Pioneer blueprint for life

As we reach the culmination of the sesquicentennial celebration of the pioneers' entrance into the Salt Lake Valley, let us reflect on what their legacy means to us today.

Taken as a metaphor, the pioneer journey is symbolically a blueprint for our own lives.First comes the need for preparation. Long before the actual exodus from Nauvoo began in February 1846, the Saints were preparing for the trek West. Blacksmiths, wheelwrights and carpenters were busy constructing wagons. The clank of the hammer on the anvil was heard late into the nights. Thousands of people are not moved vast distances across an ocean and the frontier of a continent without adequate planning and preparation. They built wagons and later handcarts, laid on provisions and once on the trail built cabins and planted crops for those who would follow. They carefully jotted down directions, landmarks and other bearings in order to guide those still to come.

Just as the trek West was a study in preparation and planning, so should be our lives. We must prepare ourselves and our families for what is ahead. We can draw on our own experiences and those of our forebears, but we must make the journey toward our destination ourselves, and as we go, we leave signposts and directions for those who follow.

The pioneers progressed daily. They did not hurry faster than their circumstances allowed. They mostly rested on the Sabbath. They tended to their animals and their wagons and carts. They helped one another. They knew they would reach their destination one day, but they also knew it would come only after hard work. They had to move forward, not looking back, but scouting the horizon for markers to reach their destination.

We today also need to keep pressing forward. We, too, are on the trail toward salvation, and by pressing ahead we will ultimately reach our goal.

Just two decades ago, President Spencer W. Kimball said that "the basic decisions needed for us to move forward, as a people, must be made by the individual members of the Church. We have paused on some plateaus long enough. Let us resume our journey forward and upward." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 176.)

The pioneers persevered. They faced formidable obstacles, but they endured and moved on. They battled heat, cold, hunger and pain, yet somehow they were not deterred. They did not let distractions on the trail or even deaths of loved ones keep them from reaching their destination. They moved on, knowing that God had a greater purpose for them to accomplish.

"The greatest quest is a search for God - to determine His reality, His personal attributes and to secure a knowledge of the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ," Elder Howard W. Hunter said in the 1974 October general conference. "It is not easy to find a perfect understanding of God. The search requires persistent effort, and there are some who never move themselves to pursue this knowledge."

When they reached the Salt Lake Valley, the pioneers rested for a time, then fanned out across the area establishing settlements, towns and forts; planting crops; and learning to be self-sufficient in often hostile environs. The trek's end did not bring rest. It brought satisfaction, reunions and fellowship with the Saints. What lay ahead was the next challenge: taming the land, forging a living, helping to bring others to Zion and then taking the gospel from the tops of the mountains to the peoples of the earth.

Today, we are still sending our missionaries to preach the gospel in many lands of the world. But now, in countries where once footsteps long ago sought refuge "far away in the West" - and in many other countries - are coming the testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ in many languages. Today missionaries are coming from throughout the world as well as to the world.

So as we celebrate the pioneers' legacy this month, let us, of course, give them their due but also let us reflect on our own pioneering efforts: to fulfill our own destinies, to assist those around us, to carry the message of love and peace across the world, to redeem our dead and continue to move the work forward.

The pioneer legacy lives on. Its message is as powerful today as it was in bygone years. The restored gospel, like a wagon train, is moving forward guided by a living prophet and apostles. What message ahead awaits the Church? What new lands, what new peoples, what new converts will be experiencing the fullness of the gospel? It is our pioneering efforts of today that will answer those questions in the future.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed