The pioneer heritage of the Latter-day Saints
On July 24, 1847, a wagon company of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in what is now the state of Utah.
Led by visionary leader Brigham Young, this advanced group of 143 men, three women, and two children had left Winter Quarters, Nebraska, in April 1847 with 73 wagons, 93 horses, 66 oxen, 52 mules, 19 cows, 17 dogs, and some chickens.
This group was just the beginning. Between 1847 and 1869, some 60,000 to 70,000 Latter-day Saints arrived in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains. With faith in Jesus Christ, many sacrificed property and livelihoods and made the 1,000-mile journey in wagons, pushing or pulling handcarts, or on foot.
After gathering, the work was not easy. Hardships were faced daily. With faith in every footstep, these early saints constructed homes, built irrigation systems, and planted crops, relying on the Lord to help them realize Isaiah’s promise that the desert would “blossom as the rose.” (35:1-2).
Though legendary mountain man Jim Bridger reportedly told the Latter-day Saints that he would give $1,000 to anyone who could raise a bushel of corn in the Salt Lake Valley, the pioneers raised crops, established communities and built churches. They also built temples where families could be joined together forever in eternal relationships that transcend death.
In fact, two days after arriving, Brigham Young identified a site for the Salt Lake Temple, saying, “Here shall stand the temple of our God.”
He envisioned the temple’s iconic spires and the fulfilment of another prophecy of Isaiah, that “The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains” (2:2-4).
As we repent of our sins and strive to be better disciples of Jesus Christ, we may also find ourselves becoming pioneers, forging onward in spite of difficulties. Some may question our faith, our devotion, or our decision to serve the Lord.
As President Thomas S. Monson, former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught, “We honor those who endured incredible hardships. We praise their names and reflect on their sacrifices. What about our time? Are there pioneering experiences for us? Will future generations reflect with gratitude on our efforts, our examples?”
Like the pioneers of old, we can leave legacies of love and faith for generations to come. We can set examples of service and selflessness. We can exercise faith in Jesus Christ and as His disciples “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” (Hebrews 12:12).
May it be said of us as we sing of the pioneers:
They, the builders of the nation,
Blazing trails along the way;
Stepping stones for generations
Were their deeds of every day.
Building new and firm foundations,
Pushing on the wild frontier,
Forging onward, ever onward,
Blessed, honored Pioneer!
For more information on the pioneer heritage of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, see: http://History.ChurchOfJesusChrist.org.
DR. BRENT ROBERTS is the Elders Quorum President in the Sandy River Branch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also Dean of Greenwood Library at Longwood University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.