As my daughter stood that Sunday to bear her testimony, there wasn’t a sound in the chapel. Everyone knew that when she spoke, she spoke of truth and light. She had stood tall and straight in the gospel since our family’s conversion. As our bishop had said many times, she was an example to all of us.
She looked at her father and me as she began.
“I wouldn’t be here today with the sure testimony I have without the wisdom and determination of my parents. I am thankful every day of my life for the sacrifices and commitments my parents made when they accepted the gospel. You may not know it, but they are of pioneer stock.”
Pioneer stock! That phrase caused my thoughts to fly back through the years. Seven years before, my husband and I had moved with our children from a little town in Ohio to the Salt Lake Valley. Converts to the Church before our move, we had learned about the sacrifices and testimonies of those who had left the Midwest to settle in Salt Lake City. For some reason, the story of the pioneers had touched an especially tender spot in me. I had an overwhelming respect for them. I never tired of hearing or thinking of them.
I had never heard about the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers before coming to Utah. But it seemed that most of my new friends were members of that organization. Since my genealogy did not include Utah pioneer ancestry, neither I nor my children could be a part of their association. No matter how much I loved the pioneers and admired what they had done, I was only “adopted” into their honorable heritage by my conversion. Their blood would never be my blood.
My daughter continued her testimony. “My parents didn’t have their homes burned by angry mobs when they joined the Church, but all of their old friends were suddenly not around after they were baptized. They didn’t lose their families for the sake of the truth, but it has been an uphill climb to retain relationships with relatives who are not of our newfound faith.
“My dad gave up his career because he was in a business contrary to the Word of Wisdom. I’ve heard my mother cry into her pillow because of some unkind remark made by people in a ’two-child-per-family world.’ I know of her testimony of how right it was to bear and nurture us eight kids.
“I have seen my parents turn from the world with sacrifices too numerous to count. Some of you may celebrate your pioneer heritage on July 24. It is only right that you should. My children and my children’s children will always remember November 19, 1974. That was the day my parents were baptized and pioneer blood began to flow in our veins.”
My precious daughter had opened my eyes. I didn’t have to feel left out when I heard stories of the pioneers. I was a pioneer, too. And because of my testimony, my children and my grandchildren would have the roots and heritage I had thought would always elude them.
Heritage has to begin somewhere, I told myself. Let it begin with me.
Sharon Bradley is a homemaker and free-lance writer. She and her family have returned to Ohio, where she serves as first counselor in the Akron Ohio Stake Relief Society presidency.