Viewpoint: We Are All Pioneers
Contributed By the Church News
- As members, we should look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future.
- The pioneers worked so hard and gained so little in this life, but we are the beneficiaries of the harvest they began.
- We can continue to honor those who paved the way before us by living righteously.
“The days of the pioneers are not past. In every nation, in every worthy occupation and activity, members of this Church face hardships, overcome obstacles, and follow the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ as valiantly as the pioneers of any age.” —Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
On November 25, 1992, a small group of pioneer members left Manaus, Brazil, in the Amazon River Basin and traveled the 2,389 miles to the São Paulo Brazil Temple—which is farther than the distance between Salt Lake City and New York City. They arrived at the temple on December 10, 1992, after a long and difficult journey by boat and bus.
“It was very expensive for these pioneers to travel,” recalled Elder Claudio R. M. Costa, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Brazil Area. “They sold many things they had. Many sold pieces of land. Many sold their cars or motorcycles or furniture. Everything they had that was possible to sell, they sold to pay for the trip.”
Some in the small caravan—the first to depart from Manaus—became sick on the journey; the muscles of others cramped after sitting for long hours in the same crowded position.
Still “they arrived absolutely happy, with hope in their hearts, with faith they did what was acceptable to God,” said Elder Costa during a 2012 Church News interview. “They gave all that they had to receive the blessings to be an eternal family.”
The Manaus Brazil Temple, dedicated on June 10, 2012, by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, stands today as a symbol of the faith of these modern-day pioneers who gave so much for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And they are not alone.
It has been almost 170 years since thousands of pioneers crossed the oceans and traveled the plains to gather with the early Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. With great faith, they built thriving cities in the desert.
Their legacy is carried on today in cities across the globe, where modern-day Church members are pioneering the gospel.
“The days of the pioneers are not past,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said during his October 1989 general conference address. “In every nation, in every worthy occupation and activity, members of this Church face hardships, overcome obstacles, and follow the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ as valiantly as the pioneers of any age.”
These pioneers, as should all of us, look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future, President Gordon B. Hinckley said in a July 1984 article titled “The Faith of the Pioneers.”
“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 own life, often in his own family, and many of us pioneer daily in trying to establish a gospel foothold in distant parts of the world.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said amid “the complex issues facing our families and our friends, our citizens, our state, our neighbors, our nation, [and] the world,” we must remember pioneers of an earlier day.
The early pioneers “persevered against injustice, misunderstanding, some intolerance, occasional bigotry, occasional racism, against differences of custom and traditions and faith, [and] labored against all of that to carve out for us, their descendants, the wonderful day and the marvelous miraculous time in which we live,” he explained on July 17, 2011, during the Ogden (Utah) Pioneer Days Devotional. “We owe the same pioneering, persevering legacy to our children and our children’s children.”
It has been almost four decades since the first Latter-day Saint congregation was organized in Manaus, Brazil, in 1978. Because of the efforts of local pioneer members, the first stake was organized in the city in 1988. And today there are more than 30,000 members and eight stakes in Manaus; the Church owns 30 meetinghouses in the city.
Up until the dedication of the Manaus Brazil Temple in 2012, members continued to travel by caravan to attend the temple in São Paulo, Brazil—a 15-day round trip journey by boat and bus—and then Caracas, Venezuela—an eight-day journey by bus. Often buses broke down, and on one occasion a bus was assaulted by robbers; later a bus wrecked traveling home from Caracas.
Adalberto Souza, a pioneering member in the city, said the Manaus Temple “represents the love of God for the people in the Amazon.”
President Souza traveled in 2 caravans to São Paulo and 12 to Caracas. In 1993, he was challenged by his stake president to take his entire family to the temple—a task he accomplished despite the $1,200 cost during a time of 90 percent inflation.
President Thomas S. Monson has said we can honor the legacy of Brother Souza and other faithful members of Manaus—as well as the legacy of the thousands of other Latter-day Saint pioneers across the globe—by living the gospel.
“Times change, but truth persists,” he said in a July 2013 First Presidency message. “When we fail to profit from the experiences of the past, we are doomed to repeat them with all their heartache, suffering, and anguish. Haven’t we the wisdom to obey Him who knows the beginning from the end—our Lord, who designed the plan of salvation—rather than that serpent, who despised its beauty?
“A dictionary defines a pioneer as ‘one who goes before to prepare or open up the way for others to follow.’ 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!”