Pioneer Treks Begin Again for Spokane Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Commentary by Jennifer Hicks | FāVS News
Trading in modern day life and conveniences for old-fashioned clothing and a return to the olden days before cell phones and Wi-Fi is something most teenagers wouldn’t even consider. For a group of nearly 100 youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Spokane who willingly and enthusiastically signed up for this opportunity of a lifetime, it was something never to be forgotten.
Courageous youth ages 13-18 reenacted a portion of the pioneer exodus to Utah by pushing handcarts 18 miles in high temperatures over a three-day period, through a remote area southwest of Cheney, Washington. The youth were divided into 12 trek families with each family having a mother and father assigned for a total of 24 “parents” seeing them through. (There were many other adult volunteers who performed various duties to make this monumental activity possible.)
Participants traveled with their assigned trek families, and each family pushed a handcart, patterned after those used by pioneers. The youth wore pioneer-style clothing and ate meals prepared in Dutch ovens. Of course, no technology was allowed on the journey (except phones used by leaders to provide support in case of emergencies).
“The attitude of the youth who participated was amazing! We are grateful to the pioneers who came before us, and we hope these kids also know that they are modern-day pioneers,” said Heather Whitehead, a member of the Spokane Stake of the Church who served as the lead organizer of the event said.
The pioneer trek in the Spokane Stake usually takes place every four years but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first trek since 2017.
This contemporary trek paid tribute to the approximately 70,000 pioneers of the early days of the Church who migrated to the Salt Lake Valley — later the state of Utah — beginning in the mid-1840s to the late 1860s to escape persecution and establish a new home for their community of faith.
Salt Lake City continues to serve as the headquarters of the Church, which now has over 17 million members worldwide.
Pioneer Day is a state holiday in Utah and is celebrated each year on July 24 to remember the day when Brigham Young and the first company of Mormon Pioneers arrived in 1847. He stopped at Ensign Peak overlooking the Salt Lake Valley and exclaimed, “This is the place!”
“It was hard at the beginning, but as I continued with my (trek) family, I understood just a tiny bit of everything the pioneers had to go through. What we did for three days was hard, but the pioneers had to do it for much longer and had more challenges along the way,” said Ava Weidauer a sophomore at Ferris High School.
Noah Weidauer, a senior at Ferris High School and Ava’s older brother said, “I purposely chose shoes that would give me blisters and didn’t bring things like sunglasses so I could experience some of the pain that the pioneers went through. As the days went on, I realized more and more how much faith the pioneers had. They suffered for months and months on the trail. Because of trek, my faith has grown, and I will remember the experiences I had for a long time.”
Darrell L. Moseley, the president of the Spokane Stake, said those who took on the challenge of trek “will be better for having this experience.”
“It was wonderful to see our youth learn and grow from their participation in trek,” Moseley said. “They had to lay aside their everyday comforts, push themselves to the limit and imagine what the early pioneers must have felt as they walked with handcarts.”
On July 23, the youth gathered at the Spokane Stake Center for a final celebration of their experience and a chance to see a slideshow of the trek. Their shared experience will be a treasured memory for decades to come.