Two years ago, my two oldest children participated in a “Pioneer Trek Re-enactment” where they pulled handcarts across the Oklahoma prairie for three days to simulate part of the handcart journey to Utah.
My daughter was pretty excited about it, and my son, the oldest, went mostly because his friends were going and he thought it might be interesting. They prepared for quite some time, my daughter busily sewing a bonnet and skirts for the trek.
They left on a hot July day and traveled several hours north to Oklahoma. My daughter quickly developed heat exhaustion, as did many of the other teenagers and their adult chaperones. Both of my children had ticks and chiggers and were badly sunburned.
When they came home, they were both exhausted. My daughter had near third-degree burns on her neck and upper chest from sunburn. She lay on the couch in misery for three days.
My son told me that his adult chaperone had collapsed from heat stroke and had to be hospitalized.
The following week, the stake held a fireside wherein they showed a video/slide show and had people talk about the great experience they had had. At one point, the stake president, nearly in tears, told the story of my son’s chaperone’s miraculous healing.
He said that the chaperone had collapsed and was unable to move until he received a priesthood blessing. Then and only then had he been able to get up and walk to a truck that would take him to the hospital. If he hadn’t received the blessing he might have died there on the ground in Oklahoma.
My son’s face had this strange mixture of shock and anger, and he turned to me and said, “That’s a complete lie. Nothing like that happened.”
He told me later that the man had indeed collapsed and had received a priesthood blessing. When he hadn’t improved, he had been carried to the truck and taken to the hospital.
“Dad, why would they make up something like that?” he asked. “There wasn’t a miracle, and I don’t understand why they would lie about it. It doesn’t make any sense. Do you think that’s what’s really behind a lot of the miracle stories we hear in church?”
I said I thought most such stories were sincere, but it’s hard to know. My son lost a lot of trust in his church leaders that day, and I can’t say that I blame him.