News Release

Mormon Youth Take Trek to Honour Their Church History

Hundreds of Australian young people pulled handcarts 40 km to re-enact pioneer sacrifice

Late September, 105 youth and 45 leaders from the Baulkham Hills area spent a portion of their school holiday traveling in the Blue Mountains through sunshine and rain, to honour those original pioneers who sacrificed so much to bring church members to safety in Utah in the mid 1800’s.

In early October 150 youth and 30 adult leaders from the Blacktown City area travelled to a farm on the Murrumbidgee River at Darlington Point near Griffith NSW, also to re-enact a portion of the original trek.

These modern day treks are planned to allow young people to experience a part of the journey of the early Utah Mormon Pioneer Church members who struggled through many hardships, to reach safety in the Salt Lake Valley.

The young people from NSW pulled heavy handcarts while dressed in pioneer clothing. Deprived of modern conveniences and hygiene items of any kind, the young people learned to appreciate the sacrifices of early Church members.

Rohn Rigby, trek trail boss for the Baulkham Hills stake (diocese) said, “For most of the youth, trek will be a once in a lifetime experience.  Although for most of them it would rank high on the list for the most physically challenged they have been in their lives, it also ranks high for spiritual experiences.”

Richard Manapori, a youth from Mt. Druitt who attended the Blacktown trek, realised that, “We are all pioneers every day.  This experience has strengthened my knowledge that God cares for me”

Matthew Parsons, Church director of public affairs for the Blacktown area said, “Many youth returned home with a new perspective on their relationship with their family and each other, along with a deeper appreciation of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ”.

Natasha Nel, a 15 year old who attended the Baulkham Hills trek said of the experience, “The hardest time during trek was the night we walked, pulling our handcarts in the pitch dark, until 1:30 in the morning.  There is nothing normal about that, and it was very hard.  It was a good experience for us to all do together. It brought us closer to each other, and closer to Heavenly Father.”

Laith Tucci, a youth from the Baulkham Hills stake (diocese) summed up his days on trek when he said, “This whole experience helps me understand what the pioneers went through, and the sacrifices they made. Even the young pioneers like me. I learned a lot.”

The original 19th century Mormon migration began in 1846 in Illinois, then travelled through Iowa and Nebraska and eventually to a place of refuge in the Rocky Mountains.  It was one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the United States’ great western migration.

Unlike the thousands of pioneers streaming west to California and Oregon, looking for a better life, the Mormon pioneers migrated voluntarily – the result of expulsion from Illinois and Missouri by hostile neighbours.  Later, the Mormon pioneer trail would be filled with Church converts coming from Europe.

In all, thousands of Mormon Pioneers died on the trail.  Loved ones including children were often buried in shallow graves that would never be visited again.

Australians were also part of the original Mormon exodus. One of the many groups of pioneers that went by ship from the East Coast of Australia to the West coast of the USA foundered off Tahiti and were saved under miraculous circumstances.

An estimated 70,000 Latter-day Saints from various parts of the world made the difficult journey to Utah.  The collective experience of the pioneers has cut deep into Mormon self-identity.

Pioneers who made the trek are honoured and often spoken of in meetings of Church members, who see the pioneers’ example of courage and sacrifice as inspirational.

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