BOUNTIFUL — Danny Brock remembers when his friend Cory Hanks dressed in a tunic and breastplate, took up his sword and shield, and marched into the middle of a camp of young men, where he told the group of goggling boys about a battle waging on the other side of the hill.
"I need help," he said, "but your fathers took an oath never to fight again."
Hanks proceeded to tell the story from Alma 56-58 in the Book of Mormon, in which the 2,060 courageous sons of former Lamanite warriors went to the aid of their protectors, the Nephites. Though they had never fought before, these "stripling warriors" didn't hesitate to offer assistance. They chose for their captain the prophet of the time, Helaman, who affectionately called them his "sons" because of their youth. In response to Helaman's question, "Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?" they answered, "Father, behold our God is with us."
Helaman wrote the following about them: "They had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: 'We do not doubt our mothers knew it'" (Alma 56:44, 46-48).
That was not the first time Hanks was asked to portray Helaman, and it won't be his last. Brock, who was at the camp helping out with activities, reflected on that experience as the birthplace of an idea — to gather 2,060 young men, dress them like warriors and hold a march with Helaman at the head. Hanks, who was serving as an LDS Church bishop when he visited the camp and is now the president of the Bountiful Utah South Stake, came up with the idea the evening after his surprise visit to the boys.
"That night we were talking about how the day went and one of us, I think it was Cory, said, 'Danny, what would it look like — what did 2,060 stripling warriors look like?'" Brock said. "We just started talking about it. We figured the only way we could do it was to put it in Handcart Days."
Handcart Days, which take place annually in Bountiful, celebrate the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the west with a local parade, activities and fireworks. With 2,060 young men ages 12-26 set to march with their captain, there has been increased interest this year for the parade, parade committee co-chair Connie Rose said.
Each participant will have a costume complete with walking stick provided by the Sons of Helaman Committee, which Brock chairs. The stick will be pounded on the ground with every fourth step. With 10 boys walking abreast, the procession is expected to be about four football fields long.
"It's been really fun working with them," said Karell Bingham, who handles public relations for Handcart Days with her husband Brent. "It will sound like thunder walking down the street. they're already practicing for it."
The organization of the march is an ongoing Herculean effort. In order to gather all 2,060 young men needed to simulate a march of the true stripling warriors, the Sons of Helaman Committee is recruiting from 17 stakes in and around Bountiful. One of the committee members, in charge of the cadence for the march, is traveling between stakes to teach the boys to move together, and there will be two formal practices before the parade. Brock said the committee is encouraging the area stakes to be actively involved in recruiting community participants and members from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with boys who may need to use wheelchairs or crutches to join in.
"We want to build their testimonies. We are finding ways for every boy that wants to be a part of this to be part of this," Brock said. "One of our ideas while we're getting ready is that the boys meet with other young men who haven't come to church and read the scriptures with the stripling warriors and invite them to walk with them. If we can make the spirit come alive for someone then we'll have that too."