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rongo

Youth Treks

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When and where did this phenomenon start? My memory tells me that it was in the late 1990s (neither my wife nor I had ever heard of them, but her sister went on one). I remember hearing of them as an idea and then suddenly they exploded on the scene and became quasi-required rites of passage in stakes. 

 

I'm not a fan of them, in general. I don't like taking kids and many adults away from their families for a whole week in addition to the girls/Scout camps (I realize that some stakes cancel camp when they do a trek in a year, but mine never have), and I don't like the "some great thing" emphasis (i.e., this will be the most amazing testimony experience of your life, etc.). I have never liked giving the impression that testimonies need to be built by extravaganzas (in fact, I find that testimonies built day by day are stronger than those that come through EFY, treks, etc.).

 

I'm just wondering if people can help me nail down in my mind exactly where and when this originated from. It's clear that the Church has embraced it, but I don't think it originated "top-down."

 

Thanks!

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I would say they started at the sesquicentennial celebration deal in 1997. I got out of YM in 1996 and so I totally missed, thank heavens, that whole scene!!!!! I think that's why I was born when and where I was because I don't pull people or things in carts, I have very delicate features and pulling a cart is tough on the epidermis

Edited by Duncan

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I thought I read somewhere that the Church's sports program budget was way over extended and someone suggested replacing it with handcart youth treks as a way of saving money. :rolleyes:

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When and where did this phenomenon start? My memory tells me that it was in the late 1990s (neither my wife nor I had ever heard of them, but her sister went on one). I remember hearing of them as an idea and then suddenly they exploded on the scene and became quasi-required rites of passage in stakes. 

 

I'm not a fan of them, in general. I don't like taking kids and many adults away from their families for a whole week in addition to the girls/Scout camps (I realize that some stakes cancel camp when they do a trek in a year, but mine never have), and I don't like the "some great thing" emphasis (i.e., this will be the most amazing testimony experience of your life, etc.). I have never liked giving the impression that testimonies need to be built by extravaganzas (in fact, I find that testimonies built day by day are stronger than those that come through EFY, treks, etc.).

 

I'm just wondering if people can help me nail down in my mind exactly where and when this originated from. It's clear that the Church has embraced it, but I don't think it originated "top-down."

 

Thanks!

 

My wife and I have been Ma and Pas on a trek. I pictured in my mind that our ancestors are probably looking down on this scene and saying, why are you doing this? We did it because we had to. You are doing it ....why???

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I don't think it is a bad idea to get kids out of their comfort zone on occasion so I don't see anything inherently wrong with treks.

 

I don't think it is wise to promote it as the 'best testimony experience of your life', just like I find the 'best two years of your life' phrase for missionary work lame as well as labeling a woman's wedding day as the 'greatest day of her life'....there is so much more life to come and who wants to go through all of that if it is all downhill or secondbest?  Plus the major letdown if all those things weren't that great of an experience?

 

And not all kids will feel like it is a testimony strengthening experience so what does that say about them if that is how it is promoted?  And what if parents start relying on such events to teach their kids spirituality rather than helping them find it in the small things of life that happen everyday?

Edited by calmoriah

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When and where did this phenomenon start? My memory tells me that it was in the late 1990s (neither my wife nor I had ever heard of them, but her sister went on one). I remember hearing of them as an idea and then suddenly they exploded on the scene and became quasi-required rites of passage in stakes. 

 

I'm not a fan of them, in general. I don't like taking kids and many adults away from their families for a whole week in addition to the girls/Scout camps (I realize that some stakes cancel camp when they do a trek in a year, but mine never have), and I don't like the "some great thing" emphasis (i.e., this will be the most amazing testimony experience of your life, etc.). I have never liked giving the impression that testimonies need to be built by extravaganzas (in fact, I find that testimonies built day by day are stronger than those that come through EFY, treks, etc.).

 

I'm just wondering if people can help me nail down in my mind exactly where and when this originated from. It's clear that the Church has embraced it, but I don't think it originated "top-down."

 

Thanks!

 

Hi rongo...

Does anything this widespread originate bottom-up?  I believe it all started with the sesquisentennial(sp?) celebrations in 1997 in honor of the pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains in 1847 (and those that followed after) to reach the SL valley.  I actually participated in the official Wagon Train that started at Winter Quarters and ended in SLC.  My non-member husband and I joined the Wagon Train outside of Sutherland, Nebraska and rode in a authentic covered wagon (we dressed in pioneer type clothing, except for my Nike shoes).  Our driver and is wife were from Iowa and the draft horses pulling the wagon were a matched pair of palominos named Bonnie & Clyde... beautiful huge horses.

We joined the train at a central point in Nebraska, having breakfast of pancakes... the wagons had been pulled into a circle (just like you see in the movies).  There was a "Wagon Master" that looked just like Ward Bond.  After breakfast, everyone got ready and prayer was offered... We climbed into our wagon... and then the Wagon Master gave the call... "Wagons, Ho!!!" and off we started...  There was also a contingent of handcarts, probably about 12 - 15 pulled by mostly younger people. 

I can't tell you the feeling I had... the appreciation of what the pioneers' life was like.  We had it good compared to them.  We even had a bank of portable toilets that followed along...

The Wagon Train followed the Mormon Trail as closely as possible... along the way, the farmers and ranchers opened up their fences so that the train could pass through on the trail on what is now private property.  We stopped at one farmer's place where there was a grave of a Mormon child that had died and the parents marked it with a small stone... the property had been in the farmer's family for years and is part of the family's lore... they tell of the Mormons passing through and asking permission to bury their child on the property... so the family has honored the grave all these years and left it undisturbed, just as it was.  We stopped and the grave was consecrated in a brief ceremony that was quite moving.  We sang a hymn and had the prayer, given by the local bishop.

 

I wanted to feel what it was really like to walk beside the wagon so I hopped down and walked... I lasted for about 1 1/2 miles and got back in the wagon... and I was wearing Nikes... it brought to mind all the pioneers who barely had shoes, some even barefoot.  We made about 20 miles when the Train stopped on the prairie for the night... The chuck wagon was set up and we had hamburgers with all the trimmings... which brought to mind how the pioneers sometimes had very little food... The local high school sent out their school choir to entertain us... they sang several songs.

After dinner my husband and I got on a bus that took us back to our starting point, and we continued on our way to visit our family in Nebraska.  This is a wonderful memory to me, and gave my husband and I both an appreciation and understanding of conditions the pioneers faced... I'm thankful for that...

When we arrived home we saw on the television news reports of the train's progress... I think it took from May - July for the Train to reach the Valley... We rode for only one day, but it was a day I remember with appreciation...

 

GG

Edited by Garden Girl

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Hi rongo...

Does anything this widespread originate bottom-up?

 

 

That's what I'm wondering. I don't remember any institutional emphasis until a couple had been done locally. My recollection is that this snowballed upwards, but I'm checking this against others' memories/experiences.

 

Thanks for yours! I think your reenactment is different in scope and scale from the youth treks.

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I'm not a fan of them, in general. I don't like taking kids and many adults away from their families for a whole week in addition to the girls/Scout camps (I realize that some stakes cancel camp when they do a trek in a year, but mine never have), and I don't like the "some great thing" emphasis (i.e., this will be the most amazing testimony experience of your life, etc.). I have never liked giving the impression that testimonies need to be built by extravaganzas (in fact, I find that testimonies built day by day are stronger than those that come through EFY, treks, etc.).

 

 

I feel the same as you.

 

As a Bishop, did you have any say if your ward would participate, or were you expected to participate with the stake?

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That's what I'm wondering. I don't remember any institutional emphasis until a couple had been done locally. My recollection is that this snowballed upwards, but I'm checking this against others' memories/experiences.

 

Thanks for yours! I think your reenactment is different in scope and scale from the youth treks.

 

I think that was the beginning of the "treks" of today, however... The "reenactment" was done to bring attention to the pioneer story to the public as part of history... including not only the major wagon train, but the handcarts... All the major TV networks covered the Train as it moved westward...  and I believe the Church has continued the treks today as part of that remembrance and honoring of our history.

 

GG

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...  We stopped at one farmer's place where there was a grave of a Mormon child that had died and the parents marked it with a small stone... the property had been in the farmer's family for years and is part of the family's lore... they tell of the Mormons passing through and asking permission to bury their child on the property... so the family has honored the grave all these years and left it undisturbed, just as it was.  We stopped and the grave was consecrated in a brief ceremony that was quite moving.  We sang a hymn and had the prayer, given by the local bishop. ...

I don't know the answer to the OP, so I hope this won't be considered irrelevant.  I was very moved by this, Garden Girl.  Thank you! I think perhaps whether one has ancestors who crossed the plains affects one's perspective of the utility of such activities.  I do have ancestors who crossed the plains with handcarts, so it was more significant to me than perhaps it might be to others.  

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I can definitely place it earlier than the 1997 date mentioned above.  My stake did one in 1991 or 2.  I had a good time, but I wouldn't say it had much of an effect on my testimony.  We only did it for a four day weekend, though, not a full week like I hear about some now.  A cousin I didn't know well before then was in the same family and it was nice to get to know her better.  I didn't really get to be friends with anyone else from my "family," but I did get to know some of them well enough that I could say "hi" and call them by name at stake activities.  

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Of course , now we get to have a " Moroni's Quest ". It's like trek but without the handcarts.

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I don't know when it started but I think it is ridiculous.  Take a bunch of kids out for a week in the middle of the summer and have them pull a handcart a few miles and let them believe they now know what the Wiley and Martin handcart companies went through.  I think it dishonors those who really did go through that ordeal.

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I don't know the answer to the OP, so I hope this won't be considered irrelevant.  I was very moved by this, Garden Girl.  Thank you! I think perhaps whether one has ancestors who crossed the plains affects one's perspective of the utility of such activities.  I do have ancestors who crossed the plains with handcarts, so it was more significant to me than perhaps it might be to others.  

I do as well.  Part of me is all for this, in part because I think anything that helps kids realize their blessings of material wealth is worth it and there seems to be few opportunities made available to them (I would like to see if it could be done safely since it is youth involved more helping out at shelters and such things where they just don't collect donations and such, but interact with those they are doing it for).  Living in Russia was a real awakening for me and even just being there for two weeks on our first trip was very educational with very limited exposure as we lived on a cruise boat as we went down the Volga and just visited for a few hours the small villages along the way.  I am very grateful my son had the opportunity to do so (my daughter did as well, but is too young to remember enough) as he has been blessed with great abundance early in his marriage (though they did the obligatory 3 kids in a crummy two room apartment long enough to appreciate the step up to a home that is larger than ours..which is way too large for us...we bought it for the location which was necessary so I could endure moving to a desert state).

 

I can see it being a problem for adults if they have to give up their year's vacation time for not only camp, but a trek rather than personal family time, but I don't see it as a problem to ask kids to spend one extra week away from their family one summer of their lives, but maybe that is a result of my family's tradition as I was growing up of spending two or three weeks each summer at my grandparents' home away from my parents as well as getting to meet some elementary aged Asian kids (including tutoring a few) who came over for a year or more and stayed with friends so that they could learn English in an immersive situation.   In many ways I think kids would benefit by being more independent of their families.  Since the trek is only once every four years per Stake, hopefully it isn't too much of a hardship for youth leaders.

 

OTOH, the experience is so far removed from the reality of the hardship part of me thinks it is laughable as it may have the effect of trivializing the actual effort and suffering that the pioneers experienced.  I can only hope that the leaders make this point...that this gives the kids a taste of it but not the reality...kind of like looking at someone who is a diabetic type 1 and saying to oneself 'what's the big deal, I get my booster shots every ten years or so and while it's not fun, it doesn't kill me' and then trying to imagine not only having to give oneself a shot of medication that burns as it goes in (doesn't for everyone, but it does for my daughter) every time one eats as well as morning and night and the only other option is to die...not quite the same at all (thank goodness for the pump so that that needlework is now just once every 5-6 days, though inserting a two inch spike into her stomach is not a pleasant experience for either of us, I have to blank my mind and intentionally not think about what I am doing).  There is a huge difference in experiencing something as pretty much entertainment and experiencing it as a life or death situation.  I find it impossible to understand what parents must have felt knowing what they were risking with their children, but also knowing that life would be worse for them if they stayed and gave up their hopes and their faith.

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let them believe they now know what the Wiley and Martin handcart companies went through.

If this is how it is presented, then I agree this is a problem.  I have seen it done differently though.

 

i would hope that the very least a trek might do is to give a kid the confidence to take the risk of being uncomfortable when presented with something of value later on in life that takes them away from home and their parents...as all have to do eventually.

Edited by calmoriah

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With two dates given maybe we shoud get a statistical analysis of...I 'm just kidding!!!

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If this is how it is presented, then I agree this is a problem.  I have seen it done differently though.

 

i would hope that the very least a trek might do is to give a kid the confidence to take the risk of being uncomfortable when presented with something of value later on in life that takes them away from home and their parents...as all have to do eventually.

 

I can agree with that but every time I have heard youth report on one of these the say it helped them understand what the pioneers went through.  Perhaps but on a most superficial level.   

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I can agree with that but every time I have heard youth report on one of these the say it helped them understand what the pioneers went through.  Perhaps but on a most superficial level.   

If they meant they knew exactly what the pioneers had experienced...that is naive, but I would think going on the trek would give them a better idea of what the pioneers experienced than sitting home and not going on the trek would.  Even superficial knowledge can be a step forward from no knowledge at all.

Edited by calmoriah

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I just play Oregon Trail 2 to get the real experience.

:snort: 

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I was never sold on the whole trek thing. To give you my background with it- I was a scout and young mens leader for a little over 5 years and during that time our stake had a few treks. I requested to go on them and was never invited to go. At that time I had more than half of my boys who were not members of the church and only came out to mutual activities and scouting events. Do you know how impossible it is to try to convince kids like this about going on this trek when the leaders themselves are not going? And then you have the whole testimony meetings and wht not and as a leader you cant even relate because you werent there? I find that it misses on so many levels that to me it raises a lot of red flags. For starters I find it strange that one has to get "invited" and then it isn't even a family event even though the church stresses high value on family. I am left wondering exactly what is gained in the end and feel it isnt structured around "family". If I were in charge of these "treks" or had some input I would make it entirely voluntary and structure it around actual families as a means to grow closer to ones own brothers and sisters, mother, father, sons and daughters. From a nonmember standpoint I feel it is an awkward event which kind of shuns them unintentionally away. In the end I find it more as a modern way of playing make believe. Not sold on it and perhaps never will...

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 I don't like the "some great thing" emphasis (i.e., this will be the most amazing testimony experience of your life, etc.). I have never liked giving the impression that testimonies need to be built by extravaganzas (in fact, I find that testimonies built day by day are stronger than those that come through EFY, treks, etc.).

 

Amen and amen!

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If they meant they knew exactly what the pioneers had experienced...that is naive, but I would think going on the trek would give them a better idea of what the pioneers experienced than sitting home and not going on the trek would.  Even superficial knowledge can be a step forward from no knowledge at all.

 

I agree with this.  I think the fault may lie with the promoters and the leaders trying to force more out of the experience than is really there.

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I can definitely place it earlier than the 1997 date mentioned above.  My stake did one in 1991 or 2.  I had a good time, but I wouldn't say it had much of an effect on my testimony.  We only did it for a four day weekend, though, not a full week like I hear about some now.  A cousin I didn't know well before then was in the same family and it was nice to get to know her better.  I didn't really get to be friends with anyone else from my "family," but I did get to know some of them well enough that I could say "hi" and call them by name at stake activities.

I'll second this, I did mine in the mid-90s and my older sisters did one in the late 80s/early 90s. A few years back an old ward of mine did one (I didn't participate) in which during the testimony meeting someone dressed up as the Savior and came and spoke to them. I thought it was a little odd, but some of the leaders expressed that it was quite the spiritual experience.

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I don't know the origin, so I'm not too much help there.

One thing I can give is my view of Trek being a sort of Mormon pilgrimage experience. Funnily enough I had to write on pilgrimage a few weeks ago, and share an experience I had that showed the characteristics of pilgrimage. I was originally going to share my experience with receiving my endowment, but felt like I should share trek.

I'll share a little bit of my paper a little bit later today, but right now my roommate is squaking at me to clean the bathroom.

One thing I'll share, and this is typical of pilgrimage all around the world, is that to some members of each faith, the pilgrimage isn't the spiritual journey it is to everyone else.

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