Elder Earl C. Tingey wonders if the Mormon Pioneers truly envisioned a Salt Lake Valley thriving with trees, flowers, beautiful highways, homes, chapels and temples.
"Perhaps many did envision our day. But I think in most cases they were also so busy attempting to stay alive that they had to focus on the present," said Elder Tingey at the annual Days of '47 Sunrise Service July 24 in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. "We know that in most cases they were simple, humble people, seeking a refuge in which to live and worship."
Still, those hard-working, faithful pioneers possessed characteristics of faith and duty that resulted in the successful establishment of the Church in Salt Lake City.
A member of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Tingey highlighted five such pioneer traits, sharing several incidents from his own ancestors. Those same pioneer-proven traits, he added, can help people today "pioneer into the future."
1. The pioneers had a testimony of the requirement to gather and to establish Zion.
"We know that the pioneers had what is referred to as a 'millennial vision' that this was their place of gathering," he said. "They knew of Joseph Smith's prophecy that the saints would relocate to the Rocky Mountains."
Elder Tingey shared the experiences of his great-great-grandparents, Henry and Ann Tingey, as they left a promised life of prosperity in England to humbly gather in Zion in the United States. Still more of his ancestors heard a clarion call to come together and become one.
Today, under the leadership of President Thomas S. Monson, the Church is establishing Zion throughout the world. Instead of gathering in a single geographical location, members come together in 2,700 stakes worldwide.
"But the same work of pioneering continues as we move the Church forward under the leadership of inspired prophets and apostles who share the message of the Restoration and the witness that Jesus is the Christ and He has established His Church in these latter days," said Elder Tingey.
2. The pioneers were obedient to their prophets.
Elder Tingey spoke of his great-great-great-grandfather Anson Call, who joined the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, and eventually traveled west to Zion at the direction of the pioneer prophet Brigham Young. Despite enduring great hardships and delays in his journey, Brother Call was obedient to President Young and eventually arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.
"This story of obedience to prophet-leaders has always inspired me to be obedient to our leaders today," he said. "They are inspired men of God. They are leading the Church as the Lord directs them."
3. The pioneers were willing to sacrifice and overcome all physical hardships, including the death of loved ones.
During his westward trek, Anson Call buried two young children. He and his wife, Mary, likely felt pain too difficult to comprehend. Yet they moved on in faith.
"The pioneers experienced many physical hardships, and we have relatively few such similar challenges today," Elder Tingey said. Most live in comfortable homes and enjoy bounteous food. There are schools, education and opportunities for growth and development.
Still, there are challenges — including the erosion of the family, secularism, gender confusion, disease, pornography, adverse media influences and uncertain economic and political conditions. People today, he said, must have a pioneer-like faith to overcome such challenges.
"To overcome, we must be strong. We have the same God as did the pioneers, and we have many advantages the pioneers did not have. Likewise, God will sustain us if we persevere and move forward in spite of the challenges of our day."
4 . The pioneers had, as a priority, a mission to rear a righteous posterity.
Everything the pioneers did was fueled by their desire to raise their children in gospel-blessed righteousness. The goal of the pioneers is not unlike the goal noble people have today for their families.
"Today, our prophets have specifically counseled us to strengthen and protect our families and increase their faith in Jesus Christ," said Elder Tingey. "To do this, we are counseled to participate in the time-honored activities of holding family home evening, reading the scriptures in the home, praying as a family, attending sacrament meeting and sitting together, partaking of the sacrament and paying tithes and offerings."
5. The pioneers had faith and vision.
The pioneers were successful because they had faith in a living God and an eternal vision of a millennial Zion. Today, members can look forward and pioneer into the future while also knowing their past and embracing those basic principles established by the pioneers, Elder Tingey said.
"The gospel is the same," he concluded. "(The pioneers) had living prophets. We have living prophets. We have the message of the Restoration established by the Prophet Joseph Smith. We have a divine destiny to establish the Church throughout the world and to rear a righteous posterity. The Lord will help us to accomplish these purposes."
A Sunrise Service choir and brass ensemble performed several pioneer-themed musical selections. The Mormon Battalion performed the posting of the colors and led the Tabernacle audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
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