Living prophets have much to say about pioneers. Beginning with the brave souls who crossed the plains and settled in the American West, to modern pioneers who lead out in faith across the globe, their tales inspire faith. If we are to benefit from them, we must have the same firm convictions, know what they knew, and understand why they were willing to sacrifice. Following are some words of our living prophets:
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:
“It is not enough to study or reenact the accomplishments of our pioneers. We need to identify the great, eternal principles they applied to achieve all they achieved for our benefit and then apply those principles to the challenges of our day. In that way we honor their pioneering efforts, and we also reaffirm our heritage and strengthen its capacity to bless our own posterity and ‘those millions of our Heavenly Father’s children who have yet to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ We are all pioneers in doing so….
“The foremost quality of our pioneers was faith. With faith in God, they did what every pioneer does—they stepped forward into the unknown: a new religion, a new land, a new way of doing things. With faith in their leaders and in one another, they stood fast against formidable opposition. When their leader said, ‘This is the right place,’ they trusted, and they stayed. When other leaders said, ‘Do it this way,’ they followed in faith.
“Two companion qualities evident in the lives of our pioneers, early and modern, are unselfishness and sacrifice. Our Utah pioneers excelled at putting ‘the general welfare and community goals over individual gain and personal ambition.’ That same quality is evident in the conversion stories of modern pioneers.
Upon receiving a testimony of the truth of the restored gospel, they have unhesitatingly sacrificed all that was required to assure that its blessings will be available to their children and to generations unborn. …
“Other great qualities in our early pioneers were obedience, unity, and cooperation. We have all thrilled at the example of the Saints who responded to President Brigham Young’s call to rescue the stranded handcart companies, or to pull up roots in settled communities and apply their talents and lives to colonizing new areas….
“…These pioneer qualities and the others I have mentioned—integrity, inclusion, cooperation, unity, unselfishness, sacrifice, and obedience—are as vital today as when they guided the actions of our pioneer forebears, early and modern. To honor those pioneers, we must honor and act upon the eternal principles that guided their actions. As
President Hinckley reminded us last April, ‘We honor best those who have gone before when we serve well in the cause of truth.’ That cause of truth is the cause of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose servants they were, and whose servants we should strive to be. I testify of this and pray that we, too, may be ‘true to the faith that our parents have cherished,’ in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(Excerpted from “Following the Pioneers,” October 1997 General Conference.)
Elder M. Russell Ballard said:
“In my 20 years as a General Authority, I have seen the worldwide expansion of the Church, and I marvel at the results of the work of our pioneers in every country where they, through their faith and sacrifice, established the Church.
“We must be sure that the legacy of faith received from the pioneers who came before us is never lost. Let their heroic lives touch our hearts, and especially the hearts of our youth, so the fire of true testimony and unwavering love for the Lord and His Church will blaze brightly within each one of us as it did in our faithful pioneers.
Their accomplishments were possible because they knew, as I know, that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, restored the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that this Church will continue to roll forth until it fills the whole earth.”
(Excerpted from “Faith in Every Footstep,” October 1996 General Conference.)
President Thomas S. Monson said:
“That first trek of 1847, organized and led by Brigham Young, is described by historians as one of the great epics of United States history. Mormon pioneers by the hundreds suffered and died from disease, exposure, or starvation. There were some who, lacking wagons and teams, literally walked the 1,300 miles across the plains and through the mountains, pushing and pulling handcarts.
“As the long, painful struggle approached its welcome end, a jubilant spirit filled each heart. Tired feet and weary bodies somehow found new strength.
“Time-marked pages of a dusty pioneer journal speak movingly to us: ‘We bowed ourselves down in humble prayer to Almighty God with hearts full of thanksgiving to Him, and dedicated this land unto Him for the dwelling place of His people.’
“We honor those who endured incredible hardships. We praise their names and reflect on their sacrifices.
“What about our time? Are there pioneering experiences for us? Will future generations reflect with gratitude on our efforts, our examples? You young women, wherever you are this night, can indeed be pioneers in courage, in faith, in charity, in determination.
“You can strengthen one another; you have the capacity to notice the unnoticed. When you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel, you can reach out and rescue others of your age.”
(Excerpted from “Pioneers All,” April 1997 General Conference.)
Elder Quentin L. Cook said:
“A predominant attribute in the lives of our pioneer ancestors is the faith of the sisters. Women by divine nature have the greater gift and responsibility for home and children and nurturing there and in other settings.
In light of this, the faith of the sisters in being willing to leave their homes to cross the plains for the unknown was inspiring. If one had to characterize their most significant attribute, it would be their unwavering faith in the restored gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The heroic accounts of what these pioneer women sacrificed and accomplished as they crossed the plains is a priceless legacy to the Church. I am moved by the account of Elizabeth Jackson, whose husband Aaron died after the last crossing of the Platte River with the Martin handcart company. She wrote:
“’I will not attempt to describe my feelings at finding myself thus left a widow with three children, under such excruciating circumstances. … I believe … that my sufferings for the Gospel’s sake will be sanctified unto me for my good. …
“’I [appealed] to the Lord, … He who had promised to be a husband to the widow, and a father to the fatherless. I appealed to him and he came to my aid.’
“Elizabeth said she was writing the history on behalf of those who passed through like scenes with the hope that posterity would be willing to suffer and sacrifice all things for the kingdom of God.
“I believe the women of the Church today meet that challenge and are every bit as strong and faithful. The priesthood leadership of this Church at all levels gratefully acknowledges the service, sacrifice, commitment, and contribution of the sisters.
“Much of what we accomplish in the Church is due to the selfless service of women. Whether in the Church or in the home, it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us.”
(Excerpted from “LDS Women are Incredible!,” April 2011
Elder L. Tom Perry said:
“Former United States president Ronald Reagan has been quoted as saying, ‘I do not want to go back to the past; I want to go back to the past way of facing the future.’ His counsel still resonates within me. There is something about reviewing the lessons of the past to prepare us to face the challenges of the future. What a glorious legacy of faith, courage, and ingenuity those noble early Mormon pioneers have left for us to build upon. My admiration for them deepens the longer I live.
“Embracing the gospel resulted in a complete change of life for them. They left everything behind—their homes, their businesses, their farms, and even their beloved family members—to journey into a wilderness. It must have been a real shock when Brigham Young announced,
‘This is the … place.’ Before them was a vast desert wasteland, barren of green hills, trees, and beautiful meadows which most of those early pioneers had known. With firm faith in God and their leaders, the early pioneers went to work to create beautiful communities in the shadows of the mountains….
“Embedded in the gospel of Jesus Christ there are eternal principles and truths that will last far longer than the principles of building ships and roofs. You and I, as members of the Lord’s true Church, have special access and insight into these eternal principles and truths, especially when we listen to the Spirit for individual guidance and hear the prophet’s voice as he declares the will of God to the members of the Church. You and I both know how important these eternal principles and truths are in our lives. I’m not sure those early pioneers could have faced the perils and uncertainties of the future without them, and neither can we. They are the only true and eternal way to face the future, especially in these increasingly perilous and uncertain times in which we now live.”
(Excepted from “The Past Way of Facing the Future,” October 2009 General Conference.)