Young pioneers owned spiritual strength

The Lord leavened each Mormon Pioneer company with children because of their spiritual qualities, said Elder John E. Fowler as he paid tribute to those children during the Days of '47 Sunrise Service in the Tabernacle on Temple Square on July 25.

"These special sons and daughters, full of love for God and faith in His only begotten Son, were each living examples of King Benjamin's apt description of children who were `submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [them]. (Mosiah 3:19.),' " Elder Fowler said.Elder Fowler, a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and president of the Utah Central Area, said that it could be safely estimated that nearly half of the Mormon Pioneers who crossed the plains were youth.

He then explained the process of winnowing - throwing grain into the air and letting the breeze blow away impurities such as chaff and dirt. "Similarly," he said, "there was a winnowing or purifying influence resulting from the winds of testing, trial and adversity which contributed significantly to the sanctification of the early Saints. Faith and commitment were strengthened as the chaff of doubt was blown away."

He pointed out from the book I Walked to Zion by Susan A. Madsen that illness was a severe test for the pioneer children, killing more than accidents, starvation and exposure combined. But, he added, "some of the most poignant stories about pioneer children grew out of the effects of accident and exposure, which so frequently claimed youthful victims. And a premature death, not infrequently experienced by pioneer children, may have come as welcome relief when contrasted with the lifetime of pain and suffering from having limbs crushed by the wheels of a heavily loaded wagon, or being maimed by the dreadful amputations that often followed severe frostbite.

"But, again, in their special role in establishing the Kingdom of God in the tops of the mountains, children cared not for the body, neither the life of the body; but cared for the soul, and for the life of the soul." (See D&C 101:37.)

Elder Fowler chose one account, that of 13-year-old Mary Goble, to illustrate the winds of adversity the young pioneers faced during the trek west.

Citing a general conference talk given in April 1970 by then Elder Gordon B. Hinckley and Sister Madsen's book, he told of the conversion of Mary's family in England. He listed the trials the family went through during their journey of nearly seven months to join the Saints in Salt Lake City, including the death of the three youngest children and their mother.

He related how Mary walked off in a snow storm and got lost while trying to find a nearby spring to get her mother some fresh water to drink. Mary's feet and legs were frozen when members of her camp finally found her late that night. Later in the Salt Lake Valley, Mary had her toes amputated while her brothers and sisters prepared their mother for burial.

Then Elder Fowler said of the Goble family: "Think of the power and miracle of their conversion. . . . In spite of near wrenching adversity, these members of less than 20 months did not leave the Church; there was no loss of faith, no lawsuits, no threats."

He said that during the celebrations of Pioneer Day, no one should forget the sacrifice of the pioneers and the foundation they established for those who now enjoy the Salt Lake Valley.

"Nor should we who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints vacillate nor equivocate in observing the foundation principles established by the pioneers in this land of promise," he continued.

"By properly observing the Sabbath day, living moral lives, abstaining from liquor, tobacco and gambling, properly caring for the poor and needy, living frugally and within our means, meaningfully working to provide for our family's needs, and treating with kindness and generosity all of those around us, by doing all this and more, we will be properly honoring the legacy left by the pioneers, including those youthful pioneers who willingly put their all on the altar and submitted to all the testing and trials the Father had to give."

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