(150 Years). Winter Quarters, Nebraska to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake,April 21, 1997 to July 22, 1997.
On a cold rainy morning in April 1997, modern day pioneers left Florence, Nebraska, the old winter quarters, to re-enact the migration of Mormon Saints 150 years earlier. ten thousand participants would take part along the trail, from the banks of the Missouri river to the valley of the great salt lake. the journey of wagons, handcarts, outriders and walkers would take three months and traverse over one thousand miles. the trek was a commemoration of sacrifices, joys and was a testament to the honor and greatness of those who went before. upon arriving in the valley, a glorious welcome awaited, as 50,000 emotional well wishers at the trail's end overcame the participants.
Participants and volunteers alike came to feel the spirits of their ancestors and to know, even for one day, the spirit of the Mormon Trail. Many heartfelt thoughts like the following were expressed: I felt a real pull to be out here. I don't know why, but I'm supposed to be here. I know that for sure. our lives were orchestrated in such a way as to get us here. it was exhilarating, quiet, powerful and gentle. For the veil was thin and they did travel by our sides; for we felt them daily. it was a memorial to our ancestors, a daily, daylong journey into the past, and because of it, our lives were forever changed.
An apostolic blessing was given. in part, it stated: we ask thee father to reach down from thy throne above and bless each and every man, woman, and child that they may have comfort and peace come to them. This is a very important enterprise, a very important undertaking where a statement is made throughout the entire world. We ask thee to bless the animals that they may be strengthened. That they may, from the water they receive and the hay they partake of, be strong and able. that they may fulfill their responsibilities on this trek. We pray for those that are walking, that their limbs will be strong, that their hearts will be strong, that their limbs will have the capacity to carry them safely along. we pray for those pulling the handcarts; that when it gets difficult they will have the very same experiences of knowing those who have gone before are capable of coming and pushing the carts at their side. Heavenly father, bless them, protect them, walk with them and see them safely into the valley of the great salt lake.
With the assistance of the spirit, events took place that touched our hearts and inspired us to a greater commitment. Without it, one could only see sagebrush and dusty trails. sensitive hearts would discern the eloquent witness of what transpired, for they felt aspiritual kinship with those who traveled these trails. Their lives were strengthened and enriched, for the treasures of the trail were revealed only through sacrifice. there are those who would underestimate the difficulties: miles of dust filled winds, temperatures fluctuating 60 degrees in one day, the incessant buzz of swarming mosquitoes and the desolate aridity of desert regions, all factors as real now as they were then. yet the songs of Zion were sung along the trail. some of the children even walked barefoot. our animals stayed strong and we relied on one another for safety and companionship.
On arrival, all were reminded: your wheels again cut deep into the sandy soil of Nebraska. the silhouette of wagons against the Wyoming sky created a picture of unique and wondrous beauty. you looked at the starry heavens at night, in lonely desolate places, and contemplated the wondrous things of god. you marveled at the sunrise and sunsets which marked the passing of each day ... you will now go your separate ways, but you will never forget this remarkable experience, nor will we ... you will tell your children and your grandchildren and your great grandchildren about the year of 1997, when you made the long journey west following the tracks of the pioneers of 150 years earlier. God bless you, my beloved associates, for what you have done for each of us.
Their spirits transcended time and beckoned us to trace their journey for the trail never ends, we will not forget the memories we hold.