How to honor pioneers in the easiest way possible-Part II

Remember when I shared pioneer stories with my kids and tried to get them excited for the Mormon pioneer trek reenactment they will do when they are teenagers?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you must refresh your memory. Specifically the part when Bode proposes the easiest way possible to honor the pioneers…because his comments just keep getting better (read on).

I’ve pretty much confirmed that manual labor is not on his list of future occupations.

A couple of months after the pioneer trek in our stake, all the youth and their families met together for a “fireside” where they shared their feelings as they watched a video about their experience. The amateur videographer pulled together what must have been hours of footage and interviews–they really captured the spirit, hard work and beautiful theme of how to rescue one another as each of us struggles throughout our lives.

I wanted my kids to see them in action so we watched the video for Family Home Evening. Many of the youth shared how they had been particularly touched during the women’s pull, which is beautifully described in this article that I’d highly recommend reading in its entirety.

Later that day we had what many recognize to be called the “women’s pull.” The women’s pull is supposed to remind those trekking of the time in handcart history when the men of the handcart companies were called off to fight with the Mormon Battalion, and the women were left to pull the handcarts. If you can imagine tired and severely underfed women pulling handcarts up a very steep and rocky ridge, your heart might tug a little bit. Mine does, because that’s exactly what all the other women in our group and I did. It was hard and teary. All the fathers and brothers stood off to the side, some crying, and had to watch us as we struggled up the hill. Some women tripped, fell, lost hold of their handcarts, or had to stop….

The women’s pull is found on the video at about 9:39.

One of my favorite parts of the video was the story of pioneers Jens and Elsie Neilson (at the 18:38 mark).

We find one of the most touching stories of sacrifice, faith, and loving charity in the life of Jens Neilson, who was a member of the Willie Handcart Company. Jens, a relatively prosperous Danish farmer, heeded the call to bring his family to Zion. In Iowa he wrote that he had let all of his money go to the Church except enough to buy a handcart and stock it with 15 pounds of belongings per person. Jens wrote, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” The people for whom Jens was responsible were himself; his wife, Elsie; their six-year-old son, Neils; and a nine-year-old girl, Bodil Mortensen, whom Jens offered to take to Utah. In the early Wyoming blizzard, temperatures plummeted below zero. The Neilsons had consumed their last pound of flour days before, but somehow they made it over the treacherous Rocky Ridge, urged on by their indomitable courage and unconquerable faith. Tragically, 13 of the company died at Rock Creek and were buried in shallow, snow-covered graves—among them, Jens and Elsie’s son, Neils, and young Bodil Mortensen.

President Hinckley describes this portion of the trail as “a trail of tragedy, a trail of faith, a trail of devotion, a trail of consecration, even the consecration of life itself.”

Jens arrived at Rock Creek, 11 miles beyond Rocky Ridge, with both feet frozen. He was unable to walk another step and pleaded with Elsie, “Leave me by the trail in the snow to die, and you go ahead and try to keep up with the company and save your life.” Elsie, with her unfaltering pioneer courage, replied, “Ride, I can’t leave you, I can pull the cart.”Such was the strength and the faith of many pioneer women on the trail.

A couple reenacted the story of Jens and Elsie (at about 20:20). I got teary-eyed as I watched Elsie struggle to pull Jens up that hill. At 22:48, the commentator asked the young men: “If you see someone struggling like this, what should you do? Go now and help if you feel so inclined”

A floodgate of valiant, eager-to-serve teenage boys raced across the field and down the hill, clambering to help pull Elsie pull the handcart with poor Jens inside.

Following the video, I asked Bode to share his thoughts.

“Mom, I can’t wait….”

I was sooooo excited. Had he finally been touched with the pioneer spirit as he watched many of the young men he admires rush in to rescue?

“Yes, Bode?”

“Mom, I can’t wait until I’m the one being pulled up that hill like Jens.”

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