Imagine if you will, a rag tag group of dirt stained individuals, caked with the earth and sweat of the hundreds of miles that they have already trudged. They have navigated unforgiving wilderness, pulling heavy handcarts with only the barest of essentials, as stodgy leaders bark orders to keep going. You might think that this is a camp to rehabilitate chronic drug addicts or lawbreakers, but you would be wrong. This is a Mormon Pioneer Trek re-creation.
And THIS is what Mormons do for fun.
Indeed, weathering hardships and persecution is hard wired into the DNA of Mormons everywhere. Their unspoken mantra of “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of this dispensation” is a credo that provides comfort for Mormons everywhere. This persecution, either real or perceived, will provide any recommend carrying Saint the fuel they need to take on the world.
Most Mormons should have at least one testimony ready tale of persecution ready to go by the second or third year of high school, but for some living particularly sheltered lives, it may come later. This in fact is the reason for the existence of the Youth Conference pioneer trek. Anyone without a tale of hardship may now refer to their own trek experience. Countless testimonies have started with “When I went on our Stake’s Pioneer trek…”
While the pioneer trek is a treasure trove of stories about hard driving leaders, broken wagon wheels, and “having to pull the same handcart as the person that I just broke up with that week”, this is not the only source for classic tales of persecution and hardship. Some other examples include:
Being the only Mormon at a high school somewhere back east.
Having to decline a drink of alcohol at an important business function, in turn risking alienating a boss/potential client.
Having to choose between paying tithing or paying rent in a particular month, choosing tithing, and somehow finding a way to make rent.
Being made fun of for not going to the cool kids party.
It should be noted that while it is important to present these tales with a marked sense of earnestness, it has been noted that nearly every Mormon relishes these opportunities, and wears hardship and persecution like a badge of honor. In fact, were the Mormon church ever to gain widespread admiration and universal acceptance, the energy from the collective pity party could power every blue state in America for 13 months. Would observers expect anything less from a religion that had an extermination order brought against it?