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Pioneer Day: Stripling Warriors

Dan Bammes

Cory Hanks, the president of the Bountiful South Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came up with a plan to recreate the story of Helaman and his two thousand stripling warriors in Friday's parade.  For years, Hanks has been playing the character of Helaman, a military leader in the Book of Mormon's account of the long wars between the Nephites and Lamanites.  In the story, Helaman led two thousand young warriors who had never fought before, but who had been taught by their mothers that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.

"I just thought it would be a wonderful thing to be part of something big for the community," Hanks told KUER.  "Everybody would just be excited about it and these young men would love to be part of an opportunity to make something jump off the pages of church history and scripture history and come alive."

Moms were a big part of the parade entry, creating the yellow tunics, armbands and headbands for each participant.  Becky Hanks was fixing last-minute problems with duct tape.

"If the boy's shorts are too long, hanging down below their tunics, then we're taping them up," she said.  "However, lots of 'em, the tunics are too short, so we may just give that up."

The participants ranged in age from 12 to 24, from dozens of different LDS wards in North Salt Lake and Bountiful.  Some came from as far away as Tooele to take part.  At about 6'5", Branson Bell stood out in the crowd.  He's just been called as a missionary.

"I'm going to New Jersey, Morristown," he said.  "So that's like the entire top half of New Jersey."  And, he added, "I am way excited about that."

Brothers Sefa, Punu and Talmage Teaupa had a different reason for joining the parade.

"Yesterday, my uncle called me and said he signed us up to be a stripling warrior," said Sefa.

Talmage recalled the original story.  "Boy, there were two thousand of 'em, right?  Two thousand of 'em.  And they always listened to their moms.  And none of 'em died in the war."

Each warrior carried a stick with a roofing nail in the bottom meant to make a sound as it hit the pavement.  Just before they went to their assembly point, Cory Hanks coached them in working together to march and chant their motto, "We did not doubt."

The parade included all the typical entries:  Local businesses, politicians, high school cheerleaders.  The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga sent its marching band.  But the crowd came to its feet as Cory Hanks approached in his costume, looking rather more Roman than ancient American.  In all, it took about ten minutes for all 2200 warriors to march past Bountiful's city hall.

Amy York was delighted to spot her brother, Taylor Heiner, in the ranks.  "We're a bunch of weird Mormons," she laughed.  "But I think there's a lot of meaning in reading the account in the Book of Mormon.  It's awesome for those kids to bring that to life."

Stake president Cory Hanks, also known as Helaman, says he has no plans to make this an annual event.  He says, "Once is enough."

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