Blessed, Honored Pioneers
After the death of their beloved leader Joseph Smith, a dejected group of American Saints began a long pilgrimage to the unknown lands of the West to forge a new home in the Rocky Mountains. No group of Americans had done this before. These people, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nicknamed Mormons, set out to escape religious persecution from their American countrymen. They were Pioneers. They gave their blood, sweat, and tears to forge westward and carve out the landscape so that others could pass safely without all of the hardships they endured.
Pioneers are people who do things that, up to that point, have not been done. A Pioneer can be anyone in any situation be it good or bad. Pioneering the Western lands and a new religion was the legacy of the Nauvoo Saints.
Nauvoo The Beatiful
The city of Nauvoo was the great City of Joseph, Joseph Smith Jr. Latter-day Saints have been persecuted for their religious beliefs and political leanings in every sector of the nation they lived. It seemed that nowhere could these people find peace with their neighbors.
They claimed a new revelation had occurred. They testified that God once again had opened the heavens and spoken to a prophet by the name of Joseph. Though these Saints were not the first to seek to create a utopian society, they were pioneers in the West. They created one of the most prosperous cities in the West at the time in Nauvoo. They attempted it in Missouri, but an extermination order eventually forced them to Nauvoo.
After much tribulation and misunderstanding, these people transformed a swamp called Commerce, Illinois into Nauvoo the Beautiful. Poverty-stricken but happy, these LDS Christians, saints, toiled mightily spiritually and physically to honor God as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.
After all their sacrifice in Nauvoo, God urged them West to Pioneer at a much larger scale under the leadership of Brigham Young. They had to leave their city of peace to forge an existence farther west in the Salt Lake Valley.
Millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have stories of pioneer ancestors who forge across the West with wagons, handcarts or just by foot to join the Saints in Brigham Young's Western kingdom of God. They were Pioneers, yet, they did not end the tradition of pioneering in the Latter-day Saint culture.
All over the world, there are Saints pioneering the new way of life they learned. They leave the old life that they knew of cultural comforts to explore a newness in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Salt Lake Valley
One such modern pioneer of The Church of Jesus Christ's faith endured an emotional hell before finding the spiritual promised land ever present in her hopes and dreams. Her name is changed for her protection along with others in this telling of her true experience.
Eritrea was at a point in her life where she craved the uplifting feelings she remembered experiencing when she sang in her gospel choir in high school. Coming from a home where church attendance was not common, she worried at having nothing appropriate to wear to attend one.
Depressed and feeling unloved, she poured out her heart that God would send her to a church where she did not have to worry about what clothing she wore. She wanted a place to worship God where she could belong.
Two men from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stopped at her apartment only to be shewed away by her parents. Luckily, these men went to her neighbor's apartment, Jaye, who let them in and joined their church.
Eritrea experienced an interruption in her life by a pregnancy that occurred as she planned to join the military. The father of the child was no help. When the child was born, it was feeble and had fevers. Distraught over this new challenge, Eritrea reached out to God in faith. Ministers and other faithful prayed, praised, and sang over the child; however, the fevers grew worse.
Faye suggested to Eritrea to allow the elders from her new church to bless the child. Eritrea wanted no one else touching her new child since every prayer only seemed to make the sickness worse. When the baby took another turn for the worst, Eritrea told Faye to get her elders there to help.
The two white men blessed the child, who recovered. Eritrea decided to investigate and join the Church against the wishes of her family.
The faith was different than what she was accustomed to, but she had no clear comparison being that she had never been a member of any other church. What did stand out to her that she never considered before was witnessing whole families attend services together in worship. She saw fathers. She did not have one of those growing up.
Seeing all those men with their families, Eritrea longed for that association for herself and her new child. She began earnestly praying for the father of her child to become a Christain and make their family whole. Because of her desire to be with her child's father. she fell into old habits and found herself losing the new joy in her faith.
She received a blessing that she would have all the blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ including a marriage for time and eternity in one of the sacred temples of her faith. In her excitement, she shared the promises made to her with other faithful sisters of her congregation who knew her history.
Doubt rested in the hearts of these faithful friends until a missionary returned from serving abroad was introduced to Eritrea and fell in love with her and her child. Within six months of meeting her, he took her to the temple for marriage. Through hardship, tears, prayer, and faith, Eritrea received all the desire of her heart and continues to follow her faith to this day.
She was a pioneer going through life looking for a change to something more. Just like those saints heading out of Nauvoo to the Great Salt Lake, Eritrea was on a quest to find Zion, which she did. Pioneers come from all walks of life and can be in the most unlikely places.
The next time you think of pioneers and wonder if you have that heritage inside, think of the things that you and your family have done to make changes in your lives for the better. Is that not the pioneer spirit? Is that not walking in faith towards the unknown with hope for something better?
In that spirit, welcome blessed, honored pioneer!
Are you a Pioneer of faith or the blessed recipient of the pioneering faith of others (legacy pioneer)?
© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson