Music & the Spoken Word: The pioneering spirit

‘Pioneers of all types are driven by the desire, deep in the human soul, to make a difference, to make the world better — even if only for future generations,’ Lloyd Newell observes

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given Saturday, July 23, 2023.

On July 24, 1849, John Benson was headed west, drawn by the prospect of gold in California. The American West was sparsely populated in those days. But on his way, John was surprised when he crossed paths with several thousand others who in the last two years had settled in the desert wilderness of the Salt Lake Valley. They insisted that he join them for dinner. Afterward, as John continued his journey, these pioneers stayed in his mind. “Where did they come from?” he later wrote in his journal. “How did they get here?” (See John H. Benson’s journal, July 24, 1849, Nebraska Historical Society,

The answer to John’s first question is simple. They came from many places, mostly Europe, Canada and New England. How did they get here? Well, that’s a much bigger question, and wagons, handcarts and ox teams are only part of the answer.

What inspires people to leave the familiar in favor of the unknown? We might call it the “pioneering spirit.” It’s the spirit that whispers, “There’s something better out there — a better world. You can’t see it yet; no one has. But it’s there. And it will remain undiscovered until someone’s brave enough to go get it. Might as well be you!”

For the pioneers John Benson met, that better world was a place where they could worship and serve God in peace. But that’s just one example. There are many other kinds of pioneers worldwide who draw from that same well of determination. Their journeys take them into the unknowns of science, art, medicine, technology, communication, human rights, and more.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike smiles after she is told that her Freedom Party has won a landslide victory in the general elections in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, on July 21, 1960. Later she was sworn is as the world’s first woman Prime Minister. | Associated Press

Take for example Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who in 1960 became the first female prime minister in history. To her “a better world” meant helping her homeland of Sri Lanka establish a national identity and stability after centuries of colonial rule (see “The World’s First Female Prime Minister,” Or consider the pioneering spirit of Dr. Fe del Mundo, who founded the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines. Her “better world” involved groundbreaking research in infant care and 70 years of bringing health and healing to children (see “Biography of Fe del Mundo, Noted Filipino Pediatrician,” by Mary Bellis, ThoughtCo, May 15, 2019,

How did they get here? Pioneers of all types are driven by the desire, deep in the human soul, to make a difference, to make the world better — even if only for future generations. Despite hardships, they persist and push forward to an unseen future, visible only with the eye of faith. That is the pioneering spirit.

Tuning in …

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL News Radio 1160AM/102.7FM,, BYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirecTV, SiriusXM (Ch. 143),, and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time on these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at

Related Stories
See photos of the Tabernacle Choir’s 2023 Summer Concert and tribute to Latin American pioneers
‘Music & the Spoken Word’ to be broadcast in Spanish beginning July 30
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