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Pioneers in our families: Finding strength in one’s ancestors

You never expect to hear a relative’s story during general conference, but that’s what happened to me in April 2002. Here’s what I learned from Susanna Stone Lloyd

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 11th in the series.

You never expect to hear a relative’s story during general conference, but that’s what happened to me in April 2002. In Relief Society General President Mary Ellen W. Smoot’s address “Developing Inner Strength,” she talked about Susanna Stone Lloyd. As an 11-year-old, I had no idea who Susanna was, but my dad told us she was our fourth-great-grandma. This talk opened my eyes to the strength of my grandmother. 

Screenshot of FamilySearch website shows Stevi Ginolfi’s relation to Susanna Stone Lloyd.
Screenshot of FamilySearch website shows Stevi Ginolfi’s relation to Susanna Stone Lloyd. | Screenshot from FamilySearch.org

Susanna is an incredible example of inner strength. She was a member of the Willie Handcart Company, pushing, literally, through life-threatening situations. But not only that, she left England — alone. At age 26, she traveled to Utah as the only member of her family to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What incredible strength it takes to be the only member in your family, but on top of that, travel the world alone at such a young age. 

Photograph of Susanna Stone Lloyd | FamilySearch Database

At a similar age, I did the opposite — traveling from Utah to England by myself to meet a friend living there. I looked at going alone on an international flight and going through customs alone as a herculean task and a great show of strength. Compared to my fourth-great-grandma, who sold her only mirror for a piece of buffalo meat on her journey, my in-flight meals and questions at customs were not that tough.

That talk opened my eyes to the magic of family history and knowing about those who came before you. I am incredibly blessed with strong women in my family. From Susanna, who left everything and dealt with issues in her feet, from them freezing, for the rest of her life, to my mother, who has battled multiple cancer diagnoses. These women have shown me the strength I have inside. 

With the example of my grandmother, I know that I can do hard things, and while I may never be asked to travel the world by boat and handcart, the challenges I face will help me cement my testimony, just like they did her. 

— Stevi Ginolfi is the director of content promotion for the Deseret News and Church News.

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