Much of our spiritual well-being depends on our ability to develop and exercise faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ. We do this in very individual ways, gaining testimony “line upon line, precept upon precept” (D&C 98:12). As Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explains, “We’re all at different points in this process. … Hence ‘to some it is given … to know. … To others it is given to believe on their words (D&C 46:13–14)’ “ (Ensign, May 1991, 89).
While we are in the process of growing in our faith in Jesus Christ, we can find strength in the testimonies and examples of others. Prominent among those to whom we can look are the early pioneers of the Church.
One hundred and fifty years ago, the faith of the Latter-day Saint pioneers was tried in extraordinary ways. President Gordon B. Hinckley tells the story of Ellen Pucell, whose parents were baptized in England in 1837. After saving for 19 years to finance their journey to America, they became members of the Martin Handcart Company. Ellen was nine years old at the time; her sister, Maggie, was 14. Unforeseen delays prevented the handcart company from reaching the Salt Lake Valley before severe winter weather descended on them. Low on food, the company pushed on until exhaustion and cold began to take their toll.
“Between 135 and 150 of the Martin company alone perished along that trail of suffering and death,” said President Hinckley. Among them were Maggie and Ellen’s parents. “It was in these desperate and terrible circumstances—hungry, exhausted, their clothes thin and ragged—that [the survivors] were found by the rescue party. …
“The two orphan girls, Maggie and Ellen, were among those with frozen limbs. Ellen’s were the most serious. The doctor in the valley, doing the best he could, amputated her legs just below the knees. The surgical tools were crude. There was no anesthesia. The stumps never [completely] healed. She grew to womanhood, married William Unthank, and bore and reared an honorable family of six children. Moving about on those stumps, she served her family, her neighbors, and the Church with faith and good cheer, and without complaint, though she was never without pain. Her posterity are numerous, and among them are educated and capable men and women who love the Lord whom she loved and who love the cause for which she suffered” (Ensign, Nov. 1991, 54).
Latter-day Saints throughout the world today give thanks for noble pioneers like these who left us priceless examples of faith in Jesus Christ and endurance in living his gospel.
While we are building our own testimonies, the assurances of others can be bridges of belief to sustain us on our journey. Ultimately, of course, we each must have our own testimony. Otherwise, we will not endure in faith to the end. President Harold B. Lee said: “Our number one responsibility is to see that we are converted. … Be converted, because no one can endure on borrowed light. You will have to be guided by the light within yourself” (Stand Ye in Holy Places , 95).
In what ways can we, like the pioneers, leave a legacy of faith for others?
How have you been strengthened by the faithful endurance of others?
What can a person do to endure faithfully to the end?