If you’re looking for a resource for LDS (Latter-day Saint) Trek prep activities, I have some helps for you!

If you’re looking for a script for an activity, here’s one I put together with the help of other resources I found online, and then edited to fit our needs. For our activity, we met on a farm/ranch with the youth, leaders and “ma’s and pa’s”. We invited everyone to come in their trek-wear, which made it feel and look authentic. We had “Captain Willie” gather everyone together (sitting on the ground), and he led off the company meeting. The characters from this script were pre-selected from various participants, and they were scattered among the audience. Each stood up in turn, and had their parts memorized. It was a very moving experience to have this “conversation”, as if we were truly part of the company having to make the hard decision about when to leave on our journey.

SCRIPT:


Captain Willie: I want to welcome you brothers and sisters tonight, and thank you for joining us! My name is James Willie. Some of you may know me better as Elder Willie, as I have been serving among you as a missionary in England, my native homeland. I joined the church 20 years ago and emigrated to the United States to live among the saints in Utah. I have been blessed to serve the Lord in England for four years, and am pleased to now return to Utah while serving as your handcart company captain. As you know, the first Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ has issued the following General epistles (it is okay to read this part, as if it is from a letter)—“To all Saints in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the adjacent islands and countries, we say emigrate as speedily as possible to this vicinity . . . “(December 29, 1955). Even so, “let all things be done in order, and let all the Saints who can, gather up for Zion and come while the way is open before them; let the poor also come, whether they receive aid or not from the [Perpetual Education] Fund, let them come on foot, with handcarts or wheelbarrows; let them gird up their loins and walk through, and nothing shall hinder or stay them . . .” (Oct 29, 1855).

We have a long journey ahead of us, and I’d like to invite some among this company to introduce yourselves to those who will share this crossing with you. If you could please stand up and tell us a bit about yourselves and where you’re from, we’d be much obliged.

(we’ll then have introductions…some of these which may be eliminated depending on participant availability)

1. My name is Ole Madsen, and I’m a farmer and laborer from Denmark. While in Denmark, we often held meetings for our branch in our home. We experienced a lot of persecution after joining the church. We had to withdraw our children from school, and one time a mob gathered outside our home as the missionaries were inside, and they threw rotten eggs at our windows. I am traveling with my wife, Anna and four of our children, ages 5-15. Our oldest daughter, Karen, traveled with us to Copenhagen, but she had a dream that her aunt had died, so she turned back. Sure enough, we received word that my wife’s sister had indeed died, so our daughter stayed in Denmark to help with the burial and to help her children. We can only pray that someday we will all be together again.

2. My name is Anne Olsen, and I’m also coming from Denmark with the Danish saints! The journey by boat was long to get here, and I was planning to travel by wagon train instead of handcart. However, as we were pulling into the New York harbor Elder Ahmanson spoke to the Saints and requested that those who had temporal means to help others should do so. I’ve felt impressed to step forward and give all I have to help the other Saints, so I will be traveling by the less-expensive method of handcart, instead. I am a widow, so I am the only one left to care for my 12-yr old son, Lorenzo. I pray that we will make it to Zion together in safety. (Esther Pollack)

3. I am William James, and I’m a farm laborer from Worcestershire, England. My wife, Jane, and I joined the church two years ago and have eight children. At least, we did have eight children—our precious baby Jane died near the end of our six week journey across the ocean. It nearly broke my wife’s heart. She begged the captain to let her keep the baby so she could have a proper burial on land, but he felt it wasn’t wise, so we had to bury her at sea. She was just 8 months old. (Nate Tanner)

4. My name is Bodil Malene Mortensen, but my parents combined my first and middle name and just call me Balena. I am almost 10 years old and am the fourth of five children. My father is a weaver and a well-digger, so he doesn’t have enough money for the whole family to travel to Zion together. They’ve already sent my older sister, Anne Margaret, to Zion. And now it’s my turn! I’m excited to see Margaret again, but I was sad to leave my parents and siblings behind in Denmark. I can’t wait until we’re all together in Zion next year. On the ship we saw many huge icebergs and a wrecked ship floating in the water. I even saw dozens of sea horses, or I guess you call them dolphins. The sailors caught one boy from England who stowed away. They usually punish stowaways by making them wear a wooden jacket or barrel, but this boy was a member of the church so the captain collected 2 pounds to pay for his passage. The Danish Saints gave three dollars to help pay for his ticket. I am traveling with the Nielsen family, and it’s my job to take care of their little son, Niels, who is five years old. Here he is now—

5. (Niels Nielson) Actually, I’m almost six years old. I can’t wait for my birthday on October 29th—maybe we’ll already be in Zion! I’m a little sad that we sold our farm in Denmark, but Dad says the money we got will help lots of families go to Zion, not just ours. We were on the boat for forever. I was really sad when my friend Thomas Pedersen, who was almost my same age, fell down from the top deck to the bottom deck. I wanted him to get better but he died four days later. They wrapped him in an American flag before they buried him at sea. We even had a fire in between the two decks, but we all prayed and prayed. We were really glad that they were able to put the fire out.

6. My name is Lollie Neilson and I’m also from Denmark, though I’m not related to little Niels. I left my home in Denmark with my dear grandparents, but I unfortunately lost them in the first part of the journey before we even made it to Liverpool. I am traveling with the Wicklund family so I can help with their four young children. Sister Wicklund will certainly need my help when she delivers her baby, which should come sometime in October. I hope I will be a help and a comfort to her and her young family.

7. I am Lars Wandelin, and I’m from Sweden. I’m a watchmaker, and I joined the Church in Denmark. I don’t have many worldly possessions and couldn’t carry them in a handcart if I did, but I do have a treasured silver watch. If something is to happen to me along the way, please do not bury my watch with me. I want it to be turned over to the Perpetual Emigration Fund to be used to assist others in coming to the Valley. 

Captain Willie: Thank you for some of your introductions. I look forward to getting to know many of you over these next few months and learning more of your stories of conversion.

On a more solemn note, we’ve also gathered you together today to discuss some complications that have arisen. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are already months behind the typical departure time for handcart companies. While many companies have traveled successfully before us, none have left so late in the season. We need to consider if we should continue our journey of over 1,000 miles and risk winter storms, or stop here in Florence, Nebraska for the winter. If we stay here, we will be a burden to this community as well as face other challenges such as a shortage of jobs and resources. We have been asked by a prophet of God to gather to Zion. We know that it will not be easy. There are challenges ahead with either choice, but Brothers and Sisters, I exhort you to go forward regardless of suffering, even to death. There are some who may not share my determination to follow the counsel of our prophet, and you have the choice to wait here until spring. I’d like to introduce Levi Savage, who is another one of our sub-captains. Brother Savage, will you please share your thoughts with us?

Levi Savage: If I speak, I must speak my mind–let it cut where it will.

Captain Willie: You may certainly do so.

Levi Savage: As we ascertain who wishes to go on now, and who wishes to remain here, I must speak my mind. I, myself, am not in favor of taking women and children through when they are destitute of clothing, when we all know that we are bound to be caught in the snow and severe cold weather long before we reach the valley. If we proceed, there are many hardships that we should have to endure. We are liable to have to wade in snow up to our knees at night wrap ourselves in a thin blanket and lie on the frozen ground without a bed. We won’t have wagons that we can go into, and wrap ourselves in as much as we like and [lie] down. No, we are without wagons, destitute of clothing, and we couldn’t carry more supplies, even if we had them. We must go as we are. The handcart system I do not condemn. In fact, I think it preferable to unbroken oxen and experienced teamsters. The lateness of the season is my only objection to leaving for the mountains at this time.

Captain Willie: The God that I serve is a God that is able to save to the uttermost. That is the God that I serve, and I want no Job’s comforters with us.

Levi Savage: What I’ve said is the truth. Elder Willey, if you do not want me to act in the place where I am, you are at full liberty to place another man in my stead. I would not think hard of you for it, But, I do not care what you said about Job’s comforters. I have spoken nothing but the truth and you and others know that.

Captain Willie: (seeing another man raise his hand or stand, acknowledge him) Millen Atwood, I see that you also would like to share some thoughts with us. Brothers and Sisters, Millen Atwood is also one of our sub-captains.

Elder Atwood: I must confess that two nights ago, Brother Savage and I discussed this matter. Since I have been a member of this Church and with all my experience, I have never been placed in a position where things seem so dark to me as it does to undertake to take this company through at this late season of the year.

Nevertheless, I have listened today to what has been said. I exhort you to pray to God and get a revelation and know for yourselves whether you should go or stay, for it is your privilege to know for yourselves.

Lars Wandelin: May I have a word? You may ask yourselves what it is that gives you the strength and courage, against all odds, to remain faithful and come on this long journey? You have never met the Prophet Joseph. The good news of the restoration has reached most of you in far-away lands, long after the martyrdom. Yet you, and I, know that Joseph was called of God and truly was a Prophet. We know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ. We go to Zion to be obedient to the commandments of the true and living God. We pray that our posterity will 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.

Captain Willie: Those in favor of proceeding on our journey, raise your hands (pause to wait for hands to slowly and thoughtfully raise). Brother Savage, will you stay behind?

Levi Savage: “Brethren and sisters, what I have said I know to be true, but seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and if necessary I will die with you. May God have mercy bless and preserve us.”

Captain Willie: Those of you who are willing to go—I will see you on the trail. Until then, let’s celebrate with a dance!


END OF  SCRIPT

Also, I made an intro video for our kickoff event. I made it generic, so that anyone can feel free to use it for their activities, or to share with their trek participants!

https://youtu.be/fnLoHNt_AA8

Here are links to some additional resources that I used in preparing the video and the script:

https://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1045&context=annals-of-iowa
https://history.lds.org/exhibit/willie-and-martin-remembered-a-tribute-to-the-mormon-handcart-pioneers?lang=eng
http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/pioneers_and_cowboys/handcartcompanies.html
https://wecandotrek.blogspot.com/p/vignettes-from-trek.html
https://www.lds.org/youth/activities/bc/pdfs/stake/Handcart-Stories.pdf?lang=eng
https://www.lds.org/youth/activities/bc/pdfs/stake/Handcart-Trek-Guidelines-June-2015.pdf?lang=eng
https://history.lds.org/exhibit/historic-sites/wyoming/passing-through-the-sweetwater?lang=eng
https://www.lds.org/youth/article/the-teens-of-the-plains?lang=eng
https://history.lds.org/section/pioneer-story?lang=eng
http://overlandtrails.lib.byu.edu/essay_mtrail.php
https://history.lds.org/article/historic-sites/wyoming/remembering-handcart-pioneers-in-the-sweetwater-valley?lang=eng
https://www.familysearch.org/campaign/pioneers?cid=lp-pc15-3361#/

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