Modern trek parallels original experiences

Historians can learn a lot about Mormon history by studying the experiences of the early pioneers' modern-day counterparts, said the ecclesiastical president of the sesquicentennial re-enactment wagon train

Speaking Sept. 26 at the closing banquet of a BYU sesquicentennial symposium Brian J. Hill, president of the Kearney Nebraska Stake, shared his experience on the Mormon Trail and how it paralleled the experiences of the 1847 pioneers.Pres. Hill's presentation was the capstone to several lectures by Church history scholars on pioneer topics.

He said he never imagined his 1997 trek re-enactment experiences would parallel in so many ways the actual events, which took place a century and a half ago.

Pres. Hill commented he would like historians to study more about the early pioneers' spiritual needs, the socializing of the pioneer youth, the effects of exhaustion on the early Church members and the joy that filled the pioneers as they crossed the plains - all things that were a very real part of his trek experience.

Most importantly, said Pres. Hill, historians should study the way Zion was built by the early pioneers - not after they came to the Salt Lake Valley, but as they came.

Quoting 4 Nephi, the president of the wagon train said the pioneers were a Zion people because "they were of one heart, one mind and dwelled in righteousness." Because "they had all things common among them."

His wife, Karen, and their four children were also part of the sesquicentennial wagon train. She spoke of the wagon train re-enactment "from the perspective of a woman and a mother."

The experience for her children was a "never ending ward social," she said. "From the time they left our trailer, they were constantly with friends and watching horses and finding out who had the best food and who could play and whose wagon they could take a nap in.

"I think children who traveled the trail - probably even in pioneer days - traveled it twice," she said, explaining that that her children were "forever running back and forth."

While her husband was fulfilling his responsibilities on the wagon train, she pulled together with the other women, sharing food, parenting stories and recipes, and rekindling the art of conversation. Sister Hill said she has a better understanding of early pioneer women, because she experienced the sisterhood that comes "by serving one another and by sharing and giving and just being there - by being family with one another."

"I think it was because of this type of service that we gave to one another that the spirit was so strong in the wagon train," she concluded.

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