Modern-Day Pioneers Live the Faith of Their Fathers
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shares his gratitude for early Church pioneers and for modern-day pioneers.
Learn why Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles teaches that pioneer faith is needed as much in the world today as in any period of time.
More than a century has passed since tens of thousands of pioneers sailed across oceans to heed a prophet’s call to gather to Zion. They left family and friends; they pulled handcarts across the plains; they grew a city out of a desert. Most important, the pioneers left a legacy of perseverance, faith, and sacrifice.
Today most members are not asked to make the same physical sacrifices as the pioneers, but Saints in every nation can be “pioneers all,” President Thomas S. Monson has said, as they meet suffering with courage, inspire faith in others, and do hard things that are necessary to gain eternal salvation and build the kingdom of God on earth (“Pioneers All,” Ensign, May 1997, 93).
In a conference address titled “Modern Pioneers,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles paid tribute to the “rank and file” members of the Church who “face hardships, overcome obstacles, and follow the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ as valiantly as the pioneers of any age.”
Foundation of Faith
Overcoming opposition with the Lord's help leads to sweet experiences.
Growing up in Ireland, Susan Johnsen had attended a Christian church from the time she was young, but felt like she didn’t understand who God really was. One night when she was 18, she prayed for help to know more about God. The next day, the missionaries knocked on her door and began teaching her.
She soon gained a testimony of the gospel and wanted to be baptized. Her parents, however, did not agree with her decision. Despite the opposition she faced from friends and family, she was baptized.
“My parents came to my baptism, but with the understanding that I knew that … if they saw anything untoward that [my dad] was hauling me out of there by the scruff of my neck,” she recalled. “Coming out of the water after I was baptized … I remember that feeling of cleanness and being where I should be.”
In the months following, she constantly fielded questions from family and friends and put to rest rumors they had heard about the Church. She lost many friends, but she continued to try to teach her family about the gospel, often inviting the missionaries over.
One day, almost two years after Susan had been baptized, her mother was reading in Alma 34 in the Book of Mormon. “She read that ‘this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God’ and we shouldn’t ‘procrastinate the day of [our] repentance,’ and she all of a sudden knew that she needed to be baptized,” Susan said.
Today, her sister, parents, children, and grandchildren are faithful members of the Church.
Susan said she has often thought about the parallels between people in her situation—those who were the first members in their families or who joined the Church against the desires of loved ones—and the pioneers.
“I always felt like we didn’t have the same physical trials that they did … but we needed strength in different ways, maybe, or in the same way under different circumstances,” she said. “We had to have a conviction that what we were doing was the right thing to do, and that the Lord wanted us to do it, and that we would do it no matter what happened.”
And, like the pioneers, she said, when we’ve passed through a trial faithfully, we are rewarded with the knowledge that what we’ve done is the right thing.
“Everybody has [trials], even if they don’t necessarily have pioneer experiences,” she said. “And sometimes the only way we can get through those is by knowing that what we’re doing is the right thing and praying that the Lord will help us, give us the strength that we need. … I always felt like joining the Church was like walking out of the dark—out of a dark room into the light—and that I would never go back.”
A Standard of Service
In 2007 older couple missionaries throughout the world numbered more than 2,600. They provide a significant contribution—giving devoted service as they preach the gospel; serve in temples; assist in family history work; strengthen leaders, missionaries, and members; and in many other ways further the mission of the Church.
Glen and Lola Mae Taylor returned from their fourth mission in November 2009, having served in the Toronto Canada Temple (1996–1998), the Africa Southeast Area (2001–2002), the Manila Philippines Temple (2004–2005), and the London England Temple (2008–2009).
Time after time, they answered Church leaders’ call for more senior couples. Similarly, the pioneers left their homes and, multiple times, moved to new locations and new hardships at the direction of the prophet.
Modern-day missionaries—like early pioneers—sacrifice to further the work of the Lord.
“As I have thought about our early ancestors, their main objective and their goal was to be obedient to our Heavenly Father, and it was for the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Sister Taylor said. “The things we do and the missions that we serve are for that same goal and that same purpose.”
The Taylors left 11 children, 53 grandchildren, and 68 great-grandchildren behind when they accepted the call to serve. They missed weddings, missionary farewells, and baby blessings. They faced financial sacrifices. But they testified of the blessings they received as they were obedient to their calling.
“When we were set apart each time, our stake president blessed us that our family would be taken care of, and they were,” Brother Taylor said.
“I have to say that when we went to our first mission, it was scary. We were going to a land that we had never been to,” Sister Taylor said. “But I remember how I felt when we entered through the doors of that temple. I felt the hand of the Lord around my shoulders … and we were at home.”
Enduring to the End
Listen to find out how Latter-day Saint women are pioneers in their own way.
In countless ways, members of the Church around the world follow in the footsteps of the pioneers and “accomplish the essential work of the kingdom, both the important and the routine,” Elder Oaks said.
Some members accept callings they faithfully fulfill and willingly give of their time in the service of others.
Some, like those pioneers who lost loved ones along the trail, receive their tests as they care for those who are sick. Others carry less physically apparent burdens.
“Burdens carried in the heart can be just as heavy as those pulled in a handcart,” Elder Oaks said. “And just as some early pioneers struggled for the benefit of others, so some modern pioneers carry burdens imposed by the transgressions or thoughtlessness of others.”
The path of the modern-day pioneer may look different, but it is no less difficult, presenting hardships and requiring sacrifice, perseverance, and faith.
Regardless of circumstance, Elder Oaks pointed out, pioneers of every age can gain strength to endure through the Lord’s promise in Doctrine and Covenants 98:1–3:
“Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
“Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
“Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.”