Faith of Our Fathers - Pioneers Past and Present
This week in Utah we celebrated a state holiday that is unique to Utah. July 24th was “Pioneer Day” in celebration of the arrival of the first group of pioneers that entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. They were refugees, driven out of the State of Illinois because of their religion.
The Mormon People had a history of hatred and misunderstanding by their neighbors that started in the State of New York (Where Joseph Smith organized the church in 1830) when they left to flee persecution and went to Ohio in 1831. They settled in Kirtland, Ohio and lived in peace for a few years when persecution drove them out again and they fled to Missouri. They developed several settlements in Jackson County, and Far West and Clay County before the Governor of Missouri issued the extermination order to drive the Mormons out or exterminate them. In a Wikipedia article about the extermination order it says:
“Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the Extermination Order in Latter Day Saint history, was an executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by the governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. It was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Mormons and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the Mormon War of 1838. Claiming that the Mormons had committed "open and avowed defiance of the laws", and had "made war upon the people of this State," Boggs directed that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri_Executive_Order_44)
They once again had to flee leaving their property behind and start over in Illinois. Brigham Young talks of the time they lived in Nauvoo and how persecution eventually drove them out again:
“We lived in Illinois from 1839 to 1844, by which time [enemies of the Church] again succeeded in kindling the spirit of persecution against Joseph and the Latter-day Saints. Treason! Treason! Treason! they cried, calling us murderers, thieves, liars, adulterers, and the worst people on the earth. … They took Joseph and Hyrum, and as a guarantee for their safety, Governor Thomas Ford pledged the faith of the State of Illinois. They were imprisoned [in Carthage, Illinois], on the pretense of safekeeping, because the mob was so enraged and violent. The Governor left them in the hands of the mob, who entered the prison and shot them dead. John Taylor, who is present with us today, was in the prison, too, and was also shot, and was confined to his bed for several months afterwards. After the mob had committed these murders, they came upon us and burned our houses and grain. When the brethren would go out to put out the fire, the mob would lie concealed under fences, and in the darkness of the night, they would shoot them.” (“Teachings of Brigham Young”, Chapter 15)
After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his Brother Hyrum on June 27, 1844, the pioneers once again were forced to flee because of mobs and hatred towards them. Brigham Young then tells of their trek to the Rocky Mountains and the faith of those pioneers that began that historical trek in February 1846:
“We arrived here, where we found a few … Indians, a few wolves and rabbits, and any amount of crickets; but as for a green tree or a fruit tree, or any green field, we found nothing of the kind, with the exception of a few cottonwoods and willows on the edge of City Creek. For some 1200 or 1300 miles we carried every particle of provision we had when we arrived here. When we left our homes we picked up what the mob did not steal of our horses, oxen and calves and some women drove their own teams here. Instead of 365 pounds of breadstuff when they started from the Missouri river, there was not half of them had half of it. We had to bring our seed grain, our farming utensils, bureaus, secretaries [desks], sideboards, sofas, pianos, large looking glasses, fine chairs, carpets, nice shovels and tongs and other fine furniture, with all the parlor, cook stoves, etc, and we had to bring these things piled together with some women and children, helter skelter, topsy-turvy, with broken-down horses, … oxen with three legs, and cows with one teat. This was our only means of transportation, and if we had not brought our goods in this manner we would not have had them, for there was nothing here…
“There never has been a land, from the days of Adam until now, that has been blessed more than this land has been blessed by our Father in Heaven; and it will still be blessed more and more, if we are faithful and humble, and thankful to God for the wheat and the corn, the oats, the fruit, the vegetables, the cattle and everything he bestows upon us, and try to use them for the building up of his Kingdom on the earth…
“We wish strangers to understand that we did not come here out of choice, but because we were obliged to go somewhere, and this was the best place we could find. It was impossible for any person to live here unless he labored hard and battled and fought against the elements, but it was a first-rate place to raise Latter-day Saints, and we shall be blessed in living here, and shall yet make it like the Garden of Eden; and the Lord Almighty will hedge about his Saints and will defend and preserve them if they will do his will. The only fear I have is that we will not do right; if we do [right] we will be like a city set on a hill, our light will not be hid.” (“Teachings of Brigham Young”, Chapter 15)
That first trek lead by Brigham Young, has been compared to a modern Israel wilderness trek lead be a modern Moses. By 1869 80,000 pioneers had made the journey west to Salt Lake City by wagon, hand cart and ships from the east coast to the west coast and then by land to Salt Lake City. From Salt Lake City Brigham Young sent other pioneers to settlements in other cities in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada and many other areas of the western United States, Canada and Mexico. Isaiah prophesied that in the last days a temple would be built in the tops of the mountains and that all nations would flow unto it:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. (Isaiah 2:2)
On April 6, 1893 Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dedicated the Salt Lake Temple. Salt Lake City is located in the tops of the mountains and today all nations do come to see the temple and to learn about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2022 Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics and people from all nations came to the games and learned about the LDS Church and it’s people in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Every year on July 24th the “Days of 47” are celebrated in Salt Lake City where one of the top 5 parades in the country for its size celebrate the coming of the pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. In every area of the church a celebration is held to remember and honor our pioneer heritage. Last week my family was in Washington State and the stake there held their “Pioneer Day Celebration” on Saturday, July 19th where hundreds of church members gathered to enjoy food and pioneer games.
My parents were converts to the LDS Church and as such we don’t have any members of our family (that we know of) that participated with those first pioneers that left their homes and journeyed to Salt Lake City, but they were pioneers because they were the first in our family to leave their churches, family and friends and join with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Dieter F. Uchtodorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency spoke about those early pioneers and how pioneers today can claim a heritage with the first pioneers:
“The faith of our fathers—I love that phrase,” says President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. He explains that for many Latter-day Saints, these words are reminders of valiant pioneers who traveled by wagon, by handcart, and on foot to settle in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. But with today’s worldwide Church membership at more than 14 million members from various backgrounds and origins, how do Church members share in a common pioneer heritage? And what does it mean to be a pioneer today?
“I love and honor the faith and courage of those early pioneers of the Church,” President Uchtdorf continues. “My own ancestors were living an ocean away at the time. None were among those who lived in Nauvoo or Winter Quarters, and none made the journey across the plains. But as a member of the Church, I claim with gratitude and pride this pioneer legacy as my own.”
“I claim the legacies of today’s modern-day Church pioneers who live in every nation and whose own stories of perseverance, faith, and sacrifice add glorious new verses to the great chorus of the latter-day anthem of the kingdom of God.” (“We All Share Pioneer Legacy”, https://www.lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/we-all-share-pioneer-legacy)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke about a talk by President J. Reuben Clark titled “Them of the Last Wagon”. President Clark talked about the leaders of the wagon trains going west and how they were always in the front where the air was clear and they had a vision of the where they were going. But in the back was the last wagon where the dust of the other wagons clouded their vision and they had to travel with faith trusting in those at the front. Elder Oaks says:
“President Clark’s words of tribute also apply to the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our day. In every nation, in every worthy occupation and activity, members of this church face hardships, overcome obstacles, and follow the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ as valiantly as the pioneers of any age. They pay their tithes and offerings. They serve as missionaries or as Church Service volunteers, or they support others who do so. Like the noble young mothers who postpone the pursuit of their personal goals in order to provide the needs of their children, they sacrifice immediate pleasures to keep commitments that are eternal. They accept callings and, in the service of others, they willingly give their time and sometimes their lives.
“They do as the Savior taught: They deny themselves; they take up their crosses daily; they follow Him. (See Luke 9:23.) These are those the Savior likened to the seed that fell on good ground: “in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, [they] keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15.)
“The fruits of the gospel issue from every honest and good heart, without regard to past origins or current positions in the Church. As President Clark declared, “There is no aristocracy of birth in this Church; it belongs equally to the highest and the lowliest.” (J. Reuben Clark: Selected Papers,p. 73.) (“Modern Pioneers”, Dallin H. Oaks, General Conference, October 1989)
Members all over the church are pioneers, whether they are the first members or have generations of members in the church. They are forging the trail that their descendants will follow. They are the ones with the clear vision of where they are going and the blessings that await them. They will teach future generations by example what it means to be committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many have left other family and friends behind to strike out on their own for the sake of the Gospel.
We must always remember the sacrifices that those early pioneers made so we could enjoy the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ today in peace. We must also recognize the modern day pioneers that are forging their own wilderness trek where they are leaving their own Babylon and entering into their own promised land. They truly are blessed pioneers.
Your comments are always welcome.