Even though I spoke in church just a few months ago, I am thankful that I was asked to talk on a day when we remember the pioneers and the tremendous sacrifice that they have made for each one of us.
Years ago, Elder Ballard shared some thoughts about my great, great, great grandmother and pioneer Margaret McNeil Ballard.
In 1854 Margaret was baptized at the age of eight in a small town of Scotland. Just two years later, Margaret and her family left Scotland and started for Utah. At just 10 years of age, from Liverpool to New York, she cooked for and took care of her seasick family.
During the journey across the plains their wagon was delayed by runaway oxen, Margaret was sent ahead to join the main part of the company with her four-year-old brother James who was strapped to her back. For over a week Margaret carried and took care of her brother as they crossed the plains.
After the family was together again, Margaret was in charge of caring for the family cow. Each day, she would hurry the cow ahead of the company so it could eat in the grassy places along the way. Being alone much of the time, she wrote, “I had to get across the rivers the best I could. Our cow was a Jersey and had a long tail. When it was necessary to cross the rivers I would wind the end of the cow’s tail around my hand and swim across … with the cow.”
One night when she was looking for the cow, she felt something soft under her bare feet. She looked down and found that she was standing in a bed of snakes. “At the sight of them I became so weak I could scarcely move,” she wrote. “All I could think of was to pray, and in some way I jumped out of them.” Whether it was escaping from Indians or finding a lost animal, Margaret continually sought and acknowledged the Lord’s protecting care.
I am grateful for the sacrifice of all my ancestors that crossed the plains. I would not be here today if it was not for them.
As you know, just a few weeks ago our stake went to trek. Trek is when your stake or ward go and pull handcarts across the plains for a certain amount of time. When you go to trek you are put into families who you work with to pull handcarts. Trek was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.
During the 4 days at Trek we walked around 30-35 miles in the planes of Wyoming. Even though this was a very short distance compared to the pioneers it was hard at times. We took a path that was often difficult and steep.
During our time as we trekked across the plains, we were blessed with amazing weather, mostly cloudy with a cooling breeze.
In our family we had 4 boys and 4 girls, a ma and a pa. Most of us hardly knew each other, but in the end we had all grown to be good friends as we served one another.
The ma and pa in our family knew a lot about the fundamentals of scouting and trek, without them we would have had no idea what we were doing. For sleeping we had sleeping bags, tarps, and the comfort or lack thereof as we had no mattresses and slept directly on the ground.
For eating well, that was a different story. For breakfasts we had breakfast surprise and breakfast burritos, for lunches we ate sandwiches, PB&Js, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables, and for dinner, pulled pork, Hawaiian haystacks, mystery meats, and the infamous trek stew.
I am pretty certain we ate better than the pioneers.
For activities we played many different games like limbo, capture the flag, and Frisbee with cow cakes. We also had a lot of dances and even played tulips on the prairie. Some of my friends from the ward and stake really, really enjoyed that game.
During our time on trek we were better able to relate to of what the pioneers did, we learned of the many sacrifices they had to make to get to Salt Lake. Many of us were in awe of what the pioneers did.
I know that this church is true. I believe that the pioneers were directed and blessed by God in so many ways as they crossed the plains. I know that Brigham Young was directed to trek across the plains to get to Utah where the church could grow and saints could find peace. I know the scriptures are true. I love this church and everything that we do and stand for. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.