The Day They Killed My Son’s Testimony

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.


17 Responses to The Day They Killed My Son’s Testimony

  1. Chris says:

    Pathetic. Truly pathetic.

  2. Did the last name of that Stake President rhyme with “sun,” “gun,” or “fun”?

  3. runtu says:

    No, I’m not saying. My guess is that the stake president was merely repeating what he had been told.

  4. I wonder if he was there, and that is how he perceived the events.

    I know that there have been events in my life that I have perceived (through a strong “self-want,” for lack of a better term) a certain way to only have others later show that my recollection of the event was pretty much in my mind.

    Maybe this is how such FPRs come to fruition. A kind of “wishful-thinking” where the mind/memory of a participant wants the event to be something so bad that they end up perceiving it differently than the way in which it actually transpired(?)

    On an unrelated note, I wonder if such events are actually beneficial to children in the long run. I’m all for learning hard lessons, but some aspects of these events almost seem like a glorified form of neglect.

  5. runtu says:

    I think it was a good lesson for him to learn. I really do.

    No, the SP wasn’t there, now that I think of it. My son was tending to the chaperone, so he was right there for the whole thing. It was, as I said, a bit of a shock.

    David Knowlton has a marvelous article in Dialogue (either there or Sunstone, can’t remember which) about the creation of faith-promoting myth. Fascinating stuff.

  6. K*tty says:

    I remember when I took part as an adult in a pioneer reenactment. They had made these stuffed babies out of a pillow and twisted a tie around the neck for the head. I thought they were tacky, why couldn’t we use a cute doll? I was soon to learn that these babies would die on the trail and have to be buried. I personally thought it was a little over the top. When the part came that we had to bury the first baby, I was asked to say a prayer over the grave. I looked over at the guy that asked me, and said, “You’re kidding, right?” His stern look told me he wasn’t. In front of all those teenagers, I had to say I would not do it. It was creepy. So the priesthood leader, begrudgingly prayed over the dead pillow. Man, I miss the fun I use to have at church.

  7. uft36 says:

    I am all for these kinds of events but people who chose to do these events have to be better prepared for heat. I didn’t have a car for many years and I lived in Tucson for about two years. I learned very quickly about walking in the heat, especially 100 plus degrees. I was never hospitalized but I came close a few times until I got used to the heat. I hope the people behind these events are better prepared and inform the people the dangers of heat stroke and exhaustion. I know they are trying to know what it is like to take a trip like the pioneers did in the 1800’s but people back then didn’t have modern medicine and protection from the heat. There is no reason why your daughter had 3rd degree burns and I would have been very upset if my kids came home like that. There are better and less dangerous ways to promote your faith. If someone had a lifetime experience working outdoors I can understand doing this but someone from the city with little or no experience, no. They need to be better prepared for the heat. And I don’t believe God would want anyone to go through this just to increase their faith in Him. He would rather have you do some kind of service project for a family. This reminds me of the Christians in Jerusalem re-enacting Christ’s walk to the cross. I would rather visit the homeless people on the street and talk to them for a while. I would be upset too if I heard the SP tell a story that you know it was not true. Did you or your son go and talk to him about what really happened that day? He might have been a little embarrassed but at least he would know what really happen and would be more careful next time he told a faith-promoting story.

  8. jr says:

    A few years ago my wife and I were asked to be a ‘Ma & Pa’ on a Pioneer Trek. As much as I love to hike and camp, I did not enjoy the experience.
    This year my oldest son will be 14 and will be going on the trek, in about a month from now.
    He’s not looking forward to it.
    I find it interesting that there is such a myth amongst middle-aged active Mormons that difficult experiences, such as a Pioneer Trek, somehow become spiritual experiences.
    I really doubt that any of the kids who I was a ‘Pa’ for during the trek I went on had any type of spiritual experience, I’ll bet for the most part they were as put out by it as I was and just couldn’t wait to get home.
    I doubt my son will have that wonderful experience that some many of the adults expect it to be.
    I’ve realized that the LDS Church as become an Ideal that is rarely (if ever) fullfilled.

  9. Miguel says:

    Well, what do I need to say? This just proves that the RIGHT PLACE to teach the Gospel is AT HOME!

  10. runtu says:

    Heh, maybe I should be making up faith-promoting stories in my home, huh? 😉

  11. Ray Agostini says:

    There is no reason why your daughter had 3rd degree burns and I would have been very upset if my kids came home like that.

    Agree. This is worse than the faith-promoting story. Third degree burns, people collapsing from heat….

    Did anyone criticise them for failing to take preventitive measures? I know an elderly faithful lady, who slipped and fell on the chapel steps, and sued the Church for damages, and got a payout outside of court, for expenses incurred from her fall. After that they built handrails and also a ramp for disabled access.

  12. Todd Wood says:

    Faith promoting myths – I hear a lot of these in Idaho.

  13. If my child came home with 3rd degree burns, I would have sued someone. SERIOUSLY!

    They have had several of these trek reenactments in our Stake and I have REFUSED to let my kids go.

    Yes, I’m a heathen Mormon. That’s why you love me. LOL

    I love your blog, Runtu.

    We miss you at MDB. I noticed that you posted on “the board that must not be named.” 😉

    How come you’re posting at Slytherin, but not Gryffindor. 😦

  14. runtu says:

    I’ll be back. I just needed a break from some of the inanity there, Liz. It’s good to see you, too. I really hope they don’t have another trek thing with my younger kids. It might cause some contention if I don’t give my blessing. Had I known how ill-planned and unprepared they were, I would never have let my kids go.

  15. I understand you needing a break. But the inanity at MAD is worse, and you’re posting there. LOL

    Come on back. I have Schryver under control. I threatened to lock him in the Goddess basement if he bugs you again. 😉

  16. uft36 says:

    Goddess basement? Is there some kind of Mormon ritual I never heard of going on there? 🙂 Just joking. It sounds kind of strange if you don’t know what is going on there. I checked out your forum Elizabeth and it is very unique. Ratings on discussions. Great idea! You and Runtu can add my blog to your sites, if you want. I will add your sites as well.

  17. Can't control everyone unfortunately says:

    I can understand your son feelings, since we can’t control anyone’s behavior I would have spoke to that man and asked him to explain to my son why he saw it that way. There are always “different” kinds of people that make up a church and that is just life; I guess you’ll have to explain that to your son. I am sure there were hours of volunteer work and many people giving up work to chaperone and put this thing together. Maybe for the next one you could be one of those people and make it a better experience…

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