Saturday, July 23, 2011

Happy Pioneer Day!

To Be A Pioneer
by Ruth Muir Gardner

You don’t have to push a handcart,

Leave your fam’ly dear,

Or walk a thousand miles or more

To be a pioneer!

You do need to have great courage,

Faith to conquer fear,

And work with might for a cause that’s right

To be a pioneer!

What is a pioneer? Here are a few definition for the word "pioneer".
1. inventor or innovator: a person or group that is the first to do something or that leads in developing something new

2. first person to explore territory: a person who is one of the first from another country or region to explore or settle a new area

3. soldier who builds things: a foot soldier whose duties include going ahead of the main company to construct things to pave the way for them

4. first species to grow somewhere: the first species of plant or animal life to begin living in a previously unoccupied site, e.g. a moss beginning to grow on otherwise bare rock

Pioneer has a very specific meaning to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We use the word to refer to early members of the church. They would move to a new place, build up a beautiful community for themselves, only to be driven out by angry mobs. This happened over and over again. Finally, they gathered their most basic belongings and moved west. Sometimes they used covered wagons. Sometimes they pulled handcarts. Most of them walked for miles a day.

I am not going to make light of the difficult challenges these pioneers endured. I know they worked very hard. I know some of them suffered. I know their faith was tested. I also know they are not that different from the rest of us.

We each must cross our own desolate plains to reach the promised land. We each must work hard. None are excluded from the trials that will make us grow strong. Each must prove himself worthy.

My ancestors were not pioneers in the traditional, LDS sense of the word. When I was younger, I thought this mattered. It doesn't. I know people are proud of the contributions their ancestors made. I can understand that. I am proud of my heritage too. My ancestors were immigrants to the United States. They built homes on the frontier. They fought wars that shaped this nation. They had strong faith in God and did their best to live the gospel as they understood it. They taught their children to work hard, learn all they could and trust in the Lord. They passed on to me a heritage that has served me well as a Latter-Day Saint.

I know this day is ear-marked for those Saints who crossed the plains. I appreciate them, really. I know that they made it possible for the gospel to thrive. They produced the missionaries that brought the gospel to my family. I look to their example of faith as a source of strength. But I also remember my own pioneer ancestors. I would not be the person I am without their sacrifices. They deserve to be honored.

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