- This is a year for remembering our past and drawing strength to face and conquer the challenges of today from the exemplary faith and courage of those who faced and conquered the challenges of yesterday. As we honor these great pioneers from many lands, we shall share historical accounts that will often bring tears to our eyes and feelings of pure gratitude to our hearts. Through music, drama, and stirring reenactments, we will be reminded of incredible pioneer journeys, both temporal and spiritual.
- We cannot begin to understand the journeys made by those who laid the foundation of this dispensation until we understand their spiritual underpinnings. Once we make that connection, however, we will begin to see how their journeys parallel our own. There are lessons for us in every footstep they took—lessons of love, courage, commitment, devotion, endurance, and, most of all, faith.
- For the Utah pioneers of 1847, their faith was grounded in principle. They left their homes, their temple, and in some cases their families, in search of a place of refuge where they could worship without fear of persecution. There was little that they could carry with them in the way of provisions and material possessions, but each wagon and handcart was heavily laden with faith—faith in God, faith in the Restoration of His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and faith that God knew where they were going and that He would see them through.
He brings the discussion to the current era by asking if there are lessons from the pioneer era that can teach and inspire us today.
- Is there a lesson in the pioneer experience for us today? I believe there is. The faith that motivated the pioneers of 1847 as well as pioneers in other lands was a simple faith centered in the basic doctrines of the restored gospel, which they knew to be true. That’s all that mattered to them, and I believe that is all that should matter to us. Our faith needs to be focused on the fundamental truths that God lives, that we are His children, and that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son and He is our Savior. We need to know that they restored the Church to the earth in its fulness through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ we learn that our Father’s plan for the happiness of His children is clear and quite simple when studied and accepted with real faith.
Keeping with the idea that there are parallels between our lives and the early pioneers, Elder Ballard discusses the similarities for the early pioneers with current day missionary service.
- Traveling from Nauvoo to the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847 is not unlike a young missionary from Idaho traveling to Siberia in late 1993 as one of the first Latter-day Saints to labor in that land. Nearly every day our missionaries arrive in countries where they have little knowledge of the language and where the food, culture, and living conditions are often much different from that which they are accustomed to. And yet they go boldly as modern pioneers, not fearing the journey, walking with faith in every footstep to bring to people everywhere the good news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
The journey is tough that we face today and in many ways similar to the ones that were taken in years past. The destination is the same for all of us, we all want to be faithful in our path and return to live with God again.
- Although our journeys today are less demanding physically than the trek of our pioneers 150 years ago, they are no less challenging. Certainly it was hard to walk across a continent to establish a new home in a dry western desert. But who can say if that was any more difficult than is the task of living faithful, righteous lives in today’s confusingly sinful world, where the trail is constantly shifting and where divine markers of right and wrong are being replaced by political expediency and diminishing morality. The road we travel today is treacherous, and the scriptures tell us it will continue to be so until the very end. But our reward will be the same as that which awaits worthy pioneers of all ages who live faithfully the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, make right choices, and give their all to build the kingdom of God on earth.
Elder Ballard discusses the role that faith plays in our journey. Safety and confidence are rewarded to us as we walk the pathways of life in faith.
- We are the inheritors of a tremendous heritage. Now it is our privilege and responsibility to be part of the Restoration’s continuing drama, and there are great and heroic stories of faith to be written in our day. It will require every bit of our strength, wisdom, and energy to overcome the obstacles that will confront us. But even that will not be enough. We will learn, as did our pioneer ancestors, that it is only in faith—real faith, whole-souled, tested and tried—that we will find safety and confidence as we walk our own perilous pathways through life.
He concludes with words of hope that if we stay true and faithful, we will be rewarded and have nothing to fear in our journey.
- Let us remember that the Savior is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and there can be no greater promise than to know that if we are faithful and true, we will one day be safely encircled in the arms of His love. He is always there to give encouragement, to forgive, and to rescue. Therefore, as we exercise faith and are diligent in keeping the commandments, we have nothing to fear from the journey.
I love the early pioneer stories. They are full of faith, diligence, tragedy, and hope. There are moments of extreme pain and moments of eternal joy. I can't imagine making the decision to have to walk 3000 miles to a place with very little, but I am grateful for people that had that vision of a brighter future ahead. The Savior teaches us that we need to have faith, hope, and charity. When I try to find examples of these traits in my life, the pioneers are great examples of having the characteristics the Savior said were required. The faith and hope they demonstrated is amazing and the love they shared to create a community from the ground up could only be done with the love that they shared for God and each other. I will forever be thankful for people who gave their lives for my religious freedom today.