Nothing can compare to the feeling that comes when President Thomas S. Monson starts in on one of his famous stories. The emotion and power behind his words can make us not only laugh and cry, but have a desire to truly change our lives. So, in honor of Pioneer Day, we wanted to share three of our favorite pioneer stories shared by President Monson throughout the years--pioneer stories that show how they can come from all ages and parts of the world.
The Silent Violin
Each of us has a heritage—whether from pioneer forebears, later converts, or others who helped to shape our lives. This heritage provides a foundation built of sacrifice and faith. Ours is the privilege and responsibility to build on such firm and stable footings.
A story written by Karen Nolen, which appeared in theNew Era in 1974, tells a pioneer story of a Benjamin Landart who, in 1888, was 15 years old and an accomplished violinist. Living on a farm in northern Utah with his mother and seven brothers and sisters was sometimes a challenge to Benjamin, as he had less time than he would have liked to play his violin. Occasionally his mother would lock up the violin until he had his farm chores done, so great was the temptation for Benjamin to play it.
In late 1892 Benjamin was asked to travel to Salt Lake to audition for a place with the territorial orchestra. For him, this was a dream come true. After several weeks of practicing and prayers, he went to Salt Lake in March of 1893 for the much anticipated audition. When he heard Benjamin play, the conductor, a Mr. Dean, told Benjamin he was the most accomplished violinist he had heard west of Denver. He was told to report to Denver for rehearsals in the fall and learned that he would be earning enough to keep himself, with some left over to send home.
A week after Benjamin received the good news, however, his bishop called him into his office and asked if he couldn’t put off playing with the orchestra for a couple of years. He told Benjamin that before he started earning money there was something he owed the Lord. He then asked Benjamin to accept a mission call.
Benjamin felt that giving up his chance to play in the territorial orchestra would be almost more than he could bear, but he also knew what his decision should be. He promised the bishop that if there were any way to raise the money for him to serve, he would accept the call.
When Benjamin told his mother about the call, she was overjoyed. She told him that his father had always wanted to serve a mission but had been killed before that opportunity had come to him. However, when they discussed the financing of the mission, her face clouded over. Benjamin told her he would not allow her to sell any more of their land. She studied his face for a moment and then said, “Ben, there is a way we can raise the money. This family [has] one thing that is of great enough value to send you on your mission. You will have to sell your violin.”
Ten days later, on March 23, 1893, Benjamin wrote in his journal: “I awoke this morning and took my violin from its case. All day long I played the music I love. In the evening when the light grew dim and I could see to play no longer, I placed the instrument in its case. It will be enough. Tomorrow I leave [for my mission].”
Forty-five years later, on June 23, 1938, Benjamin wrote in his journal: “The greatest decision I ever made in my life was to give up something I dearly loved to the God I loved even more. He has never forgotten me for it.”
(From "In Search of Treasure," April 2003)