Thoughts on Lesson Thirty-Five

HOW CAN WE pay our debt of gratitude for the heritage of faith demonstrated by pioneers in many lands across the earth who struggled and sacrificed so that the gospel might take root? How is thankfulness expressed for the intrepid handcart pioneers who, by their own brute strength, pulled their meager belongings in handcarts across the scorching plains and through the snows of the high mountain passes to escape persecution and find peaceful worship in these valleys?. . .

Emma Batchelor, a young English girl traveling without family,. . . joined the Paul Gourley family [in the Martin handcart company].

. . . Sister Gourley gave birth to a child, and Emma acted as the midwife and loaded the mother and the child in the cart for two days, which Emma helped pull.

Those who died in the Martin company were mercifully relieved of the suffering of others with frozen feet, ears, noses, or fingers—which maimed them for the rest of their lives. Emma, age twenty-one, however, was a fortunate one. She came through the ordeal whole.

A year later, she met Brigham Young, who was surprised that she was not maimed, and she told him, "Brother Brigham, I had no one to care for me or to look out for me, so I decided I must look out for myself. I was the one who called out when Brother Savage warned us [not to go]. I was at fault in that, but I tried to make up for it. I pulled my share at the cart every day. When we came to a stream, I stopped and took off my shoes and stockings and outer skirt and put them on top of the cart. Then, after I got the cart across, I came back and carried little Paul over on my back. Then I sat down and scrubbed my feet hard with my woolen neckerchief and put on dry shoes and stockings."

The descendants of these pioneers can partially settle the account by being true to the cause for which their ancestors suffered so much to be part of. ("Gratitude as a Saving Principle," Ensign, May 1990, 87.)

THOSE OF YOU who have joined the Church in this generation have acquired fellowship with a people, many of whom have a great heritage of great suffering and sacrifice. Such sacrifice becomes your heritage also, for it is the inheritance of a people who have faults and imperfections but have a great nobility of purpose. That purpose is to help all mankind come to a sweet, peaceful understanding about who they are, and to foster a love for their fellowmen and a determination to keep the commandments of God. This is the gospel's holy call. It is the essence of our worship. ("Gratitude as a Saving Principle," Ensign, May 1990, 86.)

IN ADDITION TO the legacy of faith bequeathed by those who crossed the plains, they also left a great heritage of love—love of God and love of mankind. It is an inheritance of sobriety, independence, hard work, high moral values, and fellowship. It is a birthright of obedience to the commandments of God and loyalty to those whom God has called to lead this people. It is a legacy of forsaking evil. Immorality, alternative lifestyles, gambling, selfishness, dishonesty, unkindness, addiction to alcohol and drugs are not part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. ("A Priceless Heritage," Ensign, Nov. 1992, 85.)

I CANNOT HELP wondering why these intrepid pioneers had to pay for their faith with such a terrible price in agony and suffering. Why were not the elements tempered to spare them from their profound agony? I believe their lives were consecrated to a higher purpose through their suffering. Their love for the Savior was burned deep in their souls, and into the souls of their children, and their children's children. The motivation for their lives came from a true conversion in the center of their souls. As President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, "When there are throbs in the heart of an individual Latter- day Saint, a great and vital testimony of the truth of this work, he will be found doing his duty in the Church" (Regional Representative Seminar, April 6, 1984). ("A Priceless Heritage," Ensign, Nov. 1992, 85.)

ABOVE AND BEYOND the epic historical events they participated in, the pioneers found a guide to personal living. They found reality and meaning in their lives. In the difficult days of their journey, the members of the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies encountered some apostates from the Church who were returning from the West, going back to the East. These apostates tried to persuade some of the companies to turn back. A few did turn back. But the great majority of the pioneers went forward to a heroic achievement in this life, and to eternal life in the hereafter. Francis Webster, a member of the Martin Company, stated, "Everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities" (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, p. 8). I hope that this priceless legacy of faith left by the pioneers will inspire all of us to more fully participate in the Savior's work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of his children. ("A Priceless Heritage," Ensign, Nov. 1992, 85.)

PIONEER MEN WERE strong and courageous, but the pioneer women were stout-hearted and glorious.

Having arrived, they survived and prospered through independence, industry, thrift, self-reliance, and faith. They labored to the exhaustion of their bodies to build, to sow, and to reap. The monuments they built are a testimony of their integrity and their faith in the God they worshiped. There has been no building erected in this state since the Salt Lake Temple which surpasses its quality of superb, loving craftsmanship. It was built over a period of forty years of their extreme poverty. . . .

In the beginning they had to do what had to be done by themselves because there was no government to help them. But they had inspired leaders who were men of vision, faith, and integrity. Their leaders expected of them more than they thought they could possibly do. Somehow, with the help of God, they were able to accomplish it.

They established values of honesty, thrift, faith, common decency, fidelity in marriage, and respect for everyone. At the heart of everything they did was the nurturing of solid families. They voluntarily responded to calls to build their public projects; ditches and canals to carry life-giving water to the parched desert soil; public buildings for worship of the God they served, and for culture and recreation.

Now we are drinking water from wells that we have not dug, but they dug wells where there had not been any wells before. They left us a priceless heritage which blesses us greatly. May we build on their foundation so that we in turn may leave a legacy of industry, trust, and faith for the coming generations. (Remarks at Pioneer Day celebration commemorating the centennial of Utah's statehood, 24 July 1996.)

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