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Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Science of Trek

by Casey Peterson (bio)

Most of us are familiar with the fundamental questions of "Where do we come from?" "Why are we here?" and "Where are we going?" If you're not familiar with those questions, every Mormon has "two friends" who would like to discuss answers to those questions with you. However, in an attempt to help youth in our congregations ponder those questions and understand the accompanying insights, most of our LDS units put hours of preparation and planning into an experience fondly known as "Trek."

Last week I embarked on the spiritual Trek pilgrimage to ... Wyoming. Yes, the Wyoming of sparse population, unbalanced bovine to people ratio, unrelenting wind, copious amount of sagebrush, and vocabulary that is salty at best, and vulgar at worst. Even more, I went for a spiritual experience. Lest you are thinking that this sounds more like the ramblings of someone who instead visited one of the Wyoming watering holes, I assure you I am sober and have never tasted alcohol in my life.

Accompanied by several hundred men and boys dressed in wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, bandanas, and denim-less trousers, we slung our possibles bags over our shoulders to proudly amalgamate for the journey with the hundreds of girls and women who were wearing bonnets, full-length dresses, and aprons in pre-assigned family groups. We were assigned campsites, given a handcart to pull, and educated by elderly couple missionaries on the history of the place and the people who passed through. Historically, it was fascinating, but the real treasure was the spiritual insight and experience gained.

I come from pioneer ancestry. My ancestors converted to the LDS Church in Denmark. They crossed the plains in handcarts and wagons. I have grown up hearing the stories of hardships, suffering, and trials that they endured. I've known that many starved to death, froze to death, or came very close to both. They traveled in harsh conditions with people from different backgrounds speaking different languages. Yet something about being in the very geographic place that this happened impressed upon my mind and my heart the connection that exists today in my life. My two oldest children who came on Trek also researched and studied ancestors, and their enthusiasm and research strengthened our family identity and brought us closer together as a family.

The science and physical makeup of Trek also bring together different demographics. Not all are multi-generational members of the church from Scandinavian or European countries. In our group we had kids who are not LDS members, new converts, and from African, African American, and Hispanic heritage. Regardless of their background, I watched and felt the spiritual stirring taking place as they appreciated the sacrifices of those made to establish a legacy of faith. I watched them come together to help each other physically, spiritually, and socially, and I realized that the science of getting money, resources, food, planning, and travel to visit such a remote location is well worth the value. Temporally, I'm not sure any of us still comprehend the physical hardships suffered by others. Spiritually though, I hope the faith and strength laid down long ago strengthen my resolve to rescue, remember, and recommit in my own life.

Examples of rescuing, remembering, and recommitting given to me over 150 years ago help me to better understand where I come from, why I am here, and where I am going. Providing this experience has provided me with a greater understanding and resolve to apply these principles in many levels of application in my life, and in the legacy I leave for those who go after me.

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