July 20, 1997
Location: East Canyon State Park, Utah - Between Henefer and Birch Springs.
Summary: Our last Sunday together at East Canyon State Park: If you do it...they will come!!
Journal entry: The morning seemed to come early today as it was just another chance to sleep in. But, after getting up every day at 4:30 AM, it is next to impossible to sleep in. So, we didn't. But it was a good thing, as church was an hour early today. We had a great turn-out from the people in the Coalville Stake of the LDS church. I counted 25 priests breaking the bread and 35 deacons passing the sacrament. It was truly an inspiring sight to see. We had an incredible background. The mountains are so green and we are truly at the tops of them. In the distance was East Canyon Reservoir. It was so lovely!
The baby that was born on the trail in Ft.Laramie was blessed today. We were happy to have Brothers Joe Christensen and M. Russell Ballard here with us.
Pres. Brian Hill talked as did Sister Sandy Van Leeuwen. This was the last meeting of the Wagon Train as a church entity. It is this week that we enter the Valley and then it will all be over.
Pres. Hill has been an incredible leader for our church group. He is married to Karen, and they have four children: three girls and one son. I need to correct that he was not only the President of the wagon train called by the leaders of the church, but he was also one of the seven people who was on the Board of Trustees for the wagon train. He is actually the the president of the Board and CEO of the wagon train.
Pres. Hill and his family live in Kearney, Nebraska, and Brian is a professor of tourism at the University of Kearney in Nebraska. He deals with tourism with the state of Nebraska and works with rural tourism and the extension service. Wow! That was a mouthful.
It sounds as if Pres. Hill would be a real stuffed shirt, but he is far from that. He spent many a day walking beside many of us. He suffered terribly from sore feet and blistered toes, and the weather and sun did a bad number on his lips. But he was one with us. We have talked and laughed and shared the trail with each other and he has truly lived the trail. I could pick Brian out of a huge crowd and feel as if he were one of my best friends. We all could. He and Karen know the trail and we feel as if they shared the tough times and the good times with us.
Brian sort of summed up a lot of feelings today for all of us. We have become a big family. We have loved each other, cared for each other, shared many of the good times and the bad. He commented that we have lived a great deal of authenticity in this wagon train. Our relationships with each other are probably not unlike the real wagon trains of long ago. We see children play, romances of youth, trials of leaders, toughness in the hard decisions. We see death, as one of our teamsters died when he went home. We saw a birth. We have lived and loved and laughed and worked together. We are real. We are 600 strong.
He commented that we must prepare to face an adjustment to life when we go back home. We have been out of the world and we will face some difficulties in trying to return to our previous lives. We may feel some depression, aloneness and isolation. This is when we must be strong and realize the great purpose of the wagon train- to further the message of Christ. Pres. Hill further stated that we are witnesses to the faith and goodness of the pioneers....to those hardy souls who brought the gospel to the West.
In his closing remarks, Pres. Hill gave the members of the wagon train a blessing. He blessed us that we would remember completely the events of this wagon train throughout our lives. We would not tire of telling the events and stories to the world and that we would be anxious to tell people of our stories. We would teach about the people of Zion. We would also tell our children and our grandchildren the stories of the wagon train and that our tongues would be loosed that we could speak with the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, that others would be blessed and touched by the Spirit.
It has been a very humbling experience to be a part of this blessing. We have been truly blessed to have the Hills in our midst. Brian and Karen have shown us true love when they could have easily thrown up their hands and walked away. There have been numerous problems and trials in the running of this great endeavor, but they know the great purpose and have helped to keep us going. I am sure it has not been easy. I asked Karen if she had anything to say about the wagon train experience. In her great gentle way she said, "Well, in the words of Grant Packard,"Hurray for Utah!!!'" Thanks so much you two for sticking it out with us.
Our camp this weekend was on the top of a high, sagebrush hill. The day passed with beautiful weather: warm, summer sunshine. I watched the people come to see the wagon train all day long.....a constant procession of cars and vans and trucks. People had to make the long climb to the top of the hill. It was a difficult walk. But they came...and came...and came. So many have felt the Spirits of their ancestors and been moved to visit the train. This is a very powerful place to be and the Spirit of our pioneer ancestors is here. It was so wonderful to have you come. Today I felt that those of you who came, came for the same reason I did...to tell of those great events of our pioneer forefathers. Thank you for coming. It was a thrilling sight.
Another person on the train who does a duty to pass the word along about this event is Larry England. Larry and his wife, Charlotte, live in Iowa. Larry has been very active in the events of the Mormon Trail as he is a member of the Iowa Mormon Trails Association. Last year Larry was greatly involved in the Iowa trek and helped organize and lead that event. This year Larry has taken more of a backseat with the trek and watched from the sidelines. He has been a great help in doing campjack duties during the day when help got a little short. He is always around and is willing to jump in and do almost anything.
Larry has run his own concession stand in conjunction with the trail and has many beautiful items for sale commemorating the Mormon Trail His logo is a beautifully created piece of artwork. It shows the Mormon Trail clear back from the beginning in Illinois and has it ending in Utah. I really don't think I have met anyone who is more knowledgeable about the Mormon Trail current events than Larry. He knows every person and event that has occurred about the Trail in modern times. He keeps newspaper clippings and brochures, and has a huge folder of pictures and photographs. Larry always has an extra chair in his stand and invites you in to peruse through his memorabilia. He has a great many items for sale that commemorate this great event
Larry was a neat part of us. He was always around and willing to help. It was a real privilege to know you Larry.
Blessing by Pres. Brian Hill upon the Wagon and Handcart Trek
July 20, 1997 East Canyon, Utah
As the president of this wagon train I feel inspired, in the authority I have been given, to pronounce upon you a blessing.
And so, in the name of Jesus Christ, and by the power and authority I have as the president, and as a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood, I bless you that you will remember completely and vividly the events of this trek throughout your lives; and that you will not tire of telling the stories.
I bless you that you will be anxious to share what you have learned, and what you have gained, to those around you in your wards and in your stakes; that you might be able to teach the people what it means to feel a little bit of Zion; that you will tell your children and your grandchildren about your experiences.
I bless you that you will have a loosening of your tongue, that you will be able to express yourself in a way which will be filled with the Holy Ghost, that those who speak with you will be touched.
And I pronounce this blessing upon you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.