Sunday, April 9, 2017

On Being a Pioneer

While on trek, we did a LOT of walking. We took turns pulling the handcart, in our assigned families. Boys did try to do more of the hard work than the girls, but the girls worked just as hard. Each handcart of youth had a set of parents, and each three or four handcarts made up a company. The leaders in the stake tried to organize trek in the manner of the pioneers and their travels across the country.

We didn’t have members of our family or company die from starvation or exposure to the elements. We didn’t run out of food. We didn’t have wind or snow to contend with, or have to circle our wagons from outside danger. Our trek conditions were comfortable, our safety ensured, and our well-being the main consideration of our stake leaders.

So when I was asked to speak on what I learned from trek, it was difficult for me to summarize my experiences into a talk. I didn’t experience truly what the pioneers experienced, and did not sacrifice anything when the pioneers sacrificed all that they had.

A pioneer is a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area. It is also a person who develops or be the first to use or apply a new method, area of knowledge, or activity.
Elder William Walker of the Seventy spoke of the pioneers in his 2014 general conference talk. He quoted the words in the song, True to the Faith, which has a line that states, “True to the faith that our parents have cherished. He then asked us to consider a change to this line in the song, “True to the faith that our grandparents have cherished.” I’d like to speak both of my parents and grandparents in terms of being a pioneer.

Elder Walker said, “It would be a wonderful thing if every Latter-day Saint knew the conversion stories of their forefathers…Whether or not you are a descendant of pioneers, the Mormon pioneer heritage of faith and sacrifice is your heritage. It is the noble heritage of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

My grandparents joined the church when my mother was four. To do this they gave up their addictions, they lost friends and family, gave up a job and new promotion, and within a year had moved out of state because of inspiration to continue my grandfather’s education. They’ve never looked back, and are still the only members of their families.

My father joined the church when he was 19, also giving up friends and family, and a football team to then go on a mission. He too is the only member in his family.

Elder Walker asked, “Why would [they and others like my father and grandparents] do such a thing?”
Elder Walker said that the answer for him was found in his great-great-grandfather’s own words in a letter that he wrote to his wife when the Mormon battalion was on its way to Santa Fe. “My faith is so strong as ever [and when I think of the things that Brigham Young told us], I believe it about the same as if the Great God had told me.” “In short, he knew he was listening to a prophet of God, as did the other men. That is why they did it! They knew they were led by a prophet of God.”

My father joined the church on his own, but went on a mission because the prophet asked all young men to serve the Lord for two years. He too listened to the prophet. My grandparents wanted to serve a mission as well, and in fact served two. They knew that through their service and sacrifice they would better be able “to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers.” They wanted their grandchildren to know of their righteous heritage—because they knew it would bless them and the more connected we feel to our righteous forefathers, the more likely we are to make wise and righteous choices. Just as understanding the sacrifice the pioneers made. Our stake leaders wanted us to understand our heritage and learn more how to make wise and righteous choices. Each of us will be greatly blessed if we know the stories of faith and sacrifice that led any one of us to join the Lord’s Church.

The pioneers, as well as my father, and my grandparents knew that no matter what trials or hardships would come to them, they would be blessed for staying true to the faith.

I know that if I understand this principle than I will have learned something of eternal value from trek: That we should honor and strive to emulate the legacy of our righteous forefathers—those faithful Mormon pioneers who were willing to put everything on the altar to sacrifice for and defend their God and their faith, as well as you modern pioneers who are also making a sacrifice to belong to a church that requires much of its members. This is living true to the faith that our Father in Heaven will cherish.

1 comment:

Bachland :) said...

What a wonderful talk, I wish we could have heard it in person!