On the verge of another Pioneer Day (July 24th), this one marking the 165th anniversary of the first Mormon pioneer wagon train reaching the Salt Lake Valley, Mormon Matters takes this opportunity to examine the current state of discourse and cultural practices (in the U.S. and abroad) surrounding those who sacrificed so much to cross plains, mountains, and seas in the quest to find a place where they could establish Zion. In this episode, panelists Joanna Brooks, Gina Colvin, and Joseph and Shalisse Johnstun join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in discussing the ways they draw strength and a sense of identity from U.S. pioneer or other ancestors, examine the mixed blessing contained in the mythologizing of the pioneers—faithful, never wavering, can do it all, bear all burdens with gladness—that so often dominates discourse about them, riff a bit on the practice in many stakes of every few years organizing handcart “trek” experiences for their youth, and discuss other possible (or better!) ways Latter-day Saints might still teach coming generations to value and honor the pioneers and their many gifts still alive in the church today without relying so heavily on idealized portrayals or forced, extreme measures.
We invite you to listen and comment below! We welcome reflections on all subjects, but especially hope to hear from international voices or perspectives on LDS pioneer messaging that are informed by experiences outside the U.S., as well as about your experiences with and views on youth handcart treks.
(Forgot in the podcast to give a shout out to Scott Holley for suggesting this topic. Thanks, Scott!)
Link to essay mentioned in podcast:
Linda Sillitoe, “The Ghost of the Pioneer Woman,” in The Wilderness of Faith: Essays on Contemporary Mormon Thought, ed. John Sillito (Signature Books, 1991)