that hit the members of the trek more than any other was a time when the men and brothers were asked to come with one of the guides. You see, while on the trek the government came to the members of the Church to ask for volunteers for an army. Many of the men and boys accepted, as they'd be compensated for their time and service, and most of these families had no money to their names. This meant there were mothers, grandmothers, young women and children left to make their way alone.

One of the last parts of the trek included a rather steep hill. The "fathers and sons" were lined up on either side of the hill and told they were not allowed to help the women, nor were they even allowed to speak to the women, for the men were not really there during this time. Instead they were asked to simply watch, to think about their own mothers and sisters, and what it might be like for them to watch their families do this part of the trek with no help.

There was not a dry eye by the time the last handcart finally made it to the top of the hill. Each and every man there ached as they watched these incredible women work tirelessly to make this part of the journey on their own. Though I was not there to witness it I'm certain more than one hand reached out, more than one leg itched to step forward.

We cannot know what it is like to endure the trials of others without walking a mile - or in this case five miles - in their shoes. Each and every one of those youth, as well as the leaders, came out of the experience with a renewed respect and love for what the early members of our Church endured in an effort to find a place where they might not be tormented for practicing a religion they believed to be true.

I cannot thank those who put together the trek enough, both those in our stake as well as those at Heritage Park. It was an experience none of those who were given the chance to participate will forget.

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