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rongo

Youth trek historical accuracy

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My stake presidency has asked me to present recommendations for making our youth trek (December 2018) historically accurate. 

I have some pet peeves and issues in mind, but would love input from you guys, too.

Can someone link to the trek handbook the Church put out? That has a lot of items that some people will be upset about (sacred cows that are contra policy).

Thanks in advance! 

Ironically, the stake president joined the Church while a student at the UofA in Tucson. He was surprised when I told him the Tucson West Stake (I think that's the one) was kind of the poster child for what not to do on a trek. :) 

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17 minutes ago, rongo said:

My stake presidency has asked me to present recommendations for making our youth trek (December 2018) historically accurate. 

I have some pet peeves and issues in mind, but would love input from you guys, too.

Can someone link to the trek handbook the Church put out? That has a lot of items that some people will be upset about (sacred cows that are contra policy).

Thanks in advance! 

Ironically, the stake president joined the Church while a student at the UofA in Tucson. He was surprised when I told him the Tucson West Stake (I think that's the one) was kind of the poster child for what not to do on a trek. :) 

Googled "lds church youth trek guidlines"

https://www.lds.org/bc/content/ldsorg/content/english/pdf/service/aaronic-priesthood/scouting/handcart-trek-guidelines.pdf?lang=eng

https://www.lds.org/callings/church-safety-and-health/training-and-video-resources/trek-safety?lang=eng

Edited by ksfisher
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Thanks! There is a manual of some sort that someone had linked to before. 

Sorry! My net search skills are rudimentary. 

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48 minutes ago, rongo said:

My stake presidency has asked me to present recommendations for making our youth trek (December 2018) historically accurate. 

I have some pet peeves and issues in mind, but would love input from you guys, too.

Can someone link to the trek handbook the Church put out? That has a lot of items that some people will be upset about (sacred cows that are contra policy).

Thanks in advance! 

Ironically, the stake president joined the Church while a student at the UofA in Tucson. He was surprised when I told him the Tucson West Stake (I think that's the one) was kind of the poster child for what not to do on a trek. :) 

Do not include a re-enactment of men being called away to serve in the Mormon Battalion. That is embarrassingly anachronistic.

The Mormon Battalion chapter in Church history began at Winter Quarters on the Iowa/Nebraska border in 1846, soon after the exodus of the main body of Saints from Nauvoo.

The handcart movement began 10 years later in 1856, long after the Church headquarters had been established in Salt Lake City and Church leaders needed a cheap and more efficient way to move converts from Europe across the plains from Iowa City, first, and later from Kanesville/Winter Quarters.

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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12 minutes ago, rongo said:

Thanks! There is a manual of some sort that someone had linked to before. 

Sorry! My net search skills are rudimentary. 

I have a handbook of sorts that is spiral bound and chock full of information. But I don't recall the title. I used to keep it here at my desk, but I had to take it home several months ago after the company redid our work space and took away my cabinets and shelves.

I don't believe it is an official publication of the Church, though. If it is still in print, it might be available at Deseret Book.

I'll try to find it tonight and get back to you with a title/author(s).  I would not want to be without it if I were doing a trek re-enactment.

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12 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Do not include a re-enactment of men being called away to serve in the Mormon Battalion. That is embarrassingly anachronistic.

The Mormon Battalion chapter in Church history began at Winter Quarters on the Iowa/Nebraska border in 1846, soon after the exodus of the main body of Saints from Nauvoo.

The handcart movement began 10 years later in 1856, long after the Church headquarters had been established in Salt Lake City and Church leaders needed and cheap and more efficient way to move converts from Europe across the plains from Iowa City, first, and later from Kanesville/Winter Quarters.

This is not what I had in mind, but I did find this guidebook just now. It is published by the Church.

This passage from the "Women's pull" portion of the "Trek Activities" section bears out what I said above:

 
Quote

 

Symbolizing the absence of the young men by calling them
to serve in the Mormon Battalion is historically inaccurate
and is therefore inappropriate. The march of the Mormon
Battalion occurred 10 years before handcart travel began.

 

This book is not nearly as comprehensive as the one I had in mind, but it seems like it could be helpful.
I'll still look for the other one tonight.
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7 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

The handcart movement began 10 years later in 1856, long after the Church headquarters had been established in Salt Lake City and Church leaders needed and cheap and more efficient way to move converts from Europe across the plains from Iowa City, first, and later from Kanesville/Winter Quarters.

I wonder why Treks always focus on the handcart period.  Easier to duplicate I suppose.
Much harder to recreate the covered wagon trek.  But the 1847 period pioneer companies were much more typical of the pioneer experience.

A quick Wikipedia check has some interesting information:

  • Although fewer than 10 percent of the 1846–68 Latter-day Saint emigrants made the journey west using handcarts, the handcart pioneers have become an important symbol in LDS culture, representing the faithfulness and sacrifice of the pioneer generation. 
  • Wikipedia says there were about 3000 handcart pioneers.  At 10% that means there were 27,000 pioneers who didn't come via handcart.  Oddly though Wikipedia also states that "The journey was taken by about 70,000 people".  Not sure how to account for those numbers.
  • On April 5, 1847, at 2 p.m., the wagon train moved west from Winter Quarters toward the Great Basin. With the afternoon start, they made three miles (5 km) and camped in a line a few hundred yards from a stand of timber. Journal records show that Young actively managed the journey, supervising details and occasionally giving reprimands when evening and Sunday recreation became rowdy or group members failed to complete their tasks. On one occasion, he chastised the camp's hunters for being wasteful of flesh ... killing more than was really needed. [2] Camp was awakened by a bugle at 5 a.m. and the company was expected to be prepared for travel by 7 a.m.. Each day's travel ended at 8:30 p.m. and the camp was in bed by 9 p.m.. The company traveled six days during the week, but generally stayed in camp on Sunday to observe the Sabbath.

    Some camp members were assigned specific tasks. William Clayton was appointed company scribe and was expected to record an accurate description of their journey and the distance they traveled each day. After three weeks, Clayton grew tired of personally counting the revolutions of a wagon wheel and computing the day's distance by multiplying the count by the wheel's circumference. After consulting with Orson Pratt, an accomplished mathematician, he designed a mechanism consisting of a set of wooden cog wheels attached to the hub of a wagon wheel, with the mechanism "counting" or recording by position the revolutions of the wheel. Clayton's design, which he called the roadometer, is the basis for most modern odometers. The apparatus was built to Clayton and Pratt's specifications by the company's carpenter Appleton Milo Harmon and was first used on the morning of May 12, 1847. The roadometer showed that the company averaged between fourteen and twenty miles per day. Apostle Orson Pratt was named the company's scientific observer. He made regular readings on scientific instruments, took notes on geological formations and mineral resources, and described plants and animals. Journals kept by both Clayton and Pratt have become valuable resources for historians of the Mormon trek west.

    Women of the company also performed vital tasks along the way. While much time was spent on traditional activities such as cooking, sewing, and tending children, several women served as scribes and diary keepers.

Maybe you could focus on some aspect other than dragging a handcart?

 

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Edited by Nevo

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28 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Do not include a re-enactment of men being called away to serve in the Mormon Battalion. That is embarrassingly anachronistic.

The Mormon Battalion chapter in Church history began at Winter Quarters on the Iowa/Nebraska border in 1846, soon after the exodus of the main body of Saints from Nauvoo.

The handcart movement began 10 years later in 1856, long after the Church headquarters had been established in Salt Lake City and Church leaders needed a cheap and more efficient way to move converts from Europe across the plains from Iowa City, first, and later from Kanesville/Winter Quarters.

Not to mention there were women with the Mormon Battalion.....

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19 minutes ago, JLHPROF said:

I wonder why Treks always focus on the handcart period.  Easier to duplicate I suppose.
Much harder to recreate the covered wagon trek.  But the 1847 period pioneer companies were much more typical of the pioneer experience.
 

Probably because it's something youth can actually take part in.  Trying to organize youth treks with wagons and oxen would be a disaster.

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26 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I think that can end very badly . . . seeking "authenticity" or verisimilitude (particularly as to physical rigors and food) is a very bad idea. 

I think I gave the wrong impression. We're not shooting for a gritty, authentic physical experience. We're more concerned with historical accuracy, like Mormon Battalion, Missouri mobbers scaring people at night in camp, etc. I also have photos from the last one of women in all white helping with the "women's pull" (which is contra Church policy). 

Things like that. 

I'm anti-trek, actually (and the SP knows that). But if we have to have a trek, I would like to eliminate some of this silliness that has crept in. 

But, we're not looking to put the kids through a grueling physical experience. 

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Our Stake is thinking of doing Trek again. I told someone Stake YM's that they do what their ancestors did to get the Church started here in Canada, i.e. deliver phonebooks, make and sell chocolates in freezing gyms, help fundraise and build their own church building, selling honey, getting told to buy wheat only to have it sit in people's basements for 35 years collecting dust. Things things their relatives actually did!

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No offense but I can only imagine what people driving by on highways are thinking when they see Trek happening, they might think they went through some other dimension when they past the Golden Corral or something, "Herbie, look at this, teenagers driving oxen and burying pretend babies, I know you should should have turned right at the Golden Corral!!!!"

Edited by Duncan

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16 minutes ago, rongo said:

I think I gave the wrong impression. We're not shooting for a gritty, authentic physical experience. We're more concerned with historical accuracy, like Mormon Battalion, Missouri mobbers scaring people at night in camp, etc. I also have photos from the last one of women in all white helping with the "women's pull" (which is contra Church policy). 

Things like that. 

I'm anti-trek, actually (and the SP knows that). But if we have to have a trek, I would like to eliminate some of this silliness that has crept in. 

But, we're not looking to put the kids through a grueling physical experience. 

Oh, okay.  Good to know.

I'm not sure I understand the need for strict historical accuracy.  For example, many stakes adapt trek to their locale rather than travel all the way to Wyoming.  So a trek in Alaska or Montana is not going to be "accurate" in that respect.

I see your point about injecting melodramatic elements (Mormon Battalion, Missouri mobbers).  There are plenty of ways to make Trek memorable without going too far afield.

I was previously ambivalent about Trek, but having seen its effects on more than a few youth in our stake has persuaded me that it is (or can/should be) worthwhile.

Thanks,

-Smac

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51 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I think that can end very badly.  Our stake had our trek this year, with an AAR (After Action Review) at which all the adult leaders gathered for dinner and provided feedback on how it went and how it could have gone better.

Many of those in attendance had had previous trek experiences in other wards, so many comparisons and contrasts were voiced.  The overwhelming consensus was that seeking "authenticity" or verisimilitude (particularly as to physical rigors and food) is a very bad idea.  The gist of it is that when youth in 2017 are being pulled away from all of their creature comforts for a few days and plunged into an "authentic" replication of 19th-century handcart companies, the shift between these two radically different circumstances is just too jarring.  The youth in the "authentic" treks were reported as having had a miserable time, and being quite resentful and angry at the leaders for making them miserable purely as an object lesson

Rather, the consensus in our stake was that some rigors and challenges are helpful, but that the focus should be on creating an uplifting and memorable experience.  The overall experience of hiking miles in a day in "pioneer" clothing in windswept Wyoming was good and sufficient to give the youth a small glimpse into the profound difficulties the Saints endured.  Meanwhile, there was plenty of water (plenty of water).  And plenty of good food.  And pioneer-era "activities" (square dancing, stick-pulling, tug-of-war, etc.).  And object lessons about the circumstances the pioneers faced (short presentations during the daily trek, samples of hard tack and salt port and other types of pioneer-era food, etc.).  

I cannot really over-emphasize how strongly this opinion was held by those in attendance who had participated in our stake's trek (which was challenging, but also a lot of fun, and had plenty of good food) and also previously participated in treks which sought to be more "accurate" or "authentic."

Thanks,

-Smac

This is absolutely excellent advice! Here is another link for great information from the church on planning trek. Make sure all stories told come from this guideline...so many well told stories contain factually incorrect stories! Don't use them! 

https://www.lds.org/youth/activities/stake-and-multistake-activities/camps-and-youth-conferences/treks?lang=eng

Here is a direct link to the PDF of historically accurate pioneer stories to use. https://www.lds.org/youth/activities/bc/pdfs/stake/Handcart-Stories.pdf?lang=eng

Here is a quote from the "stories" pdf. 

"A Note on Historical Accuracy When relating historical events, especially those of a sacred nature, it is important to be as accurate as possible. When you are historically accurate, you establish trust with your audience, and the Spirit can testify to the truth of what you say. Sometimes it can be difficult to find sources of historical information that are completely accurate. Many of the handcart pioneers wrote their stories decades after their experience, so their memories of some details had dimmed. Sometimes several people remembered the same event differently. Some stories have grown or changed as they have been shared. The stories in this publication have been carefully researched to provide information that is as accurate as possible. If you would like to learn more about these stories, other reliable sources of information are listed on page 27."

Edited by bsjkki
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27 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Probably because it's something youth can actually take part in.  Trying to organize youth treks with wagons and oxen would be a disaster.

Assuming oxen would be available. Where do you go to get an ox these days? Horses would be hard enough to come by. And covered wagons.

 

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12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Oh, okay.  Good to know.

I'm not sure I understand the need for strict historical accuracy.  For example, many stakes adapt trek to their locale rather than travel all the way to Wyoming.  So a trek in Alaska or Montana is not going to be "accurate" in that respect.

I see your point about injecting melodramatic elements (Mormon Battalion, Missouri mobbers).  There are plenty of ways to make Trek memorable without going too far afield.

I was previously ambivalent about Trek, but having seen its effects on more than a few youth in our stake has persuaded me that it is (or can/should be) worthwhile.

Thanks,

-Smac

I could abide the melodrama if it weren't so ridiculously anachronistic. Mormon Battalion and Missouri mobbers in handcart re-eanctment? That's downright silly.

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One more thing! Mormon's were awesome pioneers. Studies about the actual death rate of pioneers show a relatively low death rate. Here are a few links about this study that came out in 2014. 

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4562&context=byusq

https://ldsmag.com/article-1-14624-2/

"This may come as a surprise to modern Mormon youth whove participated in handcart treks.

“The youth go out and learn that a lot of people died and they push the handcart and after three days they think they are practically dead,” said retired historian Mel Bashore. “But most people traveled in wagons to Utah. The whole Mormon trail movement that spanned 20 years was a really successful endeavor.” 

Bashore worked with a team of actuarial scientists at Brigham Young University to analyze 56,000 pioneer records from 1847-1868. Of these 56,000, there were an estimated 1,900 people who died either on the plains or within the calendar year of their arrival. That is about a 3.5 percent mortality rate, whereas a national comparison group in 1850 experienced an annual mortality rate between 2.5 percent and 2.9 percent."

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865607257/New-study-Mormon-pioneers-were-safer-on-trek-than-previously-thought-especially-infants.html

"The infant mortality rate on the plains was 9 percent, while the general infant mortality rate in 1850 was above 15 percent...

The Willie and Martin handcart companies suffered a mortality rate of 16.5 percent, the study found. The other eight handcart companies were far safer, with a mortality rate of 4.7. One handcart company had no deaths."

Edited by bsjkki
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36 minutes ago, rongo said:

I think I gave the wrong impression. We're not shooting for a gritty, authentic physical experience. We're more concerned with historical accuracy, like Mormon Battalion, Missouri mobbers scaring people at night in camp, etc. I also have photos from the last one of women in all white helping with the "women's pull" (which is contra Church policy). 

Things like that. 

I'm anti-trek, actually (and the SP knows that). But if we have to have a trek, I would like to eliminate some of this silliness that has crept in. 

But, we're not looking to put the kids through a grueling physical experience. 

Sounds like you could best be of service just in the role of a technical adviser. Attend all the committee meetings and screen out the silliness when it crops up.

With a solid background in Church history -- which I think you have -- you ought to be able to accomplish that easily enough.

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31 minutes ago, bsjkki said:

One more thing! Mormon's were awesome pioneers. Studies about the actual death rate of pioneers show a relatively low death rate. Here are a few links about this study that came out in 2014. 

https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4562&context=byusq

https://ldsmag.com/article-1-14624-2/

"This may come as a surprise to modern Mormon youth whove participated in handcart treks.

“The youth go out and learn that a lot of people died and they push the handcart and after three days they think they are practically dead,” said retired historian Mel Bashore. “But most people traveled in wagons to Utah. The whole Mormon trail movement that spanned 20 years was a really successful endeavor.” 

Bashore worked with a team of actuarial scientists at Brigham Young University to analyze 56,000 pioneer records from 1847-1868. Of these 56,000, there were an estimated 1,900 people who died either on the plains or within the calendar year of their arrival. That is about a 3.5 percent mortality rate, whereas a national comparison group in 1850 experienced an annual mortality rate between 2.5 percent and 2.9 percent."

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865607257/New-study-Mormon-pioneers-were-safer-on-trek-than-previously-thought-especially-infants.html

"The infant mortality rate on the plains was 9 percent, while the general infant mortality rate in 1850 was above 15 percent...

The Willie and Martin handcart companies suffered a mortality rate of 16.5 percent, the study found. The other eight handcart companies were far safer, with a mortality rate of 4.7. One handcart company had no deaths."

This is true. It is only the Willie and Martin companies -- two out of the 10 -- that experienced the really egregious hardships, exposure, starvation, fatalities, etc.

I think the retelling on the treks, though, focuses largely on these two companies, especially since so many of treks take place at and near Martin's Cove and Rocky Ridge, which are the prominent sites associated with the tragedy of the Willie and Martin companies.

Edited by Scott Lloyd

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1 hour ago, rongo said:

My stake presidency has asked me to present recommendations for making our youth trek (December 2018) historically accurate. 

I don't recall any of the handcart companies traveling in December. Even the Willie and Martin handcart company arrived before then, and they didn't have a great go of things.

Where are you going to be doing the trek? Miami?

 

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In our modern-day consciousness of the Mormon pioneer movement, the handcart saga tends to overshadow everything else. Yet in some ways, the handcarts were really only a minor part of the movement. The handcart period lasted for only four years (1856-60), while the pioneer movement itself stretched from 1847 until the coming of the railroad to Utah in 1869 (my Lloyd ancestors came in the 1870s, which means they probably rode the train part of the way, yet I still regard them as my Mormon pioneer ancestors). Furthermore, the handcart pioneers comprised less than 10 percent of all of the pioneer emigrants who made their way to the West. And there were still conventional wagon trains going to the Salt Lake Valley even during the four years of the handcart period.

The handcarts are a very visible, symbolic, and, in some ways, important icon of the Mormon Pioneer experience. But rongo, part of your contribution might be to help everyone keep the handcart saga in perspective.

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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