Friday, July 24, 2009

Pioneer Day

I don't have many "pioneer" ancestors. Most of my stock came across the plains on a train.

Pioneers, by definition, break trail for the rest of us. I have read their stories and cannot begin to comprehend their faith, courage and determination. Not to mention their tenacity, resourcefulness, patience and persistence. As I drive around the valleys of the Inter Mountain West and see the little towns they built and observe the order they scratched out of the wilderness, I am utterly amazed.

This is hardscrabble country. Water is scarce. The toil and sacrifice that was applied to build homes, bring water to crops, establish roads, clear fields and build Temples is beyond my comprehension. We ride so easily, so unappreciatively down the roads they paved. In my own valley, I can't cross the canal without marveling at the monumental task it represents. As I kid I floated down it on inner tubes, took a weekly ditch full from it's generous banks to water pasture and garden, and never thought twice about the herculean effort it took the claw it out of the ground.

So it is with everything we enjoy. It came at a cost we cannot comprehend and we so easily take it for granted, hardly imagining the blessings we continue to enjoy at the hands of the Pioneers.

Years ago, in a far away land, I had an experience that forever changed my view of my connection with the Pioneers. It was in the Philippines. I was a traveling Elder just arriving, with my companion, Elder Justessen, on a ferry from Iloilo to the town of Batangas. As we walked out on the main street we saw a most surprising spectacle. Traffic had been stopped and a parade was in progress. It was a little parade; no more than twenty participants. There was a pretty big crowd watching though. I couldn't believe my eyes as I saw a little train of makeshift covered wagons and Mormon pioneers march by. It was the 24th of July! Tears rolled down my face as I gratefully watched these pioneers forge the way for the gospel in this bright new land. Joy filled my heart as I watched these sweet Filipino Saints lay claim to their Pioneer heritage.

No, they had no ancestors who walked across the plains either. But they belong to them just the same, as do we all.

I will always be grateful for the pioneers in my life. They have cleared the way for me in so many ways. Their blood may not flow in my veins, but they carry me on their shoulders and I carry them in my heart.

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