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Pioneers in our families: We are all pioneers in these latter days

While I was the first in my family to join the Church, collectively we will have many more firsts as we remain faithful to the Lord

Some Latter-day Saints have pioneer ancestors going back almost 200 years. Other Church members are themselves the pioneers in their families. In the weeks surrounding Pioneer Day July 24 — the annual celebration of the first wagon company entering the Salt Lake Valley — Church News staff members share stories of pioneers in their families, some from the 1800s and some from the 1900s. This is the eighth in the series.

Like many members around the world today, my family doesn’t have a traditional Latter-day Saint pioneer story. I’m a convert, joining the Church when I was 16 in Santo André, Brazil. I was born and raised by wonderful parents who loved the Lord and supported my decision.

Since joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve crossed different kinds of plains, rivers, oceans and mountains, pulling some heavy burdens that many modern pioneers face nowadays. While not always easy, the journey has been filled with many special blessings.

Vanessa Fitzgibbon and her four children, from left, Marcelo 5, Danilo 2, Natalia, 12, Felipe, 8. This picture was taken on their first weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. They moved from Provo, Utah, so she could attend the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she received her doctorate in Portuguese.
Vanessa Fitzgibbon and her four children, from left, Marcelo 5, Danilo 2, Natalia, 12, Felipe, 8. This picture was taken on their first weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. They moved from Provo, Utah, so she could attend the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she received her doctorate in Portuguese. | Provided by Vanessa Fitzgibbon

One special blessing occurred on Dec. 27, 2019. I had done all the temple work for many family members but had not been sealed to my parents and grandparents. We decided to do it as a family.

Entering the sealing room that night, I saw all my four children already there, dressed in white, waiting with their beautiful smiles. I felt the Spirit so strong testifying that because of my baptism, my parents and all past generations would be forever linked to my children and the generations to come. My heart was filled with indescribable joy. 

Natalia Noltemeyer, Vanessa Fitzgibbon and Clare Noltemeyer, on April 15, 2023, Clare’s baptism day.
Vanessa Fitzgibbon, right, with daughter Natalia Noltemeyer, left, and granddaughter Clare Noltemeyer smile for a photo on April 15, 2023, Clare’s baptism day. | Fitzgibbon family photo

Another special blessing took place April 15, 2023, when I witnessed the baptism of my oldest granddaughter, Clare. Looking at my daughter with her own beautiful family, I experienced the same overwhelming feeling I had performing my family’s sealings. This time, I was blessed to see my own three living generations who have made sacred covenants with the Lord.

While I was the first in my family to join the Church, the line of firsts didn’t end with me. My daughter was the first to serve a full-time mission. My son was the first to be ordained in the priesthood. Our family will have many more firsts as we remain faithful to the Lord.

We are all pioneers in some way, but the wonderful thing is that we don’t travel alone. We are yoked in love with each other and with our Savior, Jesus Christ, as we experience the most beautiful journey together.

Related Stories
Vanessa Fitzgibbon: To be in the world but not of the world
Episode 49: The unifying language of the gospel, with Church News translation coordinator Vanessa Fitzgibbon
Pioneers in our families: Church News staff shares stories of their families’ pioneers
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