Thursday, August 09, 2018

Trail Angels

There are several great backpacking trails in the United States: the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).  Each of these trails is well over 2000 miles and the CDT extends over 3000 miles.  Tru-hikers can spend from 5-8 months completing these trails.  Other notable trails include the American Discovery Trail and the East Coast Greenway. Thru- and section-hikers endure rough and rugged terrain, living on only what they can carry on their backs.  These hikers have come to appreciate the kindness of strangers who may randomly place cashes of water, fruit, candy along the trail. When a thru-hiker has traveled several weeks eating nothing but freeze-dried and packaged food, a piece of fresh fruit is a godsend. These random acts of kindness are referred to by the hikers as "trail magic."

The LDS Church has it's own stories of trail angels.  Members of the ill-fated Martin and Willie Handcart companies as well as other pioneer wagon and handcart companies have numerous stories of angelic assistance during their trek across the plains. Many of these instances of divine "trail magic" are dramatized in the movie "17 Miracles".  Many of these faithful pioneers reported that they had become "acquainted with God in their extremity". 

I think there is a lesson here that can be applied to our everyday lives without having to hike 3000 miles.  All of us are on a the journey of a lifetime.  Our journey crosses the most treacherous spiritual terrain imaginable.  The spiritual food for most travelers is highly processed, stale, and bland.  For those of us with testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we can serve as trail angels to our fellow thru-hikers. We can share with others the cool clean water of our testimony and fresh fruit of charitable service and random acts of kindness. 

After reading about trail angels on the AT and PCT, I have been thinking of ways to be a trail angel to my fellow thru-hikers in my everyday life.  I have been pondering ways to leave my own trail magic through a smile, random acts of kindness, and sharing my testimony of the Book of Mormon and the restored gospel.  How can you be a better trail angel in your life?

President Russell M. Nelson Taight thr fallowing about angels and becoming angels: 

Other angels are also at work. Often our members are “angels” to neighbors in need. Home teachers and visiting teachers, as ordinary people, frequently render service that seems angelic to grateful recipients. Young people who quietly leave homemade goodies on a doorstep or two experience the joy of anonymous service to others. And I am among the many who have often referred to the loving acts of an “angel mother” or an “angel wife,” or the priceless love of “angel children.”

Do we believe in angels? Yes! We believe in angels—heavenly messengers—seen and unseen; and earthly angels who know whom to help and how to help. Gospel messengers, or angels, can include ordinary people like you and me.

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