Below is the opening quote to this lesson. I have included it because it sets up an important premise for the whole lesson.
Whether you have pioneer ancestry or came into the Church only yesterday, you are a part of this whole grand picture of which those men and women dreamed. … They laid the foundation. Ours is the duty to build on it.
We are all children of God. That makes us, in a very literal way, one big family. Whether we came to earth 150 years ago or just 20 years ago doesn’t change our heritage in that family. There are those of us who had ancestors who were witnesses to the beginning of the restoration of the gospel in the last days. And there are those of us who just recently heard of the gospel and are newly baptized.
Neither of these two circumstances changes our position in the Lord’s Church. The restoration was not something that was started and completed in a five or ten year period back in the 1800s. The restoration has begun, but is still ongoing. As a Church we are still young and growing. We have not received all we are going to receive from the Lord to prepare us for his return.
In this sense we are all still pioneers. We are all paving the way for the generations to come. Since the founding days of this restoration every generation has had challenges and expectations laid on them from the Lord. We are each being tested and put into positions to influence and show the way to those who will come after us. Each generation has the responsibility to build on what they have been given and leave the Lord’s Church more mature and prosperous than when they found it, no matter when we entered the Church.
The whole introduction to the lesson talks about the Hinckley connection to the early days of the Church. His family members suffered much and gave much for the building of the Lord’s kingdom in their day. But what about you and your family? What sacrifices are we each called upon to make today?
There are those who only have to stay true to the mission of the Church in a climate where politically it is becoming suicide to admit you belong to the church. There are those who still have to travel to foreign countries, having sold all of their possessions just to get sealed together. The age of sacrifices is not over, it has only changed in appearance. The physical and social sacrifices once demanded of our Church ancestors will soon make a comeback and be required of either us or our children. Our days of being popular are waning.
This section of the lesson talks at length about some of the sacrifices and challenges the early members of the Church faced in their personal lives. While we may not personally face being expelled from our homes in the dead of winter to be driven off our lands, there are important lessons demonstrated by those early members that we all need to learn on a very personal level.
We who have been born and raised in the Church have been raised in the culture of the Church. It is all very familiar and comfortable. We know all the rules and expectations of being members of the Church. But what about those who are new to the gospel? Our vocabulary is different from what they were raised with, our behavior is different, and it can make even the most stalwart convert feel like associating with the members is asking a lot, especially when the culture of the local congregation clashes with the upbringing of those who are new to it.
Every person who is seriously devoting themselves to the gospel of Christ has to learn how to take their faith and build a life on that faith. Even for those born and raised in the Church environment this is a challenge. We have to learn to separate out what is customary from what is doctrinal. We have to learn how to be kind, loving and charitable to those who feel they have the right to judge us and our behavior, even when we feel we are doing what is right.
Pioneers in every generation are those who learn to do what they feel is pleasing to God, no matter what is popular among those with whom they live. Being a pioneer is all about transforming our faith into the action of a faithful life. And faithful lives are always filled with sacrifices and hardships.
“Theirs was a vision, transcendent and overriding all other considerations.” Each of us needs to emulate our pioneer ancestors. They saw the future of the Church. They were willing to sacrifice their time, talents, and everything they had in order to help bring about their vision of the future glory of the restored gospel. Do we have that same kind of vision? Only such a vision will enable us to make the needed personal changes that will create the kind of Saints the Lord needs to carry his Church into the ending scenes of the last days.
We look at those who lived in the 1800s and we see that their vision of the future enabled them to create the foundation upon which those of the 1900s built the church. But what of us? We have had previous generations take this fledgling gospel from infancy to a period of unprecedented growth. The Church has grown from a few hundred to more than 15 million people around the world.
That is all well and good, but what have we personally done to seek out the vision of the Brethren as to where the Lord wants us to take his church so we are able to hand off to our descendants something more than what we inherited from our ancestors? Do we have a vision of the growth of the Church?
Ask yourself, “What am I doing to move the Lord’s kingdom into the future? How am I helping the prophet fulfill the aims of the kingdom? Am I helping or hindering the work? Am I a dead weight in the Lord’s living kingdom or am I contributing to the preparation of His church for his second coming?”
In Brigham Young’s day, saving people had quite a different flair than it does today. In his day there were people starving to death and freezing to death out on the prairies of Wyoming in their attempt to come to Zion. In our day we have been called upon to open our hearts, wallets, and homes to do all in our power to assist in the rescue of refugees who are fleeing persecution in their homelands.
Helping refugees, helping the homeless, or even helping the stranger we meet on the street, each requires that we learn to look outside our own needs and wants and make sacrifices for the good of someone else. We look at the sacrifices the pioneers of old made and wonder how they were able to pull off their accomplishments.
But look at what we have to do in order to help sponsor a refugee family or to help someone who is without work and is homeless? Both take great sacrifices on our part, financially, and emotionally. Both take great spiritual commitment and dedication to the demands of our covenants.
This brings us to the point that though the circumstances and the times are different from the mid-1800s, what it takes to be a pioneer doesn’t change. Pioneers are those who do something others are not willing to do because it is uncomfortable. They go places and do things those around them would rather not have to do. They make sacrifices because they really believe that what they do will change people’s lives, even if it just their own.
Doesn’t this describe every member of the Church? Aren’t we all striving to fulfill the Lord’s injunction to prepare the earth for his coming? This requires faith and hard work to make not only ourselves better people, but to reach out to all those around us and invite them to come along for the ride.
Just as we are the fruit of the efforts made by the early Saints of the Church, so too are we building the legacy we will leave for our posterity on the efforts of those same pioneers. We are the pioneers our posterity will look up to and back on. They will be reading our journals and life stories and patterning their lives and teaching their children about what we accomplish in our lifetimes.
The Church has not “arrived.” It is still in its infancy. It is still growing, and as we grow with it, the Lord will bless us with greater strength and power to accomplish His work.