By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
GATTMAN – Reading about their ancestors making the trek was one thing, but pushing a 300-pound cart up a logging road in the summer heat was quite another.
“This is only a small fraction of what those early saints went through,” said Ben Curtis, a young member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Curtis was dressed in 19th-century clothing, with sweat soaking through his shirt and around the brim of his hat. He was preparing to help his “family” move its cart filled with primitive camping supplies down a steep ravine and across a creek.
A 100-foot climb, over clear-cut timber land and knee-high grass lay ahead to the southeast. The girls wore bonnets and pioneer dresses, and they pulled and strained alongside the boys.
“I believe this will strengthen my testimony,” said 17-year-old Misty Evans as she trudged up the hill. Evans, along with other LDS youth from Northeast Mississippi and northwest Alabama, made their way slowly across the rugged terrain. They were walking southeast, toward Mormon Springs, the place near the Alabama line where many of their ancestors in the faith were baptized in 1839.
Mormon Springs was also where a group of LDS from Mississippi began its migration west in the spring of 1846. Some went to Utah, in advance of Brigham Young, one of the religion’s early leaders.
As a way of honoring their ancestors’ fortitude, Mormon youth battled sweltering temperatures on this, the second of four days and three nights trekking over 15 miles of raw country.
At the top of the hill, Megan Picard of West Point took a moment to remember her great-great-grandfather, who converted to Mormonism. She spoke lovingly of her faith as she bit into an orange and looked southward, across a deep, green ravine, toward the next rise.
Katie Larsen blew “Come, Come Ye Saints,” on the harmonica, as, all around her, young Mormons rested on the ground, drinking water and wiping their faces.
“This is a deeply spiritual experience,” said 15-year-old Ryan Jenkins of Tupelo, whose size and strength were a Godsend to his family as they un-moored the wooden cart and pulled it cracking and popping over the dry tinder and dusty soil.
“Maybe it will inspire our children to do great deeds,” he said.
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.