Whether Church members have pioneer ancestry or came into the Church only yesterday, they are part of the grand picture of which the pioneers dreamed, President Gordon B. Hinckley said Feb. 2.
Speaking at a Church Educational System satellite fireside, President Hinckley told college-age young adults that they should follow the path marked by the pioneers – their legacy of faith, loyalty, industry and integrity."You are familiar with their story," said President Hinckley. "Theirs was a tremendous undertaking. Ours is a great continuing responsibility. They laid the foundation. Ours is the duty to build on it. They marked the path and led the way. Ours is the obligation to enlarge and broaden and strengthen that path until it encompasses the whole earth."
More than 23,000 members gathered in the BYU Marriott Center, some waiting in line much of the day for the 7 p.m. meeting. Those who could not find seats in the capacity-filled arena watched the fireside from stake centers and institute buildings near BYU. The program was also telecast across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean via the Church's satellite system.
President Hinckley said that it is proper, during this 150th anniversary year of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, "to pay reverent respect to those who laid the foundation of this great work.
"Their epic journey must stand forever as an incomparable undertaking," he affirmed. "The movement of tens of thousands to these valleys of the West was fraught with every imaginable hazard, including death, whose grim reality was familiar to every wagon train and every handcart company."
He said he stands in reverent respect for Brigham Young – who saw the Salt Lake Valley in vision long before he saw it with his natural eyes. "Otherwise," President Hinckley said, "I doubt he ever would have stopped here," saying there were greener lands with deeper and richer soil and a climate more equable and pleasant elsewhere.
The prophet called the heritage of Church members "a marvelous thing."
"What a grand thing to know that there are those who have gone before us and laid out the way we should walk, teaching those great eternal principles which must be the guiding stars of our lives and of those who come after us," he said. "We today can follow their example. The pioneers were people of great faith, of tremendous loyalty, of unthinkable industry and of absolutely solid and unbending integrity."
President Hinckley said the pioneers walked through the "refiner's fire" for the privilege of coming to the Salt Lake Valley.
"Unshakeable faith" was the guiding principle in those difficult days, he explained, adding that faith is the great guiding principle that members must follow today.
"From [the Salt Lake Valley] we have now spread across the nation, and across much of the earth. We can change our place of residence, but we must never change the principles which guide us. There must be faith as a predominant factor in our lives as it was in the lives of those who have gone before us."
President Hinckley said the pioneers were loyal to each other, the Church and even the nation that, in a sense, had betrayed them. "In those terrible, terrible circumstances they were loyal one to another. When they were sick they nursed one another. When they died, the whole company worked together to bury them against the marauding wolves. . . . Notwithstanding death, notwithstanding frostbite, notwithstanding meager rations, they pressed forward to reach Zion. Loyalty to one another and loyalty to the Church marked their actions."
President Hinckley told the audience that they too must be loyal. "We cannot be found on the sidelines carping and criticizing and finding fault with one another. We must help one another with each other's burdens. We must share the sorrows of one another. We must rejoice with one another in their victories. We must be loyal to the Church against all its enemies."
Continuing, President Hinckley called the pioneers men and women of tremendous industry. Getting to the Salt Lake Valley was "work, work, unrelenting work," he said. "And then when they arrived here the real labor began. They grubbed the sagebrush, they plowed the sun-baked soil, they led the waters from the mountain streams onto the soil, they planted their crops, they fought the destructive insects which attacked those crops, and with great labor they gathered in the harvest."
Members today must work too, President Hinckley said. "Nothing happens in this world until there is work. You never plow a field by turning it over in your mind."
Citing pioneer frugality and thrift, President Hinckley deplored the situation in America, in which every person owed $17,805.64 as of the end of 1994, as his or her part of the national debt.
"What a dismal station we have reached in this nation where we have borrowed and spent and failed to repay," he said. ". . . It is a disgrace. It affects all of our monetary policies and all of our commerce. It burdens us with taxes from which there is little or no relief."
Finally, President Hinckley said the pioneers were men and women of integrity – their word was their bond, they performed as they promised, and they were honest, true, benevolent and virtuous. "There were few if any lawyers in those days," he said. ". . . Now we live in what is called the world's most litigious society. . . . It seems almost that the filing of lawsuits has become a national pastime. What a disgrace that we cannot get along with one another, as they [the pioneers] got along with one another."
President Hinckley said there is no substitute for personal integrity, including honor, performance, keeping one's word, and doing what is right regardless of the circumstances.
Concluding, President Hinckley questioned, "Am I an impractical idealist concerning the pioneers? No. There were exceptions here and there, but by and large they were a noble and wonderful people who walked in faith, who lived with loyalty, who were industrious and who worked with integrity."
President Hinckley said that shining above all of their principles and ideals was their solemn and wonderful belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and their Redeemer.
"They knew Him," he said. "He walked with them on that long march. . . . He was their friend, they offered their prayers in His name. They sang to His glory. With humble appreciation they spoke of His great atoning sacrifice. They put their faith in Him."
President Hinckley encouraged members, during this sesquicentennial year, to read about the pioneers' epic story.
"With so great an inheritance, we must go forward," he said. "We must never let down. We must hold our heads high. . . . May you go forward with your lives with great faith, with unyielding loyalty, with industry and with noble integrity."