Sunday, June 29, 2014

Trek 2014

Trek 2014

Trek 2014
This is the text of the talk I gave after Trek.

I have been blessed to spend the last few days walking on the trails that the pioneers traveled in their journey to Zion.  As we arrived in Martin's Cove, we were quickly assembled into three companies.  The handcarts were loaded, and we were greeted by the missionaries.  

 Elder Freeman spoke to us, and I was touched by what he said.  What I thought about most as we pushed our handcart through sand, up hills, and across a river, were the two things Elder Freeman had told us we could learn if we would be open to the Spirit.

He promised that the ministering angels of these pioneers would be there to help us understand
·         what it is to be rescued,
·         and then we would come to learn how to rescue others.

We learned what it is to be rescued.
As we heard stories of the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers, we heard stories of bravery, strength, endurance, perseverance, and faith.  Their devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the depth of their faith was hard to comprehend.  We heard of the struggles and hardships that you are so familiar with.

Trek is an amazing opportunity that allows us not to just hear, but to feel and experience some small degree of the struggles the pioneers felt.  

As feet blistered, it wasn't hard to wonder how the pioneers, without access to Cabela's, or cushioned running and hiking shoes, could have walked for months, through heat, wind and snow and not given up.

As faces were sunburned, sand stung them, and mosquitoes feasted, we wondered how they faced the elements without sunscreen or bug spray.

As we walked through wind and rain, and sat shivering in the cold, we couldn't imagine how hard it was to spend so many days trudging through freezing temperatures and blizzards, without a coat, no shoes, no hat, and no gloves.

As we looked at the places where children, mothers and fathers, and grandparents were buried, or left along the trail, we wondered how they managed to go on when all seemed so hopeless.

While our trials on Trek paled in comparison, it opened a window that let us see that there was something more that must have driven the pioneers on.  They had a conviction, but even more, a conversion that led to an unshakable faith in God.  They had been called to Zion, and they were willing to give up everything they had, even their lives, in order to obey a command from the prophet, and to have their families sealed for eternity in the temple.

The pioneers believed the promise in D&C 84:88 "there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

President Hinckley said, "It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future.  It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead.  It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries.  Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his own life..."
Can a generation that lives with central heating and air conditioning, with the automobile and the airplane, with the miracle of television and the magic of the computer understand, appreciate, and learn from the lives and motives of those who had none of these and yet accomplished much of tremendous consequence?"

For all of us that went on Trek, I think we would unanimously agree that yes, the generations that have been blessed with so many creature comforts could, indeed, learn something from the lives of the pioneers.

As a Ma, I watched, and listened to our youth as they spoke with each other about the experiences they had.  They marveled at the strength and faith these pioneers showed.  They were touched in their hearts.  This was evidenced as the days went on; Ma's didn't have to ask for help preparing food, rather we had to turn them away because we ran out of things they could do.  They began looking for ways to help each other-setting up tents before the rain started, or taking them down before it began again-and they drew closer as a group.

Our youth have an amazing bond, and this was strengthened as they worked together.  They took turns pushing the handcart, they rekindled friendships, and they shared testimonies that had been strengthened.  They began to behave in a more Christ-like way as each day passed.  The spirit of the pioneers was truly changing hearts.

Two days before the pioneers crossed the North Platte River for the last time, the weather had been hot, and the pioneers were getting weary.  They had not been expected to come so late in the year, so supply stations had not been stocked.  They couldn't carry the necessary food, or supplies to complete the journey without being resupplied.  As food began to dwindle,, they cut rations time and time again.  They left the few possessions they had brought with them when the load began to be too heavy to bear.  They burned the very quilts and blankets they would desperately need just days later when the first snows would come.

The pioneers were near starving, having almost run out of food.  They used bark, twigs, the soles of worn out shoes of the dead, and the meager 4 ounces of flour they received to feed their families.  

So what is it to be rescued?
To the handcart pioneers, it was the hope that was brought by four men on horseback telling them help was on the way.  Needing to receive the supplies quicker, they had to continue on to shorten the distance that lie between the two parties.  Then came the supplies; food, clothing, and bedding that would save many lives.  They had prayers answered, not immediately, not before the trials set in, and not without more effort on their part, but they were answered. 

For us, being rescued is coming to an understanding of the Atonement in such a way that we become acquainted with God.  As President Vance told the youth, they must gain more than a testimony-they must become converted.  Testimonies can waiver, but true conversion is what will help us make it through the trials we face-to push our own spiritual handcarts to Zion.  

When we are truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ our behavior will change to allow the preparation and the decisions that will help us rescue others.

Are we willing to sacrifice the things that weigh our spiritual handcart down?  Are we willing to bend our wills to do what God requires, even if it seems it will take our lives?  We, like the pioneers, must cross our own spiritual plains in order to become acquainted with God.  

 President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
"In the environment in which many of us live, there is need for reminders of lessons learned in the past. In our times of abundance, it is good occasionally to be taken back to earlier days, to have our minds refocused on the struggles of the early Latter-day Saints, to remind us ... of the importance of faith in God if there is to be lasting achievement..."
"Faith was the guiding principle in those difficult days. Faith is the guiding principle we must follow today."

As we sat on Holy Ground in Rock Creek Hollow, we felt the Spirit.  We learned of a Second Rescue-one that ensured that each of the pioneers that died along the way to Zion had their temple work done.  A rescue of souls- completing the journey that those Saints began so long ago.

And we learned about the Third Rescue. 
The third rescue is happening now- the saving of our youth, and ourselves.  

President James E Faust said "In the heroic effort of the handcart pioneers, we learn a great truth. All must pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. Yet this is part of the purging to become acquainted with God."

I want the youth to know-- I have been to Israel and Kirtland, two places where the Spirit is so strong that I can't understand how anyone could not feel it.  That same Spirit is in Martin's Cove, and I felt it at Rock Creek Hollow.  These places are truly hallowed ground. 

As President Hinckley explained about these faithful pioneers:  "Shining above all of their principles and ideals was their solemn and wonderful belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and their Redeemer. They knew him. He walked with them on that long march to the Elkhorn, up the Platte, beside the Sweetwater, over the Continental Divide, and down through the dry and desert country to this valley of the Great Salt Lake. He was their friend. They offered their prayers in his name. They sang to his glory. With humble appreciation they spoke of his great atoning sacrifice. They put their faith in him. "

What a wonderful people they were. There is nothing like their great effort in all of history. There have been other great migrations. There have been many great causes for which men have given their lives. But in our time, within the span of our memory, stand these noble pioneers. God bless their memory to our good. When the way seems hard, when we are discouraged thinking all is lost, we can turn to them and see how much worse was their condition. When we wonder about the future, we can look to them and their great example of faith."

We need to  prepare to become the rescuers.  

When Brigham Young received word that these two handcart companies, and two wagon teams were on the plains, and would surely die if help was not sent, the first rescue party went out immediately.  They were men that had prepared themselves.  Their homes were in order, they were truly converted, and they obeyed the call of the prophet the very day he commanded.  They were ready now.

Elder Freeman encouraged our youth to learn what it is to be a rescuer.  To learn how to be worthy, and how to be in tune, so that when the Lord needed them to rescue a soul they would be ready now-not in a couple of days, or months, but right that very moment.

President Hickley told the youth " I make you a promise that God will not forsake you if you will walk in His paths with the guidance of His commandments. "  

 The pioneer ancestors that we all claim by blood, or by membership in this church are examples of this.  Though paths might need to be walked through storms or fierce winds, you can accomplish whatever the Lord requires of you.

“All about us there are many who are in need of help and who are deserving of rescue. Our mission in life, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, must be a mission of saving.” President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), “Our Mission of Saving,” 

These youth have had amazing experiences, many of them very individual.  I would encourage those of you who didn't go to ask them about it.  Let them share the experiences, which will help us all to remember the lessons that we can learn.

John Jacques wrote in his journal "When the Lord calls His saints to do anything, if they will rely upon Him and do the best they can, He will fit the back to the burden and make everything bend to the accomplishments of His purposes."  John lost his two-year-old daughter in Green River, and carried her body the rest of the way to Salt Lake for burial.

Mark 5:36 says "Be not afraid, only believe."  

Francis Webster, a member of the Martin handcart company said "We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation. But did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? …  Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities."

“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other.  I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I said I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull my load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me.  I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there."

“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor one moment of my life since.  The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come to Zion in the Martin Handcart Company”.
I testify that these pioneers learned to believe, to have hope, and to trust in God's plan.  They knew the power of the Atonement, and they understood the importance of temple blessings.  They witnessed the help of ministering angels.  They knew God.   

I know this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know that through the Atonement, we can be forgiven of sins, and have burdens that feel too heavy to bear lifted from our shoulders.  I know that as we face the trials placed in our way, that they can lead us to becoming acquainted with God.  We can be rescued by our Savior, and stand as rescuers that are ready to heed the direction of God in saving souls.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.



More good links for pioneer talks:
A Priceless Heritage
Be Not Afraid, Only Believe

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