Pioneers’ Example Can Help Us Face Our Tests Today, Apostle Says

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 3 August 2015

Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks at the third annual Sons of Utah Pioneers Day devotional at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on July 27, 2015.  Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

“As we help our children, our grandchildren, to learn of their roots and the great tests that their forefathers faced and overcame, they can face their own challenges with more courage, more honesty, more integrity, with greater faith and confidence.” —Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve

In considering the example of faith and courage set by pioneer ancestors, Latter-day Saints today should remember that “our days are no less difficult and no less rewarding,” Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said July 27 at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City.

Elder Andersen was the featured speaker at an evening devotional for the third annual Sons of Utah Pioneers Day at the park, which marks the spot at the mouth of Emigration Canyon where President Brigham Young led the vanguard group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Sister Kathy Andersen, Elder Andersen's wife, also spoke.

Elder Neil L. Andersen introduces his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, at the devotional of the third annual Sons of Utah Pioneers Day at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on July 27, 2015. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

The Sons of Utah Pioneers is a heritage organization that honors those who settled Utah from that day until the coming of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869. Members and their families come to the annual event to enjoy the living-history pioneer village and other attractions at the park.

In her remarks at the devotional, Sister Andersen said, “As a young mother, I read the account of a pioneer woman that has been a most significant pioneer story of faith to me for decades,” she said.

It was the account of Mary Ann Goble Pay, who at age 13 came to the Salt Lake Valley with the Martin handcart company in 1856. Two of her siblings died, and her mother perished just before their arrival.

According to her written account, “Early next morning Bro. Brigham Young came. … When he saw our condition, our feet frozen and our mother dead, tears rolled down his cheeks.

“The doctor amputated my toes as the sisters were dressing mother for her grave. Oh how did we stand it?”

Sister Andersen said the words from that account she will never forget are the words that Mary Ann Goble often recalled her mother saying before they left England: “I want to take my children to Zion while they are young so they can be raised in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for I know this is the true Church” (in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 438–39).

“That statement has had a profound impact on my life,” Sister Andersen said, adding that the testimonies of the pioneers “are a rock and a foundation upon which we can all build and lean when we feel the discouragements of life or when we feel that our faith is faltering.”

In his remarks, Elder Andersen said, “As evil increases in the world, there is an added gift of spiritual power for the righteous. As we help our children, our grandchildren, to learn of their roots and the great tests that their forefathers faced and overcame, they can face their own challenges with more courage, more honesty, more integrity, with greater faith and confidence.”

Quoting a statement from President Thomas S. Monson that “we discover something about ourselves when we learn about our ancestors,” Elder Andersen spoke of his grandmother in Preston, Idaho, who, in the mid 1970s, hand-copied hundreds of genealogy sheets for him because she did not like the quality of the photocopies produced by the copy machine at the local post office.

“I thought, what a remarkable thing that someone would do that for me,” he said. “She was someone who was born in the 1800s, and from her parents she learned these qualities that we cherish and must encourage among those who follow us.”

Latter-day Saints believe that generations are linked through temple ordinances, he observed, “but even those who do not believe in our doctrine feel the influence and the power of the generations that have come before them.”

He spoke of the occasion when Church leaders visited U.S. President Barack Obama and provided him with a copy of his ancestral lines. He said that a few weeks later, the first lady, Michelle Obama, called and asked, “Could I possibly receive information on my ancestors as well?”

“She was given her own lineage,” Elder Andersen said. “We are linked to those who came before us, and someday we’ll understand with more clarity why that is, why it is inherent in us.”

Thomas Alexander, left, national president of Sons of Utah Pioneers, converses with Elder Neil L. Andersen after the conclusion of the devotional at the third annual Sons of Utah Pioneers Day at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on July 27, 2015. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Elder Andersen spoke of his own ancestors, including his great-great-grandparents who were on the Mormon emigrant ship Amazon that embarked from London, England, in 1863. Famed author Charles Dickens visited the ship before it embarked and later published his observations in the book The Uncommercial Traveler. In that book he described the orderliness and decency of the 800 or so Mormons onboard the ship, saying they seemed to represent “the pick and flower of England.”

Elder Andersen told of the faith of Mormon pioneer families in which the father would answer a mission call, leaving the wife at home to watch over the farm and take care of the children as best she could.

“Partly for that reason, we send our young men and women on missions,” he said. “We don’t want this faith to be only the faith of our pioneer fathers; we want it to be our faith and the faith of our children and grandchildren.”

This Is the Place Heritage Singers perform during the devotional at the third annual Sons of Utah Pioneers Day at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on July 27, 2015. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

The congregation is seated for the devotional of the third annual Sons of Utah Pioneers Day at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City on July 27, 2015. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.