Odds and Ends: Treks remind LDS youth of their pioneer heritage

Published: Monday, June 25 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

More than 500 teenage members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their adult leaders have donned the clothing of another era and walked in the footsteps of their pioneer ancestors this week, calling the attention of news media nationwide.

A 26-mile trek in Sumter National Forest caught the attention of two South Carolina newspapers, The Times and Democrat and Bluffton News. More than 200 young men and women, ages 14 to 18, dressed in pioneer-era clothing, pulled and pushed handcarts holding their belongings over four days on a route near Parson's Mountain in South Carolina. The participating teens were from the Columbia, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., areas.

Two other treks received recognition by papers local to the areas. Barbara Ellestad, a reporter from the Mesquite Citizen Journal in Nevada wrote a two-part personal account about her visit to the 160 youth in the middle of a four-day trek through the mountains. She was also there when the group, numbering 205 in total, returned from its journey.

"Even though I’m not a member of the Mormon faith, I too could feel the spirituality of the experience and understand how this kind of adventure could deepen one’s faith," Ellestad wrote in part one of the series. She added in part two: "I was struck by how much everyone seemed to be enjoying the experience in spite of the hard work, hot days, and miles of desert and mountains."

More than 120 teens participated in a pioneer trek in Georgia, the Cherokee Tribune reported. Their 14-mile trail followed a dirt path, horse trail and old mining roads in the Fort Mountain State Park.

Youths in North Carolina who attended and graduated from four years of seminary classes, most of which started at 6 a.m., were featured in a Charlotte Observer article that noted the challenge many high school-age Latter-day Saints face that of waking up early to study religion.

In other news, newspapers in Florida, California and Alaska took an interest in some of the Mormon missionaries serving in their communities, highlighting the missionaries' thoughts about the work and a typical daily schedule. The Leigh Acres Citizen in Florida included a day of service donated by LDS missionaries, spent painting the outdoor furniture for residents of a retirement community.

The Napa Valley Register wrote two articles, mostly featuring 20-year-old Elders Jace Felix and 19-year-old Elder Ty Mair but also branching out to include missionaries worldwide. Mair described what it was like to go contacting door-to-door in the first article. In the second article, Felix said serving a mission was something he'd always wanted to do.

In Ketchikan, Alaska, Kirk and Pam Thomas are preparing to serve three years in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, as a senior missionary couple. Kirk Thomas will oversee the younger missionaries as the area's new mission president, Ketchikan Daily News reported.

LDS temples have also been in the news, from the Eastern Arizona Courier's account of a New Mexico man thought to have been under the influence of one or more substances who had to be escorted out of the Gila Valley Arizona Temple Wednesday morning to a new freeway overpass planned to be in front of the Cebu City Philippines Temple as reported in the Cebu Daily News to a public meeting Tuesday evening in Connecticut offering residents another opportunity to comment on plans for the Hartford Connecticut Temple, the The Hartford Courant reported. LDS officials announced plans for the temple in 2010 and are currently working to resolve public concerns that the temple will increase traffic.

Email: jhenrie@desnews.com

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