In the July 2013 First Presidency Message, President Thomas S Monson asked “Can we somehow muster the courage and steadfastness of purpose that characterized the pioneers of a former generation? Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers? I know we can be. Oh, how the world needs pioneers today!” (1)
You are a pioneer
Martin Luther King Jr. said“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
In our most recent General Conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook said. “Faith is a principle of power.” (2) He goes on to describe the story recounted in Luke, chapter 8, where a woman who in 12 years had exhausted all her resources and suffered from an illness of the blood, pressed toward the Savior in a crowd. She had the faith that if she could touch him she would be healed. When she succeeded, her illness was instantly cured.
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
How many times in life have we taken a first step? How many times have we walked into the unknown, seeing only that first step before us, the direction laid out but the end not in sight? I believe many times. My most memorable first step was that of baptism into the Lord’s church. I could not see all the sweet things in my life that true conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ would bring me, but I knew that if I chose to make the one right decision of being baptized I would be on the correct path. That decision, to act on my faith in the testimony of Jesus Christ has shaped and will shape the remainder of my life. Faith is powerful first step.
Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to take that first step.
You are a pioneer.
British Author, Douglas Adams, says “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.
In October General Conference of 1989, Elder Dallin H. Oakes said, “In every nation, in every worthy occupation and activity, members of this church face hardships, overcome obstacles, and follow the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ as valiantly as the pioneers of any age. They pay their tithes and offerings. They serve as missionaries or as Church Service volunteers, or they support others who do so. Like the noble young mothers who postpone the pursuit of their personal goals in order to provide the needs of their children, they sacrifice immediate pleasures to keep commitments that are eternal. They accept callings and, in the service of others, they willingly give their time and sometimes their lives.
“They do as the Savior taught: They deny themselves; they take up their crosses daily; they follow Him. (See Luke 9:23.) These are those the Savior likened to the seed that fell on good ground: “in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, [they] keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15.)
“The fruits of the gospel issue from every honest and good heart, without regard to past origins or current positions in the Church.”
We have all served, both in and out of the church. Sometimes we serve with ease and joy, and this is good. But sometimes when we serve we can be tired, uncomfortable and downright irritable. It is then we must step back from ourselves, put off our selfish nature and do for others what they cannot do for themselves. It is then we will truly find Christ in our lives and emulate the stalwart spirit of the pioneer.
Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to serve with sincerity and integrity.
You are a pioneer.
Latter-day Saints strive to be obedient to the laws of the Gospel. The commandments instruct us on matters of duty to God, personal morality, family relationships and interactions with all God’s children. Collectively, they construct the ultimate user’s manual for our mortal and immortal existence. While you seek to keep the commandments yourself, others will observe your example and gain testimony from it.
There are many voices seeking to pull us from the user’s manual, telling us we can find short-cut and alternate directions in diverse places. Some disregard the user’s manual altogether and seek out other instructions, the results thereof being disappointment and fleeting sensation. Sometimes, by our actions, we can encourage others to follow the wrong user’s manual.
I love this quote from British author, Catherine Aird, “If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning.”
When Lehi saw the vision of the Tree of Life, he was the first of his family to reach the tree and partake of the fruit. Then he looked for his family and invited them to come to the tree with him. Not all of them came. Some did: Nephi and Sam and Sariah. But others did not, as they listened to the voices which pulled them away. Thus, we now consider this choice of Laman and Lemuel as ‘a horrible warning.”
President Monson has said,
“We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices. I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety. Remember that one with authority placed his hands on your head after you were baptized, confirming you a member of the Church and saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. As the prophet Isaiah promised, “Thine ears shall hear a word … , saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.” May we ever be in tune, that we might hear this comforting, guiding voice which will keep us safe. (4)
Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to be good examples.
You are a pioneer
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
While serving his mission in the Holy Land, people often marveled at the Savior’s willingness to forgive. Of course, he had the authority to forgive sins, but why was he so willing to do it? The answer is in His holy purpose in the plan of redemption: to be the sacrificial lamb for his brothers and sisters, who, if they repent, could be cleansed through his atoning sacrifice. And while those he taught then (and even us today) struggle to understand this great love, he has commanded us to repent and be partakers of eternal salvation.
Elder Oakes again says:
“One of the most Godlike expressions of the human soul is the act of forgiveness. Everyone is wronged at some point by someone, and many suffer serious wrongs. Christians everywhere stand in awe of those pioneers who have climbed that steep slope to the spiritual summit attained by those who have heeded the Savior’s command to forgive all men. (See Matt. 6:14–15; D&C 64:9–10.) Forgiveness is mortality’s mirror image of the mercy of God.
“…many modern Saints do their pioneering on the frontiers of their own attitudes and emotions. The proverb says, “He that ruleth his spirit [is better] than he that taketh a city.” (Prov. 16:32.) Modern Saints know that one who subdues his own spirit is just as much a pioneer as one who conquers a continent. (3)
Forgiveness need not be a mountain we cannot climb, or a soft word we cannot speak. While some waste useless energy on harboring grudges and anger, others find that forgiveness needs to be awarded often and wholeheartedly. Sometimes we do not know that we have need to forgive others until distasteful or unkind memories surface, but we can forge through pain and sorrow to feel the blessed relief and Godliness on the other side.
Brothers and sisters, I ask you to be strong.
You are a pioneer.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
(1) Thomas S. Monson, https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/07/the-world-needs-pioneers-today?lang=eng
(2) Quentin L. Cook https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/foundations-of-faith?lang=eng
(3) Dallin H Oakes, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1989/10/modern-pioneers?lang=eng
(4) Thomas S. Monson, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/keep-the-commandments?lang=eng