This month, we commemorate the historic trek of the Mormon pioneers who, 130 years ago, left the beautiful city of Nauvoo, Illinois, and their comfortable homes to escape their persecutors and march 2300 kms. across a hostile wilderness in order to worship their God according to the dictates of their own conscience. In July of 1847, they reached the Great Salt Lake Valley and founded the city which is now the headquarters of Christ’s church on earth.
It is not enough merely to observe these various anniversaries, but we must recommit and rededicate ourselves to uphold the convictions and the principles upon which the blessings we enjoy are predicated. We, too, must be prepared to sacrifice, where necessary, to keep our freedoms inviolate. My father used to say: “The true way to honor the past is to improve upon it.”
Therefore, we should love God more. We should serve our fellowmen better. We should keep all the commandments. We should be better prepared as parents to teach our children to pray and to walk uprightly before the Lord, and to assume their responsibilities.
We should be constantly striving for improvement of ourselves and our surroundings.
In introducing a beautification program back in 1940, Apostle Stephen L. Richards said:
“What if our great and wise pioneer leader, Brigham Young, should return on the … anniversary of his entrance into this the Salt Lake Valley? How it would please him and thrill his noble soul to find the cities, the towns and villages which he planned so well and strove so diligently and courageously to found, all in the bloom of midsummer, with farms and fields laden with maturing crops, with pastures and hills dotted with flocks and herds, with factories, business areas, public buildings, schools and churches reflecting a vast development in enterprise, culture and religion which he so earnestly advocated; and then, too, most thrilling of all, if he could find thousands of contented homes, nestled in the shade of myriads of trees, growing out of yards, shrubs and fragrant flowers, all neat and clean, the habitation of an honest, thrifty, God-loving, joyous people, and all this in the desert valleys which he first saw, now transformed and beautified by the enterprise and the idealism of the generations that followed him! Surely, the cup of his gratitude would be running over.
“Why may it not be so? What more worthy and fitting tribute could we offer to those patient, devoted men and women whose courage, whose intelligence and whose labor have bequeathed to us the priceless heritage we now enjoy?
“God grant that our love, our gratitude and our veneration may find tangible expression in beauty—beauty of life and surroundings.” (Conference Reports, April 7, 1940, pp. 129–30.)
Pioneers are still needed. A pioneer is described as one who goes before, preparing the way for others. He is a leader, first in his field in discovery and invention. He will be followed by settlers and developers who expand and exploit his discoveries. Anyone seeking to become a pioneer will take care to fill his mind with what is known about the route he plans to take. Some of the qualities needed in pioneering are interest, intelligence, imagination, and determination. A pioneer must investigate, plan, experiment, and work.
As we pioneer into any endeavor, we have the benefit of those who have pioneered before us. We have the gospel plan to follow, which needs no experimentation, but we must plan and work to accomplish the goal we seek—eternal life.
We express gratitude to our Father in heaven for the gospel, which shows us the way. We are grateful to all who were prepared and came forth to accomplish his purposes and establish his truths, which are the same yesterday, today, and forever.