Local Church Joins in 'Pioneer Trek'
Church youth remember and honor Mormon pioneers.
More than two hundred youth ages 14-18 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Atlanta area, along with more than 50 adult leaders, commemorated the Mormon pioneer trek west first held during the mid-1800s. They pushed handcarts and hiked 20 miles over horse trails, through meadows and across the Etowah River.
The church has multiple locations around the Atlanta area. Kids who participated included some from the Brockett Road location in Tucker.
The Pioneer Trek was held in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area from July 17 until July 19. Everyone dressed in full pioneer clothing including long sleeved shirts or blouses, long pants or skirts, aprons, bloomers, bonnets or straw hats. They left modern day conveniences and electronics behind exchanging them for swaddled bags of rice representing infants, camping in tents and cooking meals outdoors.
Each youth was assigned to a family that worked together to move a handcart full of their only possessions, food and equipment across the 20 mile path. Each person was allowed to bring only 13 pounds of personal items on the three day, two night adventure.
Bishop Young of the Twin Oaks congregation along with his wife Marlene acted as the “Ma and Pa” of the group leading the youth on the journey. As the young men and young women pushed and pulled the loaded handcarts up hills, through mud and across a river they heard stories of pioneers of the early church and the sacrifices they made to head west.
Since 1849, two years after settling in Utah, July 24th is a day set aside by the LDS church to remember and honor the early Mormon pioneers. The event was organized to help the youth better understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by their ancestors and the early pioneers and the testimonies they had of their Savior. Other goals of the Trek were to help the youth strengthen their own testimonies of Jesus Christ, teach and exemplify the principle of serving one another, gain new friends and an appreciation for family, and increase their sense of self worth.
Hannah Tippetts from Lilburn said of the experience, “It was hard but fun. We were grouped into families. It was fun to work together with people we didn’t know and be able to do hard things. I learned to always have a good attitude and be grateful for what I have."
"One of the hardest things was when just a group of girls worked together for almost 30 minutes to move a handcart up a steep muddy hill," Tippetts added. "I felt encouraged by the spirit to get through it and I felt the spirit of the pioneers as we got to experience a little of what they went through.”
Sean Stanley from Clarkston said, “The Trek taught me about the sacrifices made by the pioneers. I don’t have any pioneer ancestors myself but hearing the stories about how they left everything to go to Zion inspired me. I thought if they can do all this why shouldn’t I be able to go a little out of my way to serve other people?”
The youth learned from this experience what it was like to be a pioneer more than a century ago and gained strength to be pioneers in their own lives by being examples of courage, inspiration and faith to those around them.