Primary children all over the world learn about Council Bluffs, Iowa—a place rich in Latter-day Saint history—and about nearby Winter Quarters, Nebraska, where the pioneers paused in their journey west to repair wagons, grind flour, and wait for the bitter winter weather to pass.
For eight-year-old Angela Miller, Council Bluffs is more than just a name on a Church history map. It’s home. And living so close to these historic sites has helped her gain a better understanding of the pioneer spirit and develop it in her own life.
Part of this pioneer spirit is making family a top priority. Families are important because “they’re always there for you,” Angela says. “They are there to give you some discipline, but they are also nice.” Angela fondly remembers the day when her family went to the temple. Being sealed together was a very special experience in her life. She loves spending time with her family camping, hiking, swimming, bicycling, or just playing with their pet birds, Oliver, Kate, and Tweety.
Angela has worked hard to cultivate another aspect of the pioneer spirit—missionary work. Learning from her parents’ experiences as stake missionaries, she has participated in ward missionary programs, and she has tried to set a good example for her friends who aren’t members of the Church.
Recently the Miller family participated in a ward program that helps new converts learn more about the gospel by attending group family home evenings. Angela and her father, Dan, taught a lesson about putting on the whole armor of God, based on Doctrine and Covenants 27:15–18. As her father taught that each part of the armor represents a quality that will help guard against temptation—such as the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit—Angela added that piece to her costume. Everyone’s favorite part of the lesson was when Brother Miller taught about the fiery darts of the adversary, and the missionaries got to throw “fiery darts” made out of yellow paper and popcorn kernels at Angela’s “armor.”
Angela tries her best to set a good example, no matter where she is. In church she always tries to be reverent. “I fold my arms sometimes when I walk down the hall from class to the Primary room,” she says.
As the only member of the Church in her school, Angela has plenty of opportunities to be a missionary. At a birthday party she attended, the girls began watching an inappropriate movie. “I told them, ‘I can’t watch this, because I’m a member of the Church,’” she remembers. She left the room, and another friend who was not a member soon followed. Together they watched a better movie. “When I left, I saw that I was wearing my CTR ring,” Angela says. She is glad she was able to choose the right and set an example for her friends.
One evening Angela invited a friend to her house. As the girls were talking, the friend asked, “What are those books for? They are pretty big.” Angela explained that they were the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and she talked to her friend about Jesus Christ. Later she saw her friend reading from her scriptures.
The Miller family often visits nearby historical sites, such as the pioneer cemetery and visitors’ center at Winter Quarters and the tabernacle in Council Bluffs. This tabernacle is a replica of the structure the pioneers built in only a few weeks. Brigham Young was sustained as President of the Church there in 1847. Angela has learned about how hard the pioneers worked and how they used their talents to bless others. She tries to share her talents, too, by learning to play the piano, taking ballet lessons, and performing in local ballet performances.
Angela and her 13-year-old brother, Jake, have chores at home. Angela’s favorite chore is helping take care of the family’s birds. She and Jake change the water in the cages every day and make sure the birds have plenty of food.
Angela loves learning. She spends time in the children’s reading room at the city library, works very hard on her schoolwork, and likes to talk with Jake about things she has learned. She can name almost any bird in her favorite zoo.
President Hinckley visited the Council Bluffs area in 1996 to dedicate the replica of the tabernacle and to celebrate the faith and dedication of the pioneers who served in the Mormon Battalion. The Millers and many other families dressed up like pioneers and enjoyed pioneer activities. Angela sang in a children’s choir. When she wears her pioneer dress and bonnet, she feels even more appreciation for the pioneers.
Life is very different for Angela than it was for a pioneer child. But as she has learned about the struggles and the values of the pioneers, she has become a modern-day example of the pioneer spirit. Angela seems to live by a motto of President John Taylor (1808–87), quoted on one of her favorite paintings at Winter Quarters: “The Kingdom of God or Nothing.”