Sunday, August 21, 2011

Strange Mormon Customs

Every summer we take our family "back" West.
We want to see the mountains, breathe the clean dry air, and enjoy hair without the frizz.
But this summer we had an extra special reason to come "home."

And it had to do with two eight-year-old girls...

...and a special river
in the middle
(Incidentally, this photo was not taken of the road or the breathtaking scenic beauty, but of the bug splatter on the windshield. We don't get that in the East. Why? I don't know. Scott and I ponder over this every summer. Tell me why bugs splatter in the west and not in the east and I'll mail you a candy bar.)
When my neighbors asked me what our plans were for the summer I told them we were planning a trip to Wyoming.
"Really?" they said. "Jackson Hole?"
"No." I would respond. "The middle of Wyoming. A place called Martin's Cove."
"Is that a town?"
"No it is the side of a big rock."
"What town is it by?"
"No towns. There isn't a town for a hundred miles."
"What are you going to do there?"
"Well, it is actually a place where, over a century ago a group of
poor Mormon converts were stranded in a snowstorm, lost their limbs to frostbite, ate the leather off the rims of their handcart wheels, and many of them died."
Long pause.
"Why are you going there?"
"To dress up in pioneer clothes and celebrate."
It sounds strange at first, I admit. But Mormons will do whatever we can to teach our children about sacrifice. Even if we have to reenact it.
Granted, it was not snowing, our children were not starving, we trekked on a nicely graveled road, and I had on some pretty sweet hiking shoes.But it is better than sitting at home and watching tv.
My mom and my mom's husband are serving a mission there, so are two of my aunts and uncles, and so my whole family and some of my extended family decided to come visit and try our hand at being pioneers.
We camped for three nights,

crossed the river three times,

and ate lots of jerky and liquorish.

Scott brought his hammock (of course)
and tied it up to the only two trees in the entire state.
We bonded with family:
My sister Korinne, noticing the huge praying mantis on my blouse.
My husband, brothers, brother in law, my mom and a nice African man my mom adopted on her last mission to South Africa.
But the biggest event for my family came on the last day.
When Latter-day Saint kids are baptized they are usually baptized in a font inside a church building. The water is warm and clean.
But when the pioneers were baptized they didn't have fonts. They were baptized anywhere they could immerse themselves in water, and sometimes they were so excited about getting baptized and joining the church that they wouldn't even wait for summer to come but would go out in the winter and break the ice.
(Sophie and Syrena, testing the water a few days before they are to be baptized.)
Luckily we didn't have to break any ice. But there was a snake. Before the baptism several people spied it, but no one dared tell the girls (or ME!) about it until the baptisms were over. One nephew said it was Lucifer, coming to make trouble.

Naomi and cousin Quinn
You know, there are lots of ways I could teach my kids about the sacrifices of the pioneers.
Google, for instance.

But when they experience the vastness of the prairie and see the endless sky, they understand the hopeless predicament these poor pioneers were in. And when they touch the water with their own fingertips they can imagine what it would be like to carry their little sister across an icy river. And when they hear the howling outside their tent at night they can be grateful they are only coyotes and not wolves.
I have not yet mentioned that the reason why this spot is so special to Latter-Day Saints is not just because it was a place of suffering,

but because it was a place of rescue.
You could say that my girls were rescued there, too.


  1. I love, love, love, love it! Chelsea, what a great experience... I just can't express how good I feel right now. What a great post. So happy for your family!

    And whew! Good thing the only two trees in the state were close enough to each other that Scott's ropes would reach. That could have been a real mess...

  2. That's so awesome. When I told Jeremy, he said we had to find some way to beat you guys in coolness when John is baptized. But it will probably end up being just the boring old Stake Baptism Day.

  3. How Awesome Chelsea! You write so well. I love that your girls experienced something so special.

  4. That was beautiful! Loved it!

  5. So very cool! I LOVE the last picture!!!!

  6. What an incredible experience.

  7. liquorish... you had to find a way to bring the booze. ;) I love Wyoming. Even the parts with nothing for miles. (Those clouds are amazing. And is that first picture in the Wind Rivers? Or near the Tetons?) I'm going to have to copy you and head off to Wyoming when my kids turn 8. They're cracking down on the river baptisms around here. And by here I mean Idaho, too. I was baptized in the Snake River and I'd love for my kids to have the same experience, if that's what they choose to do. What a great post, my friend! And what a great summer trip.

  8. What a cool experience! And great pictures too Chelsea.

  9. What an amazing experience! They will never forget it for the rest of their lives. You guys are such troopers! How beautiful the scenery too.

  10. What a wonderful post! My ward did a trek at Martin's Cove when I was 14. Main things I remember were the mosquitoes eating me alive and listening to coyotes howling while trying to go to sleep. It was a neat experience though and grateful I didn't grow up in that time- gave more respect to the pioneers :). Congrats to the twins for the awesome baptism- a very memorable moment. ps- your girls dresses were super cute- loved the colors!

  11. Beautiful. My biggest regret, which I will probably continue to regret through the next life was going the wrong direction and missing the baptism. What an amazing thing that weekend was.

  12. That was very sweet, Chelsea. What an amazing experience! I've been SO wishing we could afford the trip to Martin's Cove this year while your awesome mom is there. Alas, we're too poor. I think those little girls will never forget the lessons learned there. Oh, and the reason bugs splat over here, and not over there: We're cursed. (Email me privately for the address to send the candy bar to...mmmm...candy bar..." -Caleb

  13. Just beautiful. And I'm pretty sure bugs don't splatter in the east because it's so humid, they're quickly weighed down and sluggish and take too many breaks on trees to ever get caught between the crosshairs of the wind and windshield. Does that earn me a candy bar?

  14. Very well spoken and tender. I am so glad that you recorded it in word and pictures. It was a wonderful time together.

  15. That was such a great post! Thanks for sharing.