I gave the following talk on Sunday, July 20, 1997, the 150th anniversary of the entry into the Salt Lake Valley of the Pioneers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This was also the first meeting of the Laguna Creek 3rd Ward, Sacrament California Stake.
150 years ago this week the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley after over 3 months of travel from Winter Quarter’s Nebraska, and a year and 5 months since they left their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois.
What is a pioneer? President Monson, in April Conference, suggested a pioneer is one who goes before to prepare a way for others. Who are pioneers in your heritage? Let me tell you about mine. I do this not to boast of my ancestors. Rather, I would like you to think about similar situations in your own.
My mother comes from a long line of pioneers. Her great grandfather crossed the plains in 18?, and was asked by Brigham Young to colonize a town north of Cedar City, Utah. His wife crossed the plains by herself in 1852 after joining the church in Denmark. She became his 3rd wife. They must have been people of great determination and convictions to do such things. I would find it difficult to
- Join a new church
- Leave my family,
- Travel to China,
- March half-way across it
- And enter into a new form of marriage than I had never experienced.
I have been interested in the family traits that have been passed down to me. My mother speaks of her grandfather’s sweet tooth. She remembers seeing a bag of sugar by his bed with a spoon in it. When he needed something sweet, he would simply take a bit. Simple an effective.
Be careful of the family stories you tell your children. After hearing this story from my mother a few times, I decided to try it one day when she was gone. My mother had a series of containers on the counter in the kitchen with flour, sugar and other things in them. I went to the kitchen and pulled the lid off of the sugar container and pulled out a big spoonful of it. If it was good for great grand father, it was good for me.
I put it all in my mother, and started to savor that sweet flavor—for about two seconds. Then I realized this wasn’t sweet at all, it was salty. In fact, it tasted down right terrible. I needed a drink, and quick! I don’t think my mouth feels so good. I don’t think I feel so good. I don’t think that was such a good idea.
Have you learned from some of the mistakes your ancestors made? Have they been pioneers in showing you what you shouldn’t do, as well as what you should?
My father’s ancestors were not members of the church. My father joined the church after marrying my mother. In fact, his grand father didn’t have such a great impression of Mormons when my father was a boy. Growing up in western Utah, his grand father warned him in a couple of letters to “not let those Mormons get a hold of you Bob.”
Although his grand father didn’t understand Mormons all that well, doesn’t mean they aren’t pioneers to me. In fact, I feel a tremendous connection to my father’s ancestors. Let me explain why.
Before moving to California four years ago, my family lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kari took our children and went to her mother’s home in Southeastern Utah while I packed what we needed in our car and drove. I had recently been studying my father’s family genealogy, and was surprised to learned some had lived in Minnesota. A number of other families lived in Iowa on their way West.
As I drove South out of Minnesota into Iowa, I decided to stop and see if I could learn anything about one of the families in Eldora, Iowa. I was surprised to find a listing of their burial place, and find a map of their homestead among other things.
I continued following these pioneers westward as they moved forward to find a better life. I stopped next at the Seward, Nebraska to see if I could find information about their daughter and husband. I was surprised to find my great-great grandfather’s obituary in the “Blue Valley Blade” newspaper. He was called “one of the oldest and most highly respected citizens of Seward county.”
And on my journey went. I did not walk as some of them must. I rode in my air conditioned car mile after mile. I ate healthy food, and slept in a comfortable bed every night. But at times I imagined them sitting next to me, in the empty passenger seat of the car. They seem to be taking turns, each one telling me where to stop next to find out a little bit about their lives. Each one seem to be whispering to me about their life, what they had done, and what it meant to me.
They certainly prepared a way for me. The were noble, well respected people in their communities, and loved of their families. They have left that legacy to me. They prepared a way for me, that I might know what type of life I should live.
Have you thought about your “pioneer” ancestors recently? What legacy did they leave to you whether a member of this church or not? Perhaps you should share with your children this evening how they make you feel.
South Cottonwood Ward
On my recent family vacation I was reminded of another connection to our pioneer ancestry that I had forgotten. I grew up in the South Cottonwood Ward, in Murray, Utah. The South Cottonwood ward was the first ward established outside of Salt Lake City after the arrival of the pioneers. It was formed in February 1849, 1 and ½ years after the pioneers entered the valley. Next year it will be 150 years old.
The chapel of the building we met in was the original chapel built to house the ward. Next to the building was a granary built by the relief society to house grain. The street in front of the building was used by the wagons hauling granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon to the Salt Lake Temple. The church was approximately half way. The teams would stop and stay over night at the church on their way to the Salt Lake Temple.
In preparing for this talk I called my mother to ask for more information about the South Cottonwood ward. I learned that this ward has had 24 different Bishops. Originally it covered the entire south half of the Salt Lake Valley, and area probably as large as our stake currently covers. It was an old ward, providing light to the community for many years.
Laguna Creek 3rd Ward
Now what does the South Cottonwood ward have to do with us her in the first meeting of the Laguna Creek 3rd Ward? May I suggest that it has a lot to do with it. Imagine those who met in that building nearly 150 years ago for that first meeting. Perhaps it was under the direction of Brigham Young, or Heber C. Kimball.
Do you think they had any vision of what their ward would be like 150 years hence? Could they see the wonderful work that would be done by the Relief Society over 150 years? Could the have known of the new converts who joined the church because of missionaries sent from the ward, missionaries trained in the MIA? Could they have seen the hungry that would be fed by their contributions, or the Primary children raised up with a love for our Heavenly Father? Could they have seen how many families would be moved by the Elder’s Quorum on Saturday morning?
I doubt they could have comprehended what that ward organization would accomplish in 150 years. And so it is with us. But let’s take a moment and imagine what our ward will be in 150 years when a new Bishop is called. Although our names will probably not be remembered, they will remember what we have done to begin this ward.
We are pioneers. We here today are pioneers. We are establishing traditions that will be carried on after us. Let us make them worthy traditions! Our warm smiles and friendly handshakes will welcome the old and new to our ward. Let us welcome everyone! The way we serve others will be a grand heritage. Let us serve with faith!
O Ye Mountains High (34)
O ye Mountains High, notes
Text: Charles W. Penrose
Music: H. S. Thompson
Scriptures: Isaiah 2:2-3; Doctrine and Covenants 64:41-43
O ye mountains high, where the clear blue sky
Arches over the vales of the free,
Where the pure breezes blow and the clear streamlets flow,
How I’ve longed to your bosom to flee!
O Zion! dear Zion! land of the free,
Now my own mountain home, unto thee I have come;
All my fond hopes are centered in thee.
Tho the great and the wise all thy beauties despise,
To the humble and pure thou art dear;
Tho the haughty may smile and the wicked revile,
Yet we love thy glad tidings to hear.
O Zion! dear Zion! home of the free,
Tho thou wert forced to fly to thy chambers on high,
Yet we’ll share joy and sorrow with thee.
In thy mountain retreat, God will strengthen thy feet;
Without fear of thy foes thou shalt tread;
And their silver and gold, as the prophets have told,
Shall be brought to adorn thy fair head.
O Zion! dear Zion! home of the free,
Soon thy towers shall shine with a splendor divine,
And eternal thy glory shall be.
Here our voices we’ll raise, and we’ll sing to thy praise,
Sacred home of the prophets of God.
Thy deliv’rance is nigh; thy oppresors shall die;
And thy land shall be freedom’s abode.
O Zion! dear Zion! land of the free,
In thy temples we’ll bend; all thy rights we’ll defend;
And our home shall be ever with thee.