Trek: `essence of our courage'

"The epic pioneer journey of the Latter-day Saints began on the banks of the Mississippi River," said President Gordon B. Hinckley in his opening remarks in a video documentary of the pioneers. "In the bone-chilling cold of that bitter winter, the exodus began. Many of the Saints gathered their belongings and closed the doors of their dwellings for the last time as they turned to what lay across the river - and west."

Adding to the traditional format of general conference, the 20-minute documentary was shown during the Sunday morning session of conference. President Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust narrated the video at prominent sites along the pioneer trail."Nauvoo is peaceful now," said President Hinckley with his arm resting on a fence post with a pastoral setting of the City of Joseph in the background.

"There was much of hardship ahead for these pioneers but they had faith in their leaders and faith in the Lord and His goodness. So they walked out into a wilderness . . . their journey marked by faith in every footstep."

President Monson continued the narration: "The way west was slow. Many were ill prepared for the grueling trek."

Standing beside the monument at the Winter Quarters, Neb., cemetery, President Monson continued: "Here at Winter Quarters was Zion in the wilderness. Yet despite all they could do, sickness and death stalked the camps. My heart is deeply touched as I realize just how high a price those noble Saints paid in responding to the call of the prophet. Truly, these noble pioneers walked a path of pain and a trail of tears. Their journey was over but their names live on as testaments of their love of truth and faith in the Lord."

President Faust, at Rocky Ridge in Wyoming, one of the highest points of the trail, said, "Between that refuge and the promise of Zion stood a vast plain and the fertile Platte River - their lifeline as they pushed farther into the American West. "Into this land, speckled with sage and air swirling with dust, tired oxen lumbered, wagon wheels creaked, brave men and women toiled and, occasionally, wolves howled.

Speaking of Rocky Ridge, President Faust continued: "The pioneers who came over this very spot faced discouragement, some even death as they inched their way up this sharp slope. Imagine facing this ridge in a wagon. Then imagine pulling a handcart.

"In the heroic effort of the handcart pioneers, we learn a great truth. All must pass through a refiner's fire and the insignificant and unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact and strong."

Other prominent areas shown along the trail included Big Mountain in Utah, where President Monson related the efforts of his ancestor, Gibson Condie, who left the Salt Lake Valley and struggled through 16 feet of snow on Big Mountain on his way to help rescue the stranded handcart pioneers of 1856.

In the concluding setting, President Hinckley spoke of Ensign Peak, seen in vision by Brigham Young before leaving Nauvoo. Brigham Young recognized the dome-shaped peak when he entered the valley.

"This great pioneering movement of more than a century ago goes forward with latter-day pioneers," President Hinckley continued. "It's the essence of our courage to face modern-day mountains and our commitment to carry on."

The video is expected to be available in English only in Church distribution centers near the end of April.

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