An Aussie Pioneer


When our family moved to rural Melbourne, we thought we were pioneers. But after I found the gospel, the real pioneering began.

In 1960 my husband, Cecil, and I emigrated from Ireland to Australia, bringing with us very little money and six young children. I didn’t realize at the time that I was pioneering. I had always wanted to move to Australia, and this was a dream come true. We managed to buy a plot of ground and put a house on it. However, with our meager finances, we had to settle in an undeveloped area. We had no indoor plumbing. And I was somewhat surprised to find that roads in this developing area of Melbourne were not surfaced. Nevertheless, I loved Australia. It was like coming home.

Usually things come to pass if you wait long enough. Eventually, modern conveniences came along. Our children grew up, married, and I became a young grandmother. We paid off the house and bought a car. Only two of our children were still in school. What more could anyone want? It was time to relax. Our pioneering days were over.

Meeting the Missionaries

I began to wonder about God. My mother had taught me a great deal about Him. Now I wanted to know if He was real. I started to read the Holy Bible and to pray. It seemed like something of a contradiction to ask someone you don’t believe in if he is there. Heavenly Father must have heard me. Our youngest son told us he had been talking with two missionaries and he wanted to join the LDS Church. I was 40 years old and had traveled or lived in several areas of the world, yet I had never heard of this church. I was happy our son wanted to join a church, but I wanted to meet these missionaries first.

When I met the missionaries, I was comfortable with them. We were happy to attend my son’s baptism and found it to be a nice experience. Everything seemed to be in order, and we didn’t mind that he was a member. Then the missionaries asked if they could give me six short lessons. I thought this would be a good idea, as I would be finding out what my son believed. My husband was not interested in hearing what they had to say, but I listened to the lessons for the next five months.

I began to worry because my early religious instructions had taught me that the heavens were closed and to beware of false prophets in the last days. These two young men were telling me there was a modern prophet at the head of their church, that he received revelation from God even today, and that he held the keys of the priesthood.

How could this be true? I had never even heard of this church before. Yet each time the missionaries came into my home, they brought wonderful feelings of peace and love. The feelings reminded me of Christmases, birthdays, beautiful summer evenings, and happy family times around the fire in winter. I felt as if I were coming home to someplace beautiful that I had not been able to find since childhood. I began to believe.

The missionaries wanted me to be baptized, but I was still afraid. I shed tears every night as I prayed for guidance to know if this was the true church. When I think about it now, I wonder why it took me so long to accept the truth. I had just spent months praying to know if God really existed; He had sent two of His representatives to tell me “Yes, He does exist,” and I still couldn’t see it. This was mostly because of early teachings that were deeply entrenched in me. But eventually, almost six months after I first met the missionaries, I was baptized.

A Pioneer Again

Soon after joining the Church, I once again became a pioneer, subject to misunderstanding and even verbal abuse. Sometimes I felt alone in a sea of snide remarks and outright attacks on my beliefs. My husband, my other children, friends, in-laws, and acquaintances all tried to persuade me to leave the Church. I lost numerous friends, including my best friend. Though we remained friendly to the day she died, our close relationship never returned.

Nevertheless, I loved attending Church meetings on Sunday, though I lived eight miles away from the meetinghouse and it was difficult to get there. I had to walk two miles to the train station and another mile after I got off at the station to get to the chapel. Oddly, all this had the effect of bringing me closer to the gospel. I began to wonder why it was considered quite acceptable for me to attend any other church but a grievous offense to go to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Why should people, some of whom were mere acquaintances, care so deeply that I had joined the Church? I came to the conclusion that one central power—Satan—was against my baptism and was using every means he could to dissuade me from the truth. As opposition came, my testimony grew; I knew the Church was true. This period of adversity made me more determined than ever to hold on to the teachings of the gospel.

I feared my husband might try to keep me from going to church. Instead, five years later, he joined the Church himself. Six years from my baptism we were sealed in the temple for time and all eternity. A few years ago our youngest daughter was baptized and had her little girl blessed in sacrament meeting. In 25 years all of my family members, immediate and extended, have grown to respect the Church.

I have learned that to be a pioneer in the gospel is a significant and important role. Through it, rich blessings can come to us and to our future generations.

[illustrations] Illustrations by Michael Malm

Sarah Martin is a member of the Footscray Ward, Deer Park Australia Stake.