Ordinary pioneers `of surpassing faith' laid the foundation

On the 151st anniversary of the arrival of the first pioneer company in the Salt Lake Valley, Elder Bruce D. Porter paid tribute to the unknown pioneers - "to the ordinary men and women who crossed the plains, settled the valleys of the mountains, and laid the foundation of the Kingdom of God in our time."

Speaking at the Days of '47 Sunrise Service in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, Elder Porter of the Seventy noted thatsometimes in their desire to praise heroic deeds or remember extreme ordeals, Church members often forget about the common, everyday pioneers.

The story of unknown pioneers is too ordinary to be recounted in General Conference, he said. Their "only heroics were the very heroic deed of rising each day to do their duty as God gave them to see that duty."

Elder Porter was accompanied to the 7 a.m. service - sponsored by the Pioneer Chapter, Sons of Utah Pioneers - by his wife, Susan. Music was provided by the Choral Arts Society of Utah, directed by Sterling S. Poulson, and the Kaysville-Fruit Heights Community Choir, directed by Steven R. Hendricks.

During his address, Elder Porter noted that over time much attention has been paid, and deservedly so, to the extreme suffering and hardship of the Willie and Martin handcart companies of 1856.

"Yet, we must not forget that there were thousands more pioneer martyrs who died in the crossing of the ocean and the plains, martyrs whose death may have been less dramatic, but was surely not less final," he said.

Elder Porter said that out of the 62,000 pioneers that crossed the plains, somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 died enroute.

"Most of their stories, as well as the stories of the families who survived them and completed their crossing, are unknown and will remain unknown to the Church at large, but they are remembered and loved by faithful descendants who today rise up and call them blessed," Elder Porter said.

He explained that once the pioneers arrived in Utah their pioneering had only begun. "Brother Brigham sent them packing again, off to establish new outposts of Zion, many in remote wilderness valleys far less welcoming than the Great Basin itself. Or he called their husbands and fathers to travel back across the plains and over the oceans on long missions for many years away from home. . . . Amazingly, wonderfully, they responded with acts of surpassing faith and courage."

Elder Porter recalled that in 1897, Utah celebrated the jubilee anniversary of the pioneers' arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1947, on the centennial of their arrival, hundreds of thousands celebrated this legacy. And in 1997, at last year's sesquicentennial, millions paid them tribute in more than 150 countries around the world.

"Now is it not fair to assume that 49 years from today, in the year 2047, tens of millions will herald their bicentennial?

"And then, eventually, hundreds of millions and eventually billions, will pay them just tribute, as the whole world comes to acknowledge that the humble pioneers of the 19th century exodus laid the foundation of the faith for the renewal of our earth, for the coming of our Lord, and for the victory of the kingdom of God in all its millennial splendor."

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