Sacrifices of the stalwart

During this season of the year we pause to reflect on the settlement of the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847 by stalwart pioneers.

These faithful settlers had been driven from their homes in Nauvoo, Ill., beginning in February of 1846, and before reaching the Rocky Mountains in July of 1847 they paid a dear price for their refuge in the Great Basin.It was difficult for them to move away from civilization as they knew it, but those who made the trek looked westward with faith and hope that those who hated them and had killed their Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, would finally leave them alone.

As early as 1842, the Prophet Joseph indicated that the stay of the Saints in Nauvoo would not be permanent. He had a conversation with some of his brethren in Montrose, Iowa, on August 6, 1842, and reported the discussion as follows:

"I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains. Many would apostatize, others would be put to death by our persecutors, or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains." (History of the Church 5:85.)

Such prophetic words certainly came to pass, and through much tribulation, suffering, and privations, a new Zion was built and has flourished, even as Isaiah foretold: "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." (Isa. 2:2.) As we look backward over these last 147 years, the significant trait that endures from those struggling pioneers was their willingness to sacrifice all they had for the future of the Church.

How hard it must have been to leave comfortable homes and businesses for the bed of a covered wagon. How difficult it was to eke out an existence along dusty trails, or try to maintain any semblance of ordinary life in a tent blown down by prairie winds or wintry gales.

But they did it! Their sacrifices were sanctified by the Lord and though many perished along the way, the bulk of the Saints reached their promised valley and established Zion in the tops of the mountains. Today that Zion has grown until it reaches outward to all the world.

If there is a theme for us from those pioneer days it would be the need to continue to sacrifice all we have in behalf of the Kingdom of God.

Our sacrifices are not made behind oxen teams in covered wagons, or in pulling handcarts, or walking prairie trails with worn-out shoes.

Our sacrifices are to keep the world and its pleasures from dominating our lives and restraining us from spiritual growth. We are to pay our tithes and offerings faithfully. We are to serve in the temples regularly. We are to rear our children in light and truth. We are to keep the Sabbath as a holy day in spite of the pressures of the world to make it just another day of the "weekend." We are to teach the gospel to others with a spirit of love and concern for their well-being. We are to put off the "natural man" and become saints, as King Benjamin counseled. (See Mosiah 3:19.) We are to place "self" behind "others," and "thy will" ahead of "my will."

It was the Prophet Joseph Smith who best defined the spirit of sacrifice that we need to espouse when he said: "Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do His will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, or will not seek His face in vain. Under these circumstances, then he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life."

The Prophet continued: "Those, then, who make the sacrifice, will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God; and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure to the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." (See Lectures on Faith, No. 6.) Such a perspective of sacrifice certainly enabled the Mormon pioneers to give their all for the kingdom. May it be so with us, in that we are willing to make the sacrifices required in these times to lay hold on all that God has in store for His faithful children.

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