Thursday, January 17, 2013

Finished... The Most Amazing and Inspiring Books I've Ever Read

Last year in February Jared and I were called to be a Ma and Pa on Trek for our ward. Honestly, when Jared told me we got the call, I was excited but very hesitant to say we'd go. I'd severely blown my knee out, have back problems from the epidural I had while having Hunter, and have issues with my feet which require a little surgery. (Just a lovely hereditary thing I was lucky to get.) So yes, I was nervous. I'd always wanted to go on a Trek, and four years earlier had had a chance to go, but that's when I ended up blowing out my knee so that idea came to a screeching halt.

I wanted to go.

Jared said I'd be ok. If the Lord wants us to go, it would work out. So on February 15th, he told the Bishop yes.

A little wave of anxiety and excitement swept over me. We were going.

Being a Ma and Pa required a lot of work. I started walking. A LOT. At first it was a mile. Then two. And by the time trek was upon us, I was up to five and a half miles at a time. At first my knee was not happy. But it got better and better. And my right foot, which was the worst, would hurt about the first mile, then subside. And I overall felt really good. I lost inches. And had leaner muscles which I did not complain about! (The only thing I wish I would have practiced... walking hills. We walked hill after hill. Some quite steep.)

It also required a lot of work spiritually. I began reading -after a friend told me about this book- Gerald Lund's FIRE OF THE COVENANT. It's about the Martin and Willie Handcart Company. It was amazing! I took every chance to read I could get. Most of the time was during feedings with my 3 month old niece whom I watched. Sometimes I read aloud to her. I couldn't get enough of this book. The stories -even though I was very familiar with them- were inspiring. I learned so much more then I had already known. And how the author put actual quotes in at the ends of chapters made the book come alive even more.

During trek and the spiritual thoughts we had, I took excerpts from the quotes he used to help the youth understand how spiritual of an experience this Handcart Company experienced, but also how very hard physically and mentally is was as well. It was amazing to see on the faces of the youth after reading these actual quotes, the signs of understanding just a little more what these pioneers went through. I thank Gerald Lund for putting these in. They brought so much more to this book.

I didn't get to finish reading FIRE OF THE COVENANT before we went on Trek. Life is so busy that it just wasn't possible. And with it being 762 pages, it's not the kind of book you read in a short time.

I finished it in August. And loved every minute of it. But honestly, once Trek was over, I started sinking into a bit of depression. I didn't know why or what it was coming from, but I knew something was missing in my life. And then I realized what it was. I had prepared for hours and hours spiritually, mentally and physically for Trek. I'd read and read so much for it. Got everything prepared for the spiritual moments we'd have up there. And couldn't wait for the experience of Trek to come.

And then all at once, it was over.

One of the hardest but coolest callings I've ever had was over. I missed the excitement in the air. You could feel it at church being around the youth. You could feel it as I went walking and people in our ward would stop and ask how far I'd walked that day to get ready for it. You could feel it at the Stake meetings with the Stake Youth Presidencies and see it in their smiling faces. You could feel it as we split into our Trek families, or as we talked to the youth about how their trek clothing was coming, about if they had their ancestor name chosen yet with whom they were walking for, and as I chose my own ancestor's names and stitched them into the skirt I made.

It was over. And I missed it, terribly.

Once I realized why this depression had come over me, I started to dig my way out. I believe, for the most part, depression is a choice. And we either find what is causing it and try to change it, or we let it win. I was going to win.

I finished FIRE OF THE COVENANT and found that Gerald Lund had also written another book on pioneers. It's about the Hole-In-The-Rock pioneers called THE UNDAUNTED. I immediately checked this book out at the library once I finished the first, and began reading.

Yes, this book again took me months to read. It was 802 pages. But I loved it. And it was just what I needed. I didn't have to be done with the whole pioneer experience once Trek was over. I had a whole other experience of pioneer struggles and faith to read about. And it was amazing.

This book is incredible. The story of the Hole-In-The-Rock Pioneers is absolutely amazing! I had no idea how hard it was for them to travel about 200 hundred miles in the dessert of Southern Utah to relocate their lives because of their mission call. I had no idea how absolutely horrible the actual Hole-In-The-Rock experience was for them, along with many other near-impossible trails they had to over come. I've never been down to see the actual sites, although I want to now, but to see pictures of the actual Hole-In-The-Rock sends shivers down my spine.

Here are some from various sites I found as I googled Hole-In-The-Rock Pioneers:

  Isn't this amazing! Look at the center of the photo. See the part of the mountain where there is a hole where it sinks down a bit? That's Hole-In-The-Rock. After blasting away at a bunch of rock to make somewhat of a road passage way, they anxiously started down. I say anxiously very lightly.
Men and some women drove the wagons down, while most others including children walked down it for safety reasons.

  Here it is up close. Can you imagine taking a wagon and a team of horses, mules, or oxen down this?! The first (I can't remember exact) about 300 feet was a vertical drop. They literally stood up on the sides of the wagon as it "fell" down the first of this hole in the mountain. The sides of the mountain held the wagons up so none could tip over. And no one was killed doing this, either. Animals and some people were hurt, but nothing very serious.
 I get anxiety just looking at this.

One of the most amazing stories of coming down the Hole-In-The-Rock is about Stanford and Arabelle Smith. I won't write about it here, as I tend to write too much anyways, but wanted to mention their names so I will never forget.

Here is looking at the canyon they entered into as they came down Hole-In-The-Rock. The Hole is way back there now, just off to the left of the top of the mountain. Once down the Hole, they still had obstacles to over come to get down. They literally built a road on the side of the mountain to get the wagons the rest of the way down; cutting wagon trails into the side of the mountain. Once down they crossed the Colorado River (which feeds into Lake Powell) and then onto Cottonwood Canyon where they camped for a few days. They loved it there because of the greenery and water around them. Honestly, there wasn't that much, but to them, it was more then they'd had in a long time.

 This is a picture of an actual wagon the came down Hole-In-The-Rock. Look at the wheels and how they are held together. It's amazing to me that any of them made it down without falling apart, let along continued on through more horrible pulls and drops they faced.

I couldn't even go 4-wheelin' in a truck up some of the hills they took because I'm so terrified of heights. I cannot imagine doing it in a wagon.

Other parts of this trek did cause some injuries and some animals died because of the complete hardship this trek took on their bodies, but in the end, they made it. What an amazing story.

And so, as I come to the end of these two amazing books, I am amazed and very humbled at the sacrifices these pioneers took because of their faith in God and the Gospel. I want to end with a quote I found at the end of FIRE OF THE COVENANT. And I want to thank the pioneers who thought to journal through their journey's on the trail. Because of this, we know more of what you went through and will always be inspired and humbled because of it.

Elizabeth Horocks Jackson (who lost her husband at Red Buttes and was with the Martin Handcart Company):
"I have a desire to leave a record of those scenes and events, thru which I have passed, that my children, down to my latest posterity may read what their ancestors were willing to suffer, and did suffer, patiently for the Gospel's sake. And I wish them to understand, too, that what I now word is the history of hundreds of others, both men, women, and children, who have passed thru many like scenes for a similar cause, at the same time we did. I also desire them to know that it was in obedience to the commandments of the true and living God, and with the assurance of an eternal reward-an exaltation to eternal life in His kingdom-that we suffered these things. I hope, too, that it will inspire my posterity with fortitude to stand firm and faithful to the truth, and be willing to suffer, and sacrifice all things they may be required to pass thru for the Kingdom of God's sake."


  1. This is great! It is absolutely amazing what our ancestors have experienced! You make me want to read both of those books. I'll put them on the list. Thanks!

    1. Do it! You won't regret it. Love you!!

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