Last week in Lee, 140 teenagers and 50 adults found out how tough the trek their spiritual forebears took across the country might have been when it rained overnight Wednesday and most of the day Thursday.
One goal of the pioneer trek is to give teenagers a better understanding of what early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints endured when they walked to Utah, pulling everything they owned in handcarts.
Sections of the ATV trails they used for the re-enactment, held every four years, were covered in ankle-deep puddles, and the “pioneers” had to pull the hand carts up a long, steep hill to reach the final encampment.
“It was so much harder than I thought it would be,” Eleanor Erickson, 16, of Bucksport said. “I was drenched even though I had a poncho on. To keep the rain out of my eyes, I had to pull the hood of the poncho over them. I kept stepping in puddles I couldn’t see.”
The experience gave her a better understanding of what the early members of the church went through.
“Their faith must have been really strong to make the choice to go to Utah and to go through that,” Eleanor said.
The LDS church, whose members are also known as Mormons, was founded after Joseph Smith had a vision in which God and Jesus Christ appeared to him in 1820 in upstate New York. The angel Moroni revealed to Smith three years later the location of gold tablets that contained what would be published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon, according to the church’s website, ids.org. Smith attracted devotees who followed him first to Ohio, then to Missouri. There, the faith’s belief in polygamy and its opposition to slavery were unpopular.