Pioneers—Anchored by Hope  Part Two



In the first part of this article published in last month’s issue of the Liahona, I shared some wonderful, simple stories about pioneers in the early days of the Church, and some who still live among us.  After sharing those stories, I wrote that I have three suggestions of how can those pioneers’ faith and hope can help anchor us in today’s tumultuous world. My first suggestion was to remember their stories and pass them along to others, especially the rising generation.

My second and third suggestions follow:

2.     Remember their unity.

Second, we must remember that the pioneers in general were unified.  Historians have observed that the western migration of the Latter-days Saints was different from any of the other migrations of the American West. Quoting Wallace Stegner:

…the Mormon migration…differed profoundly from [others]...These were not groups of young and reckless adventurers, nor were they isolated families or groups of families. They were literally villages on the march, villages of sobriety, solidarity, and discipline unheard of anywhere else on the western trails…Few [other] emigrants gave a thought to people coming after them…Not so the Mormons. The first thought of the pioneer company was to note good campgrounds, wood, water, grass, to measure distances and set up mileposts. They and succeeding companies bent their backs to build bridges and dig down the steep approaches of fords. They made rafts and ferry boats and left them [, all] for the use of later companies…[i]

The reason for this difference was that the members of the Church came to build up Zion, and in practical terms, Zion is “every man esteem[ing] his brother as himself, and practic[ing] virtue and holiness before [the Lord].”[ii] Yes, Zion—a society with people of one heart and one mind, dwelling in righteousness, with no poor among them[iii]—was and is to be the result of “every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.”[iv]

This sense of community and mutually shared responsibility produced a unified effort to follow God’s prophet. That is a major reason they succeeded as they did, and is an important part of the legacy they pass to us. They whisper that we too will prosper through the Lord’s power only to the degree we act as one with a sense of community and mutual responsibility in following the Lord’s prophet.

3.     Pass On the Same Spirit.

Third, we are responsible to “instill in our children and grandchildren the same spirit that drove the footsteps of the pioneers.”[v] A simple lesson of how this is done can be seen in the Muñoz family of Otavalo, Ecuador, in South America. In March of 2013, I met with Brother Juan José Muñoz Otavalo, his wife Laura, and their son Juan Amado to learn about their lives in the Church. Brother Muñoz was one of the earliest converts to the Church in Otavalo.

When he was a boy between 10 and 13 years old, Brother Muñoz was given a copy of the Book of Mormon written in Spanish.  He did not speak Spanish, but felt a profound power and spirit when he held the book in his hand. He hid it in his home, for he knew that his brothers would destroy it. From time to time, he would take the book from its hiding place, just to hold and feel its power.  

Enduring significant adversity and opposition from both family and his community, he joined the Church and became one of the first missionaries called from the village of Otavalo.  He returned from his mission and married a returned-sister missionary, and together they raised a faithful, gospel-centered family. He helped to translate the Book of Mormon into his native tongue, Quichua, and helped translate the temple ordinances into Quichua.

After listening to Brother Muñoz’s story, I turned to his son, who was weeping. Once he collected himself, he said:

I have always appreciated the early pioneers who crossed the plains with their handcarts in North America. Their faith and devotion and dedication have inspired me and touched me deeply throughout my life. But until today, I did not realize that there are also pioneers here in Otavalo, and they are my parents! This fills me with joy.”[vi]

Here in Africa, Brother Kenneth K. Andam grew up Christian, but was unable to find answers to his questions, especially about the nature of God.  He met and married his wife, and although he started attending church with her, he did not continue because they did not teach truly about the nature of God.  When his wife asked him why he stopped attending, he told her: “The day I find the true church, I shall never turn back.”  By 1983, his search for truth had intensified, and one of his co-workers gave him a copy of a book titled: “Articles of Faith,” by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As he read the book, he recognized it was Christian and clarified most of his questions.

He borrowed other books from his co-workers, and read them all, and was convinced this was God’s true church.  When he informed his wife, she told him that she had been baptized into the Church in 1978 when she was a girl, but had fallen away.  After taking the lessons from the missionaries, he was baptized, and his wife was re-baptized a year and a half later.  They have taught the gospel to their four children, and all of them have continued to be faithful to the Lord and His Church.

Brother and Sister Muñoz, and Brother and Sister Andam teach us that we pass along a pioneer legacy of faith by being a pioneer, that is, by opening, showing, living the gospel way for others to follow, including our children and family. When we consistently exercise our faith in the Lord and anchor our souls with hope in Him, we become, as Moroni said, “sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being lead to glorify God.”[vii] Then, like Reddick Allred (and Brother Acquah in jail), we will minster to those who are lost on the trail of life, and they—including those in future generations—will learn from us the power and peace of such a life.

Each of us can be such a pioneer. Elder M. Russell Ballard observed:

Packing a few belongings into wagons or handcarts and walking 1,300 miles 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.[viii] …Our struggle is found in living in a world steeped in sin and spiritual indifference, where self-indulgence, dishonesty, and greed seem to be present everywhere. Today’s wilderness is one of confusion and conflicting messages…We must …not become casual in keeping God’s commandments…Avoiding the temptations and evils of the world requires the faith and fortitude of a real modern-day pioneer.[ix]

             President Thomas S. Monson, recently asked:

Can we somehow muster the courage and steadfastness of purpose that characterized the pioneers of a former generation? Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers? I know we can be. Oh, how the world needs pioneers today![x]

May each of us resolve to be a pioneer, to go before and open up the way for others who are buffeted by a world steeped in sin, confusion, and doubt. May we remember the pioneers and their stories, remember that they came to build Zion in a united effort, and then accept the responsibility to instill such faith in all we meet—especially in the rising generation—and to do so through offering our own “living sacrifice”[xi] of a life moved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and anchored by the hope of good things to come through Him.  Remember, parent have the solemn obligation to teach their children to understand faith in the Lord, even before they are eight years old![xii]

To be a pioneer means that we “be not weary in well doing.”[xiii] Welthea Hatch doubtless felt no special significance in starting a cooking fire while her husband John prepared and loaded their buggy.  Nor did Ira Hatch think it heroic to wake up, stiff from a fitful sleep on the hard ground, and prepare for the day’s journey.  Nor did Isaac Nash think it all that momentous to throw a chaw of tobacco to the ground. And for Reddick Allred, it was a simple matter of doing what the Lord had said he should do.  Brother Acquah probably did not think is heroic to visit his friend in jail, and Brother and Sister Andam may not have thought that their day to day teaching of the gospel to their children to be all that monumental.  Brother Muñoz may not have sensed that holding the Book of Mormon would bring eternal blessings.

Yet, from all of these small and simple things has come something great! So, let us remember that there are no small things in great endeavors. 

I have visited the humble room where Joseph William Billy Johnson first held meetings connected to the Church in Ghana—and marveled that from that small beginning not so long ago we now have a temple.  Our story as the Lord’s covenant people in West Africa has only begun! If we as a people live the gospel, follow the Prophet, choose faith over doubt, and do the little things that grow faith and produce soul-anchoring hope, each of us will be a pioneer, preparing the way for our families and others around the world to follow.

I love the Lord and I love His people. I have felt His love for the wonderful latter-day Saints of West Africa, and I love to be with you.  That each of us may be a pioneer for the thousands, even millions, who will follow is my prayer and great desire.

[1] Wallace Stegner, The Gathering of Zion—The Story of the Mormon Trail (1964; University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 11.

[1] Doctrine and Covenants 38:24.

[1] Moses 7:18.

[1] Doctrine and Covenants 82:19.

[1] M. Russell Ballard, Ensign July 2013, p. 29.

[1] Personal Journal, Marcus B. Nash.

[1] Ether 12:4.

[1] Isaiah 35:1.

[1] M. Russell Ballard, Ensign July 2013, 28-29.

[1] Thomas S. Monson, Ensign July 2013, 5.

[1] Romans 12:1.

[1] Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-26

[1] D&C 64:33.

[i] Wallace Stegner, The Gathering of Zion—The Story of the Mormon Trail (1964; University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 11.

[ii] Doctrine and Covenants 38:24.

[iii] Moses 7:18.

[iv] Doctrine and Covenants 82:19.

[v] M. Russell Ballard, Ensign July 2013, p. 29.

[vi] Personal Journal, Marcus B. Nash.

[vii] Ether 12:4.

[viii] Isaiah 35:1.

[ix] M. Russell Ballard, Ensign July 2013, 28-29.

[x] Thomas S. Monson, Ensign July 2013, 5.

[xi] Romans 12:1.

[xii] Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-26

[xiii] D&C 64:33.

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