This post was originally scheduled to appear on Pioneer Day, but I had a bit of an accident and had knee surgery the day before, so I was not able to post it. Since we’ve been discussing pioneers in Sunday School the last couple of weeks, it is, at least, timely for that reason.
Many Mormons are very proud of their pioneer heritage as well they should be. After the death of Joseph Smith, thousands of Mormons hit the dusty trail between the years of 1847 and 1869. Ultimately, 70,000 would make the over 1000-mile journey from the Midwest to Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. In addition to wagon trains and handcarts, 238 Saints made the journey by sea, a 24,000-mile trip aboard the ship, Brooklyn, from New York to Yerba Buena (present day San Francisco).
These Saints, came not only from Nauvoo, but from the eastern US and many countries of Europe as well. One can only wonder what they thought as they looked out over the wide-open spaces and thought, “We’re going how many miles? In a wagon, on foot or pushing a handcart?”
But, they did because they believed. Ultimately, they had faith. They wanted to reach Zion. Some turned back, deciding they were not up to the journey or possibly, didn’t believe enough, not unlike today. There was hardship, disease and death, but the great majority of those who set out, made it.
I took my title from the famous speech, “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) given by President John F. Kennedy in West Berlin on June 26, 1963. He was showing the solidarity and support of the people of the United States for West Germany 22 months after the Soviet-supported Communist state of East Germany erected the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement of people between East and West.
Like many others who have joined the Church, I too, made a pioneering journey, from Judaism to Mormonism. As the only members from our respective families, my wife and I left our religions to embrace what we believe is the true Church of Jesus Christ. Much to our family’s dismay, I might add.
We are not alone as pioneers. Millions have chosen to embrace the Gospel and join the Church. I truly marvel at the fact so many from outside the North America continent can embrace what was an “American Church.” Such that now there are more members outside the United States than inside. Not all who join stay. But a great many do.
Are you a pioneer? Do you have that pioneer spirit?