News Release

Teens Swap iPhones for Handcarts


Why would 14 to 18-year olds willingly giving up four days of their school holidays to dress up in period clothing and walk for hours on end?

For a group of 80 teenagers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Victoria and Tasmania, re-enacting the gruelling journey of the Latter-day Saint pioneers across the United States over 170 years ago was an opportunity to learn from the past.

Giving up modern comforts and technology to push heavy handcarts, cooking and eating meagre pioneer-style food, and sleeping under the stars, the youth experienced on a small scale the challenges faced by early members of their church.

Exhaustion and phone separation anxiety aside, many of the youth said the experience was one of the best things they had ever done.

"It was really amazing!... I came home having learned a lot. Being grateful for the things I have instead of taking them for granted is one of them,” said Slava Cooke, 16.

“It was by far the most fun I had during Trek and I would obviously do it again without a doubt,” said Jasmine Faamanu Afoa, 15.  

As a part of the trek experience, the youth were ‘harassed’ by an angry mob, similar to the pioneers.

“I found the mob attack really interesting,” said Katea Ataata, 15. “I obviously knew that the "mobsters" were people from church and that they weren't going to hurt us… It wasn't hard to imagine what the pioneers would've felt like… it was really dangerous for them”.

Along the way the youth also encountered ‘Native American Indians’ who they needed to trade with to pass safely through. Traditional games were played and stories of pioneers were shared around campfires.

Brett Sayer, one of the adult chaperones, said he struggled to find the words to express how he felt about the trek.

“At the end of Trek I was quite emotional and found it hard to talk about how sacred the experience was.”

“I believe that the lessons that I learnt on Trek of developing relationships of love with those close to you and being guided by the spirit, have helped me to be a better husband and father at home. I am very grateful to have been involved.”

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.