Pioneer Day began early on July 24 for hundreds of people who marked the holiday attending the annual Days of 47 Sunrise Service at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy offered the message at the popular event and challenged Latter-day Saints to learn, emulate and celebrate the principles that guided the Mormon Pioneers.
Elder Renlund’s grandparents, Oskar and Albertina Andersson, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their native Sweden in 1915. They moved to the Salt Lake Valley some three decades later. The Anderssons sacrificed much to leave their homeland, but never complained.
On one occasion, Albertina told her daughter, “Oh, Ragnhild, we have it so much better than the pioneers.” Oskar and Albertina gratefully claimed the Mormon Pioneer legacy as their own.
“The experience of the pioneers a century earlier motivated and blessed them,” he said.
To pioneer is to lead the way, or to guide.
“The early pioneers did just that; they showed the way. Their effort and sacrifice blessed them. Whether this heritage blesses us depends on the decisions we make. To be blessed by this pioneer heritage, we need to act on it, build on it and use it.”
Start by understanding what motivated the pioneers and the principles that guided them in their Westward trek. Then emulate their tenacious faith.
The Mormon Pioneers found strength in the hope and promise that a temple would be built in the Salt Lake Valley. Just days after arriving, Brigham Young identified the spot where the Salt Lake Temple would be built. Almost a century later, Elder Renlund’s own grandparents moved to Utah to enjoy the blessings of the temple.
“If the blessings of the temple – for us, our posterity, and our forebears – does not fire our souls as it did the pioneers, we are missing a great and seminal aspect of the pioneer motivation and work,” he said.
The pioneers, he added, were defined by key guiding principles that are worthy of emulation today:
- The Mormon Pioneers made covenants and promises – and kept them.
- They organized with more than just their immediate needs in mind. For example, they prepared houses and fields for raising grain for those who would come later.
- They sought to be and were self-reliant.
- They followed Christ’s example and admonition in caring for the poor and the needy.
- Once in the Salt Lake Valley, the pioneers fulfilled the prophecy that the desert would “blossom as the rose.” They took what they needed, they improved the land, and they planned so that the land would support others who would come.
“As the pioneers, we need to do what is right, even when it is hard; we need to manifest untiring zeal for the work of God, even if we have to endure privations; we need to overcome by faith, even insurmountable difficulties; each of us needs to decide whether we will be an active participant in the work that will destroy the powers of darkness, renovate the earth, and save the human family.”
Elder Renlund declared that the opportunity to be “pioneers” did not end in 1847.
“We can all look to the early pioneers for examples of courage and determination,” he said. “We can all look to them for examples that will improve our communities and strengthen our families. We can then set an example ourselves and establish patterns for future generations.”
Elder Renlund’s wife, Sister Ruth Lybbert Renlund, also spoke at the Sunrise Service and paid tribute to the memory and pioneer spirit of her great-great-grandmother, Nettie Olsen.
Nettie was born in Norway in 1845 and joined the church 10 years later. After enduring a decade of persecution, Nettie immigrated to the United States with plans to settle among fellow members in Utah. After reaching Florence, Nebraska, she walked 1,000 miles to Salt Lake City. She was shoeless for the final 700 miles. Still, she persisted and her faith never wavered.
“[Nettie] wanted to practice her faith among others who respected her and her religion,” she said. “She wanted to establish a home for her family members so when they arrived in this foreign land, they would not be strangers. And she wanted to create a future for herself and her children. A future where hard work was rewarded and her children could have advantages that she did not. She risked all she had ever known for this dream.”
The Sunrise Service also included several performances from the Combined Salt Lake Valley Institute Choir that featured students from Salt Lake University Institute, Jordan Institute, Taylorsville Institute and LDS Business College.
The annual gathering was sponsored by the Salt Lake Pioneer Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers and the Days of '47 Committee.
[email protected] @JNSwensen