Thursday, June 29, 2017

Updated Trek Guidelines

As a Pioneer Trek Agnostic, I found Keepa's link to an updated booklet of the LDS Church on Handcart Trek Reenactments interesting.

Once again, don't get me wrong! I love a good historical reenactment as much as any interpretive historian. I've explored a lot of pioneer trails, etc., etc. What I don't like is emotional manipulation as a substitute for a truly valuable, spiritual experience.

So, I was pleased to see that the worst abuses of trek are now discouraged. I cut and pasted the items in italics:
Reenacting deaths or violence—including mob violence— is not to be included as part of treks.
I guess that's a bit stronger than "discouraged."

There was a Senior Seminary trip to Echo Canyon I attended years ago. It was a lot of fun to travel there and stand beneath those pinkish sandstone cliffs as they told us about the Utah War and the defenses built up on top where we were to hike. Then, a couple of cowboys rode up on horses and in very threatening manner yelled at the leaders about why we were there again when they had been told to stay away, etc.

One of the fathers that had driven our group ran for his car to get his gun. You see, we had come from the Wyoming side of the trail. Well, a little south of the main overland trail, but right on the later trail of the out-and-back companies, the stagecoach, and the eventual railroad. Rock Springs is a wild and woolly place even today.

Echo Canyon, Utah, on the Mormon Pioneer, Pony Express, and California/Hasting Cutoff Trails
Free use Wikipedia commons by gracious permission of  Flckr User: Leoboudv
Just as the dad reached his car, we were let in on the joke that the cowboys were playing a part to scare us about mob violence. Har-dee-har. My buddy went running to stop his dad. I was scared that somebody could have been really shot by a real Rock Springs ruffian.

The next forbidden activity is:
The wearing of white clothing to represent deceased persons or angels from the other side of the veil is not to be included as part of treks.
This should be banned in every youth activity, IMHO. Adolescence is stressful enough without "angels jumping out of bushes" as one relative described trek to me. Sweating in the hot desert is usually enough to convince anyone of the reality of death and hell. But even emotionally uplifting fake angels should be banned. Our religion is weird enough already. Let's not compound it.

And, that's about it. I don't mind the letters from parents and "solo" time, or the stories, or adopting a pioneer, or family history linkage. Well, the latter should be the principal purpose anyway along with temple ordinances as necessary.

I am still bothered by the "Women's pull" tradition where the young men sit on a hillside to watch the young women manage the handcarts up rough ground without their help. Once again, it seems more emotionally and physically manipulative than serving a spiritual purpose that could be met by real-life activities on the trail. I know a lot of tough, young women who can push and pull along with the bulkiest of the boys. But let the youth experience the reality of helping each other, maybe helping out a smaller or weaker member of the handcart team. That is modern reality to understand historical experience. Reference to historical accounts can wrap it all into a meaningful whole without being manipulative.

I hope I've said enough to continue my streak of not being asked to join trek. If I do get asked, I'll just jump out of the bushes armed to the teeth dressed in white, flowing robes.


  1. I've never liked the idea of the women's' pull, though it's always the #1 story when anyone reports back on trek. I'd think a better alternative would be to have various people get "seriously ill" and have to be carried in the carts. If you have to experience helplessness while others pull your load, make it closer than watching from the next hill over. There are certainly times as parents where you'll either be helpless to do anything to ease someone else's burden, or are extra burdened from circumstances in others lives.

    What are your ideas for replacing the women's pull?

  2. Well, to be historically accurate, they didn't place the sick in the handcarts. They left the dead and dying and sick along the trail, sometimes with a healthy guard or two, to either bury them when finally dead or to be picked up by the following wagons as oxen were slower than the handcarts.

  3. Alas, another romantic assumption dashed on the rocks of facts.


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