Thursday, July 24, 2008

Come, Come ye Saints...Happy Pioneer Day

Throughout Utah, July 24th is known as Pioneer day! This is a day that we take a moment to celebrate the pioneers who sacrificed so much so that we could have the church established in these latter days. Celebrations include parades, fireworks, marathons, bbq's, family reunions, firesides and devotionals, decorating of graves etc.

I have had opportunities to visit the sites that the pioneers traveled through. I have been several times to Kirtland (Where the members were forced out of), Nauvoo (where the temple was burnt to the ground and the members forced to flee), Carthege (where our beloved prophet Joseph Smith and brother Hyrum were murdered), Winter Quarters in Nebraska (where we lost many pioneers in the bitter cold), as well as Martin's Cove where I was incharge of a trek last year in that sacred place. All these experiences were sweet and unforgetable. I learned so much of what huge sacrifices were made for us and the faith to continue the long, hard journey these pioneers had. They showed such increased faith as to say they had "nothing to fear from the journey."

In Nauvoo I was so touched walking down Parley street reading about all the lives of faith and courage which existed among the pioneers. They were so honorable and led lives of true devotion to the Savior.

While on the trek at Martin's cove I couldn't believe how hard it was to pull and push the handcarts up the steep inclines and rocky areas. An astonishing part that made the ending of the trek the hardest part because it turned out to be miserable was while crossing the sweet water. We were hot and tired and stopped to take in the moment as we crossed. Getting the handcart through the water was a chore! But what it did to you after crossing was MISERABLE. We got wet and experienced great chafing as well as blistery feet due to wet shoes. I could only imagine the condition of those dear saints feet and bodies!

I am going to recap some of my favorite pioneer stories I have been told. I hope they touch and inspire you, as they do me at the faithful spirits within each of them.

I think of the girl who lost all but one of her family members on the trek to the Salt Lake valley. Carried her last remaining sibling on her back all the way there. As soon as she made it on Utah soil, she put her sibling down. Layed on the ground and died.

Or the story of a little girl who was so frozen and so cold that she kept climbing into the hancart to rest and her father kept putting her down and making her run alongside the cart the whole way. She was so upset that she wasn't given a rest.. later she came to find out that the reason for that was to keep her blood flowing to all her extremities so that she wouldn't loose any from frostbite.

Of all the illustrations of faith in the Lord, few stories are more powerful than that told of the pioneer who years later stood to defend the decision of the Martin Handcart Company to start for the Salt Lake Valley late in the year of 1856. He had been one of the nearly 3,000 Saints who walked from Iowa and Nebraska to Utah between 1856 and 1860 in one of 10 companies pushing and pulling handcarts loaded with their belongings.
In a Sunday School class there was sharp criticism of the ill-fated Martin and Willie Handcart Companies, which met with tragedy because of their late start on the trek to the Salt Lake Valley.
An elderly man arose and said: “I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts … give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife … too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but … we became acquainted with God in our extremities.
“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. … I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company” (as quoted in David O. McKay, “Pioneer Women,” The Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, 8).

Often time I think of the hymn Come, come ye saints. This part is especially poinant to me.. "And shall we die, before our journey's through, HAPPY DAY all is well." I think I would think it was a happy day after suffering that much on the plains.. they probably meant it very differently but I have to sing that Happy day with such emphasis after experiencing the trek myself.

These stories are only but a mini sized portion of the trials and miracles that these blessed saints endured. In my own life I hope that I can be worthy of this kind of faith that is displayed. Thank you pioneers for the rights and freedoms and truths that you suffered so that we would have everything that we have here in Utah in 2008. My faith is increased through your example!


Robinson's said...

Thank you for sharing these sweet stories. It always makes me feel ever so grateful for my blessings and less quick to complain. We are so blessed!

Nate and Jessica said...

Thank you can imagine there wasn't much going on in OH for Pioneer Day so I appreciate all you shared!

Angie said...

Beautifully said Megs! I'd love to hear more of your pioneer adventures some time!