Latter-day Saint Life

Why we honor pioneers: Insights from President Ballard, Elder Soares, and President Jones


Editor's note: "This week from the pulpit" highlights recent messages by General Authorities, General Officers, and leaders of the Church.

July 24th is normally a day of parades and parties across Utah in remembrance of when the early pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Due to the coronavirus, no large memorial gatherings will take place this year, but three Church leaders are still seizing the opportunity to remind Latter-day Saints of a deeper purpose for honoring Pioneer Day.

“What we’re celebrating is really the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fact that He inspired early pioneer leaders to find this great valley and settle it for us to live in,” said President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in a video with Church News

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Crossroads of the world | Why Church leaders honor past and present pioneers

According to Church News, Ballard’s mind recently turned to the life of Mary Fielding Smith. As he considered the sacrifices she made to help settle the Salt Lake Valley, President Ballard concluded, “I’d like to be half as good as she was.” He continued by saying that when you study the lives of pioneer women, “you study greatness. You study faith, trust, love for, and dedicated service to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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Read a full summary of Elder Ballard’s remarks here.

Along with President Ballard, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and President Joy D. Jones of the Primary General Presidency recently testified that reflecting on the lives of early pioneers can draw us closer to Christ.

Elder Soares grew emotional as he expressed gratitude not only for the early pioneers in Utah, but also for the pioneers of the Church in his home country of Brazil.

“I owe much of what is happening today in my life to these wonderful people who helped me to pave the way,” Elder Soares told Church News.

Elder Soares strives to honor early pioneers by following their example of learning to “hear Him.” 

“They heard the voice of the Lord, and they followed it. And we can hear the voice of the Lord in our day, as President Russell M. Nelson has been teaching the whole Church,” he said. “In doing so, I believe we can really enjoy the miracles the early pioneers experienced when they were crossing the plains and trying to find their place in the world. There are so many miracles in their stories, so many things that happened that can apply in our lives today.”

Read a full summary of Elder Soares’s remarks here.

President Jones pointed out that early pioneers are not only a Christlike example for adults, but also for children.

“What a gift that is for our children, to recognize these precious little ones who went day after day . . . keeping their faith strong in Jesus Christ” she told Church News

President Jones went on to emphasize how teaching children about the hardships pioneer youth faced can provide inspiration for overcoming their own trials today. She also shared that studies have shown that children who know more about their families are stronger and more resilient.

“We’re doing the very same thing that the early pioneers did. We are each experiencing our own journey. We are crossing our own trails. We are moving forward with faith in Jesus Christ just as they did,” she said.

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Read a full summary of President Jones’ remarks here.

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Lead image: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.

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