Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mormon Youth Treks are LAME!!!

***Update to this post 8/30/16

Before you read the below blog post from over 8 years ago, please note the following.

I went on a trek with my stake this year, 2016. I had the most amazing experience. I loved almost every second. I was completely wrong about trek in almost every way.

I found that trek did the following for youth...

1. Helped youth learn to get along and love those they would normally never associate with.
2. Teach youth that they can do hard things.
3. Build testimonies unlike any other place they could build a testimony.
4. Teach youth the value of teamwork and working together to accomplish something hard.
5. Make lasting memories and build compassion within the stake.

Of course, I did still hate some aspects of trek: the dirt, freezing nights and terrible night's sleep I would get. But the positives far outweigh the negatives! I even had my own spiritual awakening on trek and I am extremely grateful that I went. 

So, you can stop sending me nasty comments. I get it. I get trek now. I NEVER thought I would change my mind on this topic, but it is amazing how much the way we view the world can change in a matter of 8 years. So, if you want to know what I thought about trek 8 years ago, read below. But if you know that trek is a great thing and you are okay that I am okay with that, feel free to stop here.

 I thought it is about time that I post something controversial on my blog.  My goal is to get 16 comments.  Writing about something that will ruffle a few feathers is my only hope.

My wife is getting ready to go on a "trek" in June.  I have to laugh as this seems to be one of the most ridicules undertakings she has ever embarked on.  To get ready, we watched a video of another stake made on a trek last year.  It was, to say the least, LAME!

The video showed the willing and able (the "able" being a few overweight women that did not look so "able") being dropped off in school busses somewhere in Wyoming.  The experience was supposed to be "realistic" and they are to wear authentic pioneer clothing.  So, as these kids get out of the bus with their Patagonia backpacks and Timberland boots and plastic water bottles, I was reminded of the great Brother Graham P. James, a pioneer of umm...pioneers.  He once said, "As we embark on this great journey, you shall first stop at the local REI, where you shall drop at least $120 on needed enhancements for thine journey."

The trek looked like great fun, if your idea of fun includes walking up dusty four wheeler trails for 20 miles in the wind and stopping every 10 minutes to listen to somebody talk about how rough the pioneers had it.  (Of course, they didn't have groomed 4 wheeler trails.)  With every step, you could imagine the kids thoughts. "Boy did the pioneers have it rough!" Or more likely, "I wonder what is for dinner?"  One girl on the video commented, "As we pulled the handcart up the hill, I know there where angels behind us giving us an added boost."  While I am sure there were angels, it also helped that there were 10 girls behind the cart and another 10 pulling it.  With that girl power they could have pulled a tank up the hill.

Cathi had to go to the thrift store to buy some authentic "pioneer clothing".  She purchased two of the ugliest dresses I have ever seen.  She still needs a bonnet.  She is going to look like I have 5 wives.  I loved the women in the video with bonnets and sunglasses.  Just like our ancestors.

The highlight of the movie was when they had to bury their dolls.  I am not sure why, I guess that the pioneers had to burry the dolls that were broken or something??? 

All of this nonsense reminds me of when I was on my mission in Gettysburg, PA.  These weirdos would show up in their Civil War costumes and pretend to fight each other in hopes that they would more fully understand and appreciate what the armies of the civil war went through.  We would sit and laugh at them as they pretended to fall or hide behind trees.  I don't think I ever saw them burry a doll though.  

Thank goodness they did not have this nonsense when I was a kid.  It is now a semi-annual routine for most stakes.  And the worst part of it all is that our stake is paying some company $20,000 (not sure of the exact number) to come and walk around on their land in silly outfits.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself - Abe will soon be struck down!  This is sacrilegious! Well, as far as I am concerned, the First Presidency has never "endorsed" youth treks, and they have never even really encouraged it. As soon as the First Presidency says "You should take the youth on a trek", I will change my tune.  Furthermore, I do not need to go gallop around in the sand and wind for 3 days to appreciate what the pioneers went through for months.  I already appreciate it.  

Go ahead, flame away.  I have said my peace on the matter.


Tammy said...

Oh My Gosh Abe, I can't stop laughing!! You said what most of us think!!! Funny!

Cheeseboy said...

Thanks Tammy! I know I am right on the money on this one.

Eric said...

Although I don't think it's completely as lame and pointless as you say, here's my thought on the subject:

I'm pretty sure the pioneers are up in heaven watching everyone do these treks and saying, "Are they nuts? That was the most horrible thing imaginable! Why are they recreating it?". So in 150 years will future saints recreate our time and dress in our clothes and try to avoid drugs, porn and peer pressure? It's silly when you think about it that way.

However, I think there is some value in learning about the trials of the pioneers. Many of the youth wouldn't ever have a chance to learn it through any other method, so the trek isn't without some merit.

Kerianne said...

Amen Abe! I've thought this for years. No ruffled feathers here.

Cheeseboy said...

Eric, you are probably right. It is a good learning experience for the kids. I would be all for a 2 hour field trip to Martin's Cove followed by a nice trip for ice cream. That would do the trick for me.

Your comments about the pioneers in heaven are pretty hilarious.

Ike said...

Abe, I know one of the general authorities mentioned pioneer trek in his talk this morning. Look it up. And repent, I say ye. Not only for knocking it, but also for not paying attention in conference while he was mentioning it. You were probably too busy blogging.

By making our kids dress up in funny costumes and walk dusty trails we teach them not only of their ancestors, we teach them humility.

I remember liking pioneer trek. Not exactly sure why, but I like what I like and I make no apologies for it.

Good luck with your record setting quest for blog comments. I've now made my contribution.


The Yospe's said...


I am a trek vet. I have completed 3 treks now. I know, why would I put myself through it three times? I dunno. However, I was on the trek that Ike was on, and I can tell you why he liked it. It was just fun and games. We would walk (with nothing in our carts, they drove it all up) for about 2 hours, arrive at camp where there'd be tents set up and warm dinner.

I know that trek's have become more church sponsored because they now have all the stakes go to the church's cattle ranch up in WYO. It's huge, and free. So, I doubt your ward is paying to use the land.

My second trek I was still in YM and had no way out. My third, I was a young single adult and used it as an excuse to meet ladies. However, both were more grueling than the first.

But, even though it does give you a taste of pioneer life, I tend to agree, why all the drama. Why the dress ups and make believe. If they want to have the youth of the church experience something difficult, why not some good ol' fashion tar and feather? Or how about crossing and ice filled river?

I do see the good in trek, but also agree that it is too overtly dramatic with attempts at "forcing the spirit" by leaders all to often.

Esther said...

Abe, if you want to get 16 comments you can't count your own. Here's my contribution.

Heather and Jake said...

Maybe they should do winter Treks...the Pioneers walked up hill in the snow without any 4-wheeler trails. The could collect dried buffalo chips along the way to make their fires.

Heather and Jake said...

Abe- I really, really think that you need to support Cathi in this to gain a real appreciation! So get your grass hat down from the top of your closet, get out your red suspenders and your *thick plaid flannel shirt from the front of your closet and join her every step of the way. Push along! (*PS- You will not be allowed to remove the hot flannel shirt the entire Trek, but had you actually been a Pioneer you would have ripped it from your own back within the first mile and just worn a t-shirt.

**Two comments from me..should count as four**

Cheeseboy said...

Jacob - You are absolutely right. I am sure when the pioneers trekked in the summer, many of the men went shirtless. I wish I had some photos to prove it.

Ike, yes the kids nowadays need humility. True. That is why I am in favor of a Youth Conference "scared straight" every other summer, where the kids get screamed at by ex-cons.

Heather and Jake said...

Ok so maybe the burying of dolls is a little much. But I had a dang good time on my trek in the Appalachians...we trekked through the woods instead of desert, and our shoes got stuck in muddy swamps. We pulled our carts up and down those stupid hills, and had little more to eat than a handful of trail mix and a cup of broth. We even killed a chicken and made wax candles. So all in all, it will be an experience I'll always rememeber cuz it gave me a little bitty taste of what they went through. haha Jake's laughing at what a nerd I am. You should go though, for the fact that you'd be a fun pioneer dad for the kiddies.

Cowboy Curtis said...

Well, it seems like this is a Yospe family blog, but I have comment here. I agree 100% with this post. In the summer of 1997, I purposefully made sure I was scheduled to work during my stake's pioneer trek. I got a lot of heat from my leaders for not coming, but I held to the rod and stayed home. Maybe I would have gone had they allowed the youth to eat/drink on the first day, but legend had it they don't.

Furthermore, I testify that EFY is merely a place where the LDS youth confuse feeling the spirit with feeling their hormones - especially when they schedule a testimony meeting before the nightly dance.

Now maybe I'll be struck down....

Cheeseboy said...

THANK YOU CURTIS! Feel free to comment here anytime.

brandi (and tim) said...

This is a great post! I'm so glad that I've never gotten conned into doing one of these. One of the greatest benefits of looking like I do is the fact that no one trusts me with children. Especially over nighters.

I appreciate pioneers but really don't appreciate them getting rammed down my throat. I remember back in '97 everyone was going nuts about the 150th anniversary of being in the valley, I took a bike ride up Emigration canyon the morning of July 24 and it was literally like riding through a petting zoo there was so much plaid and fur suffering down the middle of the paved highway. Conference that October was like the pioneer box set: 10 hours of stories you've probably already heard.

Jacob, I think that last trek that you referred to was really Kid Nation. I'm pretty sure that the original pioneers didn't ever get "voted off".

Abe, I think that you should organize an Oregon Train recreation and arrange to cross paths with the Mormons and see what kind of crazy ensues. Sometimes the number of comments isn't as important as the content!

Danette said...

cheeseboy said, "Well, as far as I am concerned, the First Presidency has never "endorsed" youth treks, and they have never even really encouraged it. As soon as the First Presidency says "You should take the youth on a trek", I will change my tune." IT'S TIME TO CHANGE YOUR TUNE! Martin's Cove and several other handcart trek reinactment sites are owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the express purpose of allowing wards, stakes, families, etc. to experience a small part of what the handcart pioneers experienced. These sites have been dedicated by President Hinckley and others of the First Presidency and are most definitely endorsed by them. LDS missionaries run the handcart trek sites and the Spirit is strong in those places where pioneers have sacrificed much and kept their faith. One great lesson to be learned from these great pioneers, who experienced such difficult circumstances while following the prophet, is that the gospel will not insure a lifetime of ease and luxury; rather, the gospel is a tool to help us weather adversity and come out the other side with a strong and vibrant testimony of the Savior's power to strengthen and heal us. Youth also learn that they can do hard things, including make right choices in a wicked world. A handcart trek can be a positive and life-changing spiritual experience for a young man or young woman; those who don't have a good experience are usually the ones with attitudes like yours.

Anonymous said...

Well, you sound a little bitter...

I leave in a few weeks for my trek. It's supposed to snow.

I am so excited!

Cheeseboy said...

Thanks Dannette for the comments. Nice to see someone's views from another perspective. Some people like Trek, some don't. I don't. BUT, I have more than made up for it by all the scout trips I took the boys on as a Scoutmaster. I have to ask though - do you work for one of these Treks?

Joni said...

So I know this is an ollllllld post but I found this while googling pioneer youth treks and laughed my Mormon butt off. I am so glad I am not the only one who finds these treks ridiculous. My husband had to help plan one last year (he was stake YM secretary) and after his meetings he'd come home and I'd be all "How goes the ice sculpture planning?" and he'd just roll his eyes.

I'm glad that the treks weren't "in" when I was in YW. Instead we had this "Game of Life" carnival thing where at the end your leaders assign you to which kingdom of heaven you're going to. I misunderstood the rules and ended up in the Telestial Kingdom, or maybe it was Outer Darkness. Niiiiice...

Brad Walker - ID said...

My experience was so great. Our youth did such a good job and really helped each other. They often spoke about how great it was for years after the trip. Cant wait to go again this year. I do respect your opinion but if the youth are prepared prior to going (they know the stories and history) the spirit is felt on the trip and all the work is worth it. I know its a good thing having experienced it.

Anonymous said...

As a 17 year old born and raised in the church, I have been handed gospel principles on a silver platter my entire life. It's hard for me to learn and experience these things on my own when it's all I've ever known. I feel like instead of sitting here writing a blog about how little you think of Trek, you could do something more positively influential with your time. I find it interesting that many of you are adults commenting on your opinion of this activity. None of you have stopped to take in the view from where the youth stand. I for one cannot imagine what the pioneers went through. Sure I've seen the movies and read the books, but having the opportunity to participate in something that many see as "lame" is extremely exciting for me. I don't care if the pioneers in heaven are "laughing". This is something else that I find ridiculous. Why would they laugh at our attempt to better appreciate what they went through for us? So congratulations, my "feathers have been ruffled". I couldn't pass up the chance to share my personal excitement, as a YOUTH in the church, to experience a mere blink of the time my ancestors spent in their journey.

Unknown said...

I completely I agree with HollyLu! I came across this when I was searching for some ideas for trek and I saw this and decided to look. It's pathetic how any of you think that way.I love what dannette said!! I appreciate all of you that has had a great attitude on trek and have shared there blessings that they have had and the wonderful spirit they have felt!!not "hormones"!!

Unknown said...

My parents are ma's and pa's this summer for trek. I think Trek is a wonderful thing. I think it teaches humility. I am very glad that my parents accepted this calling. I am also very glad that Heavenly Father has made this opportunity for us. I am VERY glad I can go on trek soon!

Mwhitmer said...

I can see the value in going on a trek. It builds friendships, testimonies etc. the main thing I have issues with is that the girls have to wear skirts. I'm fine with skirts at church or in nice,element or reverent settings but for heaven sake this is hard labor. Looks like girls get the raw end of the deal. The other thing I don't like is how they often take all the males and have them watch from a distance as all the girls/women push the handcarts up some torturous hill. Later all the men talk about how emotional they were watching the women have to toil and work and suffer without having the men to help. WHAT!!!! Why do I or other girls and women have to be tortured for the men to feel the spirit.

Unknown said...

I went on Trek and it was a great experience. It is really sad that you can not see it for what it is. Good for your wife for going. Too bad she doesn't have a good husband to be by her side. Negative people sit around doing things like this positive people are out making good things happen.

budhenson said...

As a 'Pa' from the early Trek days (1978) and the second director for the Handcart program run by BYU (1980), I fear many of those critical of the Treks are missing proper perspective, especially if you've not been on a Trek.
Our original goals were that if the youth came prepared and participated fully, we assured them that they would:
1. Learn something about the original Pioneers.
2. Learn something about the people in their Trek "family."
3. Learn something important about their family 'back home.'
4. Learn something important about themselves that they hadn't known before, and
5. Learn something about how God, Christ and the Holy Ghost work in their lives.
Nephi saw in vision those who would mock people pressing forward towards the tree of life.
HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS now have been on Treks - supported by and with the encouragement of the LDS leadership. See the most recent guidelines for conducting a Trek at:
If that doesn't constitute support of the church leadership, i don't know what you're looking for - a new section added to the D&C perhaps? Doesn't work that way today Cheeseboy. Read between the lines.
Some who participate 'get it'. Some don't. But that does not invalidate the very real lessons which are very personal - and, speaking only for my own experiences, very sacred. Nothing any naysayer can complain about or poke fun at despite their ignorance can change the experiences which occur each week out on trails all across the world.
To Cheeseboy and like-minded posters; to mock another's faith is low, mean and cowardly. It presumes you know more than another and have some inside track on what is ultimately correct. It comes back to the 'humility' that some of the other posters have mentioned.
Respectfully -
Kevin "Bud" Henson

Brett M Judd said...

This is cracking me up. I just said to my wife, "I don't need to reenact Hahn's Mill to appreciate the sacrifice those saints made".

I know that many have very moving experiences on trek, and for them it is wonderful. I've been in 3 treks and it can be a very powerful experience.

As to your post and those who feel you are demeaning, wow. Your playful snark was refreshing for me. I did not feel in the least that you were in any way disparaging to anyone's faith or experience. We don't all have meaningful spiritual moments pulling a cart in $100 boots or shoes as we see what it was like for the pioneers. Hard to know what it was like to be starving and cold when you come fresh of the bus in summer.

When the leaders plan well, and the "parents" play well their parts, it can be moving. Sometimes it is good to put down the electronics and experience the hardship of disconnection and a dirt bed.