By Sheena Perron
I am often humbled when reading about the pioneers and the sacrifices and hardships that they endured. As a teen I was grateful that I was not born during that time because I wasn’t sure I would have been able to go through all that they did. Would I have had the faith and courage to leave my family and my home? Would I have had the faith and courage to sail across the ocean? Would I have had the faith and courage to withstand the mocking and persecution that the pioneers faced? Would I have had the faith and courage to cross the plains during the cold winter months?
“It is not enough to study or reenact the accomplishments of our pioneers. We need to identify the great, eternal principles they applied to achieve all they achieved for our benefit and then apply those principles to the challenges of our day. In that way we honor their pioneering efforts, and we also reaffirm our heritage and strengthen its capacity to bless our own posterity and those millions of our Heavenly Father’s children who have yet to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all pioneers in doing so” (Dallin H. Oaks, Following the Pioneers, Oct. 1997).
The trials and tribulations that the pioneers endured seem almost insurmountable. Even though we have not been forced from our homes by angry mobs or asked to pack up our belongings on a handcart and cross the plains, we have our own trials and tribulations we must face. As we study and read about the pioneers we can learn from their example and discover what we must do to be pioneers today.
Pioneers Have Faith
Dallin H. Oaks: “The foremost quality of our pioneers was faith. With faith in God, they did what every pioneer does—they stepped forward into the unknown: a new religion, a new land, a new way of doing things. With faith in their leaders and in one another, they stood fast against formidable opposition. When their leader said, “This is the right place,” they trusted, and they stayed. When other leaders said, “Do it this way,” they followed in faith” (Following the Pioneers, Oct. 1997).
Marcus B. Nash: “Such unwavering faith in times of trial creates steadfast men and women and gives sure, steady direction when potentially disorienting storms rage. One of the fruits of such faith is that those who possess it will be in a position to nurture, rescue, and bless others. Imagine the warmth Reddick Allred felt as he saw the handcart company come into his station. Imagine the joy the company felt when they saw him!” (Pioneers: An Anchor for Today, July 2015).
Lawrence E. Corbridge: “Our natural instinct understandably is to shrink from hardship, but it is a grave mistake for that to be life’s primary objective. That kind of thinking wrongly equates the pursuit of joy with the hollowness of ease. While that has some appeal, it is a deeply flawed strategy because suffering and joy are not incompatible but rather essential companions. You can suffer and never know joy, but you can’t have joy without suffering” (See 2 Nephi 2:23; Lawrence E. Corbridge, Surviving and Thriving Like Pioneers, July 2020).
Pioneers Trust in the Lord
Lawrence E. Corbridge: “Survivors and thrivers see things for what they are—good and bad—and they deal with them. Bad things happen, but as did the early Saints, we must accept life’s realities, even the harsh ones, and trust that with the Lord’s help we may endure well and that all things, both good and bad, will ultimately work together for our good” (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:3; Surviving and Thriving Like Pioneers, July 2020)
Pioneers Are Loyal
Gordon B. Hinckley: “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.
Absolutely unspeakable was the suffering of the James G. Willie Company, the Edward Martin Company, and the Hunt and Hodgett wagon trains in that terrible ordeal in the snow in 1856. But 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.
God be thanked for their great and noble example to each of us. My brethren and sisters, we 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 our victories. We must be loyal to the Church against all its enemies” (These Noble Pioneers, Feb. 1997).
We Can Be Pioneers
Gordon B. Hinckley: “It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look upon the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect upon the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. Their tremendous example can become a compelling motivation for us all, for each of us is a pioneer in his [or her] own life” (The Faith of the Pioneers, July 1984).
Gordon B. Hinckley: “You are familiar with their story. You are the fruit of all of their planning and of all of their labors. Whether you have pioneer ancestry or came into the Church only yesterday, you are a part of this whole grand picture of which those men and women dreamed.
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.
What a marvelous thing it is to have a great heritage, my brothers and sisters. What a grand thing to know that there are those who have gone before and laid out the way we should walk, teaching those great eternal principles that must be the guiding stars of our lives and of those who come after us. 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” (These Noble Pioneers, Feb. 1997).
Eztra Taft Benson: “You are not just ordinary young men and young women. You are choice spirits, many of you having been held back in reserve for almost 6,000 years to come forth in this day, at this time, when the temptations, responsibilities, and opportunities are the very greatest” (A Message to the Rising Generation; Oct. 1977).
- Russell Ballard: “Packing a few belongings into wagons or handcarts and walking 1,300 miles (2,090 km) isn’t the way most of us will be asked to demonstrate our faith and courage. We face different challenges today—different mountains to climb, different rivers to ford, different valleys to make “blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1). But even though the wilderness we have been given to conquer is decidedly different from the rough and rocky trail to Utah and the barren landscape that our pioneer forebears encountered, it is no less challenging and trying for us than it was for them.
Avoiding the temptations and evils of the world requires the faith and fortitude of a real modern-day pioneer. We need to walk together as today’s pioneers, living Christlike lives, supporting good causes in our communities, and strengthening our families and homes” (Pioneer Faith and Fortitude-Then and Now; July 2013).
What eternal principles can I learn from the pioneers? What can I do to be a modern day pioneer?
Sheena Perron is the founder of Little LDS Ideas and Seek Christ Daily. Her mission is to help others become seekers of Christ through uplifting online content and events. She has been featured in the Ensign, Deseret News, and KSL Radio. Follow Sheena Perron on Instagram and Facebook