Pioneer life sounds like it was so hard. Were the challenges they had to face harder than what youth today have to go through?
This is a difficult question because it is hard to compare the trials each individual must face in this life. Some difficulties are brought on by the actions of others. Some come from our own bad decisions. And we face others because of forces we do not control. But which challenge is the most difficult? That really isn’t the question we should be asking. We should wonder if we are meeting the challenges now as well as our pioneer ancestors seem to have met theirs.
In the Church this year, we are celebrating the 150 years since the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. However, in a real way, we celebrate the pioneers every time a new family is baptized, or a new mission is opened, or another branch outgrows its meeting place. In many ways, the decisions you make today in your life affect not only the futures of your family and friends but of the whole Church. A young man in Croatia who joined the Church when he was 15 and, three years later, serves as a counselor in his branch presidency has to find ways to help his branch function in a war-torn country. A young woman in Tahiti who is the only member in her family chooses to serve a mission even without her family’s support. Are their challenges either more or less than the young girl who lost her feet to frostbite crossing the plains of the United States, yet stayed faithful and raised her family? Each is inspiring. Each is worthy of notice. But, more important, they were each so committed to the truths of the gospel that circumstances did not stop them from living faithfully.
Who are we to say that resisting the influence of drugs and alcohol in our teens will be less significant than resisting hunger and cold? Our trials may not be as physically demanding as the pioneers had to face, but we can be assured our faith will be tried.
We look back with admiration and gratitude at what the pioneers did. Their decisions to follow those who spoke the truth have made all the difference in our lives. The Church is spreading and growing because one by one faithful members are overcoming the challenges or trials presented to them. In other words, your decisions do not affect just you alone. How you choose to handle the difficulties and problems in your life may cause hundreds of people who have lived in the past or who are not yet born to look to you as a beloved pioneer. A vivid example is a family reunion where hundreds of men, women, and children are active in the gospel because of the courage of one ancestor who stood up for the truth and refused to choose less than the kingdom of heaven.
You don’t have to be famous to be great. Just living in obedience to the gospel is the single greatest thing you can do while on earth. Elder Neal A. Maxwell has written: “Though we have rightly applauded our ancestors for their spiritual achievements (and do not and must not discount them now), those of us who prevail today will have done no small thing. The special spirits who have been reserved to live in this time of challenges and who overcome will one day be praised for their stamina by those who pulled handcarts” (Not Withstanding My Weakness, 18).
The Lord has promised that we will not be left alone to face our trials unaided. Although he cannot and will not take away our free choice, the Lord has said, “Be content with giving such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5).
Physically I think they were tested more, but we are tested in different ways. I strongly believe that when we are going through trials we can turn to our Heavenly Father, and he will be there when we need him.
Marie Stevenson, 14 Kingman, Arizona
In Pakistan, we have hard times economically like the pioneers did. Pakistan has 130 million people, but we have only 500 members of the Church. When I joined the Church, there were only 25 members in our branch. Now we have 170 members. I needed much faith, courage, and effort to take a stand for truth.
Naeem Aslam, 20 Lahore, Pakistan
I don’t think that pioneers were necessarily tested more than we are. I think they were just tested in a different way than we are today. I think that instead of having more physical challenges, we have other kinds of challenges like friends, drugs, and the media. You can’t really say which is harder.
Christine Hopkins, 15 Tooele, Utah
Pioneer life was very hard, but I think that we are tested even more because of peer pressure and trying to be obedient to the things we are taught.
Jasmine Lorelei Gowalko Ponoka, Alberta, Canada
We just have different trials to face. Alma 38:5 says, “As much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.”
LeAnne Pratt, 14 Oroville, California
I feel we can never compare the levels of people’s burdens. Each has his or her own set of problems, and it’s up to each person to learn the lessons from them. In the past year, my family has lost my mother and brother-in-law to cancer. Both were kind, good, righteous people who were strong in the Church. For the longest time I would not try to learn from this. Instead I could only ask God why. Then, with the help of a blessing from my bishop, I was able to learn the lesson I needed to learn. I was able to gain a greater love towards my brother and sisters. I finally realized how much my family means to me. I know that if we pray for help, our trials will become blessings and make our spirits even stronger.
Jenifer Jakoubek, 17 Chehalis, Washington