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Paradise Man Treks 80 Miles With Cross On Back For Easter

72-year-old David M. Smith said he doesn’t know if it was divine inspiration or just an idea, but he felt good about his decision to build a cross and begin a 5-day, 80-mile journey to attend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's General Conference in Salt Lake City  last Saturday.

Smith said the only preparation and planning he did was building the cross. Beyond that, he had no expectations.

“I planned on being homeless for five or six days," Smith said. "But the first night a policeman stopped and talked to me for a few minutes and said, ‘I want to put you up.’ The next night, a man from India took me home, fed me, laundered my clothes and took me back to the cross. The next night an LDS family brought me to their place and had a gourmet meal. I mean the type where you have two forks, you know, and all the trimming. The next night I spent the night with a Spanish family a lady that had dropped in all along this trip to make sure I was okay. I stayed with her father who was a sheepherder at one time and is now supporting five children around the world to make sure they don’t go hungry."

What began as a private pilgrimage - Smith didn't even tell his family - soon became an event he says people drove from all over to find. Smith said he encouraged people who stopped to talk to him to experience the burden of the one he strove to understand.

“I talked to a thousand people if I talked to one person," Smith said. "There were cars stopped back up along the highway. There were multiple people, even women along the way. I encouraged people to get underneath it and lift it up and take it a few steps because it’s probably the only opportunity they’d ever get in their life to carry a cross. You know, it would be just a step closer.”

Smith said that this experience has helped him become more tolerant of those different than himself because the people who came to help him were of all ages, genders and religions. They tended to his needs and listened to what he had to say.

“It is the single most important thing in my in entire 72 years," Smith said. "Nothing equals it.”

Though Smith was only able to make it as far as South Ogden, it doesn’t bother him that he wasn’t able to complete his pilgrimage. He said it wasn’t about proving a 72-year-old man could walk 80 miles, it was about the people.