“Whether you have pioneer ancestry or came into the Church only yesterday, you are a part of this whole grand picture of which those men and women dreamed. … They laid the foundation. Ours is the duty to build on it.”
As the Church becomes an increasingly global organisation and overflows its Rocky Mountain home, an increasing proportion of its members will not have ancestors who crossed the plains or founded small communities in the desert. Many, however, will be gospel pioneers in their families, schools, work places and communities. We may not all have great ancestors, but we can all become great ancestors.
From the life of Gordon B Hinckley
President Hinckley speaks about his pioneering ancestors and then honours those who are gospel pioneers around the world today.
1 With vision, labor, and confidence in the power of God working through them, the early Latter-day Saint pioneers brought their faith to reality.
From the manual:
Behind us is a glorious history. It is bespangled with heroism, tenacity to principle, and unflagging fidelity. It is the product of faith. Before us is a great future. It begins today. We cannot pause. We cannot slow down. We cannot slacken our pace or shorten our stride.
How do you feel when you consider the legacy of faith and sacrifice that pioneers and other Saints have given us?
Who are the pioneers of the Church in your area? (See my blog Saints ain’ts and complaints
for some of the pioneers in my area of the church.)
How can we pass on this same kind of legacy to those who will follow us?
2 Early Latter-day Saint pioneers looked to the future with a grand dream of Zion.
From the manual:
I stood the other day on the old docks of Liverpool, England. There was practically no activity the Friday morning when we were there. But once this was a veritable beehive. During the 1800s, tens of thousands of our people walked over the same stone paving on which we walked. They came from across the British Isles and from the lands of Europe, converts to the Church. They came with testimony on their lips and faith in their hearts. Was it difficult to leave their homes and step into the unknown of a new world? Of course it was. But they did it with optimism and enthusiasm. They boarded sailing vessels. They knew the crossing at best was hazardous. They soon found out that for the most part it was miserable. They lived in cramped quarters week after week. They endured storms, disease, sickness. Many died on the way and were buried at sea. It was an arduous and fearsome journey. They had doubts, yes. But their faith rose above those doubts. Their optimism rose above their fears. They had their dream of Zion, and they were on their way to fulfill it.
What dream or vision drives you forward and helps you to endure the difficult times?
The LDS hymn ‘Come, Come Ye Saints was written by English pioneer William Clayton on the plains of Iowa while concerned about his family back in Nauvoo. See: William Clayton and Come, Come Ye Saints
in the Friend magazine.
‘Life isn’t always easy. At some point in our journey we may feel much as the pioneers did as they crossed Iowa—up to our knees in mud, forced to bury some of our dreams along the way. We all face rocky ridges, with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon. Sometimes it seems as though there is no end to the dust that stings our eyes and clouds our vision. Sharp edges of despair and discouragement jut out of the terrain to slow our passage. Always, there is a Devil’s Gate, which will swing wide open to lure us in. Those who are wise and faithful will steer a course as far from such temptation as possible, while others—sometimes those who are nearest and dearest to us—succumb to the attraction of ease, comfort, convenience, and rest. Occasionally we reach the top of one summit in life, as the pioneers did, only to see more mountain peaks ahead, higher and more challenging than the one we have just traversed. Tapping unseen reservoirs of faith and endurance, we, as did our forebears, inch ever forward toward that day when our voices can join with those of all pioneers who have endured in faith, singing: “All is well! All is well!” (Hymns, no. 30).’ (M Russell Ballard, General Conference, May 1997)
3 The rescue of the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers speaks of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
From the manual:
My brethren and sisters, I would hope, I would pray, that each of us … would resolve to seek those who need help, who are in desperate and difficult circumstances, and lift them in the spirit of love into the embrace of the Church, where strong hands and loving hearts will warm them, comfort them, sustain them, and put them on the way of happy and productive lives.
What can we do to rescue and lift those who are in need today?
“I received a letter this morning. I think I would like to read it to you. I hope that you will not consider it egotistical for me to do so.
“What a wonderful Conference! Your closing remarks concerning Brigham Young’s rescue parties touched our family’s heart and we resolved to set out on our rescue mission without delay. We pulled out of the stake center [Sunday afternoon] and headed directly to the humble home of a struggling single parent mother of two who hasn’t been out to Church in years (and who has carefully evaded her visiting teachers). We happened to catch her in her driveway, and we told her that you and the bishop had sent us. Her heart was touched. She said that she works at a hospital till 2 A.M. most Sundays. When we asked if we could bring her children to Church with us, she explained that her ten-year-old daughter has no Sunday clothes and that her fourteen-year-old son had felt embarrassed to attend because he felt he didn’t fit in. We told the mom we would take care of the needed clothes. We then invited them to Sunday spaghetti dinner that took place thirty minutes later, introduced the boy to our nephew who is in his quorum, and arranged to pick the boy up for Mutual this week. The mom and sister promised to go to Church with us in two weeks when the mom has her Sunday off. (Don’t worry, we won’t let them forget!)’
“That is the whole thing, when all is said and done, to go out and get in our cars and drive from a Church parking lot to someone who has been neglected for a long time and needs a little attention, to lift and cheer and comfort and love and bless. ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matt. 25:40).” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 224.)
4 Each of us is a pioneer.
From the manual:
It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his own life, often in his own family, and many of us pioneer daily in trying to establish a gospel foothold in distant parts of the world.
In what ways is each of us a pioneer?
In a sense, each of us is a wanderer far from home, crossing a wilderness in search of a promised land. This theme is repeated in the stories of the Jaredites, the family of Lehi, the children of Israel and Brigham Young and the pioneers. To get to our promised land we will each of us have to make sacrifices just as the pioneers did.
5 We honor the sacrifices and heritage of the pioneers by following their example and building on their foundation.
From the manual:
With so great an inheritance, we must go forward. We must never let down. We must hold our heads high. We must walk with integrity. We must “do what is right [and] let the consequence follow”
How can the examples of the early pioneers help us as we face challenges?
‘A major reason this church has grown from its humble beginnings to its current strength is the faithfulness and devotion of millions of humble and devoted [members]… He encourages us to “be not weary in well-doing, for [we] are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” May we be faithful in fulfilling the duties of whatever calling we have in the kingdom. Let us pay heed to the “small things” that make all the difference. Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments as we have made sacred covenants to do. As our heritage and our growth clearly show, we are, indeed, “laying the foundation of a great work.”
Let us dedicate ourselves to doing the Lord’s work to the best of our abilities. May we honor the faith of our fathers by giving our own faithful service to this great cause.’ (Joseph B Wirthlin, “Faith of Our Fathers,” Ensign, May 1996, 34)