Last summer, I had the privilege of attending the temple with a few members of my family. Among them were my grandparents, who had been working diligently on their genealogy for a number of years previous.
They brought with them a handful of names, some of the people being from Mexico, some from Europe, some from just a few miles away, but all needing to be sealed to their spouses and families. As we entered the sealing room, my grandfather shared with the sealer that he was the first to be baptized in his family—a long line of devout Catholics—and that his parents nearly disowned him for it. The sealer responded to this with a smile: “So, you are the pioneer.”
We proceeded with the ordinance, but after getting through about half of the names, the sealer stopped. I watched him wipe a tear from his cheek, this man who we had only just met, and waited to hear what he might have to say. I will never forget the sincerity in his gentle voice as he made note of the Spirit in that room. It was palpable. I felt it. We all did. He told us how wonderful it was that we were all there together. He spoke directly to my grandfather when he said “How extraordinary, to see the fruits of your labors. Your family is here tonight, not just in body, but in spirit too.” And he was right.
Because of my grandfather’s unbreakable faith as a young man, not only was his posterity blessed, but the loved ones who came before him were blessed as well. He was the link that would connect and affect many generations. He was our pioneer.
That experience at the temple often weighs on my mind, but especially now with Pioneer Day upon us. For those who may be unfamiliar with Pioneer Day, it is a holiday, primarily observed in Utah, to celebrate the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th, 1847. It is a day to remember every valiant soul, regardless of their religion or nationality, who made that unimaginable trek across the country.
We commemorate this day just as we do other holidays, with barbeques, parties, fireworks, and parades. However, I can’t help but wonder if these festivities are sufficient in honoring the sacrifices made by the Mormon pioneers, and people like my grandfather. I believe that we can do more.
Many will remember the primary song “To Be A Pioneer,” which jauntily declares that you don’t have to “walk a thousand miles or more to be a pioneer.” As simple and obvious as this sentiment may seem, it contains absolute truth. The principles exemplified by those early saints can be applied to our lives today, and we can indeed be pioneers ourselves.
We can be the first to exercise faith, the first to apologize, the first to be kind. We can forge the way of forgiveness, stimulate service, kindle friendship, and stand up when others shy away. We can be the spark that lights the fire or the arms that fan the flame. We can take a hit so that others don’t have to. We can go against the grain, trudging new paths, and discovering new destinations.
I extend this invitation to all who will accept it—to be a pioneer in any way that you can. Be courageous and committed, devoted and diligent, righteous and resilient, charitable and good. More than anything else, strive to bring others unto Christ and never give up faith in Him. Because quite frankly, our country may be settled, but that does not diminish the need for trailblazers in our society, and in God’s kingdom.
The blessings that stem from your actions will be enjoyed by far more people than just yourself, of that I am sure. We have no way of knowing just how many lives are impacted by the steps we take now. So, despite the difficulty of the path, may we all start walking in the right direction.