Pioneers of an earlier era provide a heritage of faith, courage, and sacrifice for all of us, according to prophets and apostles who lead the Church today. But they are quick to add that there are many modern pioneers who continue the legacy by spreading the gospel throughout the world. In a Church that has more than 14 million members from various backgrounds and origins, pioneer heritage is both a gift from the past and a unifying force for the future.
Preserve the Heritage
“With the complex issues facing our families and our friends, our citizens, our state, our neighbors, our nation, [and] the world, may we remember pioneers of an earlier day,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He noted that early pioneers “persevered against injustice, misunderstanding, some intolerance, occasional bigotry, occasional racism, against differences of custom and traditions and faith, [and] labored against all of that to carve out for us, their descendants, the wonderful day and the marvelous miraculous time in which we live.”
Elder Holland said. “We owe the same pioneering, persevering legacy to our children and our children’s children.”
Elder Holland spoke at the Ogden (Utah) Pioneer Days Devotional at the Dee Events Center at Weber State University on July 17, 2011, and encouraged individuals to work together while respecting and emulating their diverse pioneer heritage in their communities today.
“People working together are more successful, more prosperous and much more happy than neighborhoods or ethnic groups or religious faiths that are suspicious of one another, threatened by one another, and all too often hostile, even violent, toward one another,” he said.
Faith of Our Fathers
Other prophets and apostles also encourage people to honor pioneer heritage by living live with the same faith.
“The faith of our fathers—I love that phrase,” says President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. He explains that for many Latter-day Saints, these words are reminders of valiant pioneers who traveled by wagon, by handcart, and on foot to settle in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. But with today’s worldwide Church membership at more than 14 million members from various backgrounds and origins, how do Church members share in a common pioneer heritage? And what does it mean to be a pioneer today?
“I love and honor the faith and courage of those early pioneers of the Church,” President Uchtdorf continues. “My own ancestors were living an ocean away at the time. None were among those who lived in Nauvoo or Winter Quarters, and none made the journey across the plains. But as a member of the Church, I claim with gratitude and pride this pioneer legacy as my own.”
In addition, President Uchtdorf says, “I claim the legacies of today’s modern-day Church pioneers who live in every nation and whose own stories of perseverance, faith, and sacrifice add glorious new verses to the great chorus of the latter-day anthem of the kingdom of God.”
The World Needs Pioneers Today
President Thomas S. Monson—who also praises early pioneers for their courage and faith in the midst of hardships—emphasizes the importance of honoring their legacy by living the gospel.
“Can we somehow muster the courage and that steadfastness of purpose which characterized the pioneers of a former generation?” President Monson asks. “Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers today? A dictionary defines a pioneer as ‘one who goes before, showing others the way to follow.’ Oh, how the world needs pioneers today!”
President Monson teaches that Latter-day Saints can be modern-day pioneers by being aware of the needs of others and then reaching out to rescue them and show them the way to Christ.
“Look at What We Built”
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles tells of an experience visiting the Manti Utah Temple: “There is a special spirit in these older temples, which were constructed at great sacrifice by the early pioneers. … As we progressed through the temple session, I could hear in every room those early pioneers saying, ‘Look at what we built with our own hands. We had no power equipment. No contractors or subcontractors were involved in the construction, no fancy cranes to lift up the heavy stones. We performed this labor under our own power.’”
Reflecting on this heritage that the early pioneers left, Elder Perry remembers the words of a former president of the United States, who talked about “[going] back to the past way of thinking.”
“His counsel still resonates within me,” Elder Perry says. “There is something about reviewing the lessons of the past to prepare us to face the challenges of the future. What a glorious legacy of faith, courage, and ingenuity those noble early Mormon pioneers have left for us to build upon. My admiration for them deepens the longer I live.”
Footsteps throughout the World
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also encourages Latter-day Saints to have in their footsteps the same dedication the pioneers had in theirs.
“Truly the Lord encourages us to walk in faith to the edge of the light and beyond—into the unknown,” Elder Ballard says. “After the trial of our faith, He once again shines the light ahead of us, and our journey of faith in every footstep continues. Now it has swelled into billions and billions of footsteps throughout the world.
“We must be sure that the legacy of faith received from the pioneers who came before us is never lost. Let their heroic lives touch our hearts, and especially the hearts of our youth, so the fire of true testimony and unwavering love for the Lord and His Church will blaze brightly within each one of us as it did in our faithful pioneers.”