To the Mountains of Ephraim

This is a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting today.

I love the old pioneer anthems:

Ye elders of Israel, come join now with me
And seek out the righteous, where’er they may be –
In desert, on mountain, on land, or on sea –
And bring them to Zion, the pure and the free.

O Babylon, O Babylon, we bid thee farewell;
We’re going to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell.


… We’ll now go up and serve the Lord,
Obey his truth and learn his word.

For there we shall be taught the law that will go forth,
With truth and wisdom fraught, to govern all the earth.
Forever there his ways we’ll tread,
And save ourselves with all our dead.

These lines poetically express our irresistible longing to gather with each other, to learn the ways of God, to be “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God,” and to obey the command “to build unto the Lord an house whereby he could reveal unto his people the ordinances” of his temple.

We have been a gathering people since the earliest days of this dispensation: early converts gathered near Joseph Smith in New York, and moved as a body from Colesville, to Kirtland, to Missouri, to Nauvoo, to the camps of Israel in Iowa, to Winter Quarters, and finally to this valley.

My own family did not follow the main body of the Church in its movements. For ten years after their conversion, my Taylor ancestors remained in Batavia, New York. Yet still they gathered, in the sense that they and other converts formed a branch there, hosting traveling missionaries, sending their offerings to the church, and sharing news through letters. In December 1847, an elder brought them word that Brigham Young had reached the Salt Lake Valley that summer and returned to Winter Quarters, to prepare for moving the entire church westward. That elder, speaking of my family and their branch, wrote in his diary, “There was a noble few whose hearts beat quick to gather to Zion … often speaking to me about going.”

My family sold their farm that winter, and in April, as soon as the ice broke up, they took the earliest possible boat on a long and hazardous river journey, from Lake Erie through the Pennsylvania canals, down the Ohio River to St. Louis, and up the Mississippi to Winter Quarters. There the same missionary recorded one of the few personal notes I have about my earliest convert ancestors:

I spent the time in helping Bro. Taylor’s family to move into a small log hut, a great disparity from what they had been used to. Yet they seemed happy and content, intent upon getting to the valley at the sacrifice of all things, and on Thursday he went to Brigham and gave him all the money he had desiring only he would give him a fit out for the valley.

Another pioneer, a woman, recorded the next great event in my ancestors’ lives:

While we lay encamped a sister by the name of Taylor died with the measles. It was a sorrowful affair. She left a husband and four children to bewail her loss. To make a lone grave by the way side at the beginning of our journey caused our hearts to flow out with sympathy for the poor young girls, left to pursue the wearisome route over the desert without a mother.

Representative of the tens of thousands of pioneers whom we honor this week, the rest of the family stayed on the path, gathering with the Saints in the west. Also representative of the early Saints committed to helping the righteous to gather “out of Babylon,” my grandfather went East a few years later as a missionary; after completing his mission, he died near Fort Laramie on his return toward his family in Utah.

The physical hardships and the deaths on the trail are often all we remember of the pioneer experience. It is worth remembering that many wagon companies came through without any loss of life, and that there were joyous experiences on the plains as well as sad ones. Josiah Gibbs, one of my favorite pioneers, was a 12-year-old boy when he pioneered in 1857, and all his life he remembered the trail as a 12-year-old boy would notice it. He remembered huge, uncomplaining oxen pulling the wagons, and how the dust would fill their eyes until, as he put it, “almost human tears course down their drawn and wrinkled cheeks.”

He recalled chasing prairie dogs, and catching sand lizards to scare the girls with. He carried a vivid mental picture of the end of day on the plains:

Water is procured, tents are pitched, cooking utensils and food are taken from convenient places in the wagons and soon the gathering twilight … is relieved by a score or more of cheerful camp fires. … the notes of a bugle call the pilgrims together for evening worship. … out upon the evening air, rising and falling … float the words and music:

“Oh, My Father, thou that dwellest
In thy high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence
And again behold thy face.”

We then hear the voice of prayer invoking the protection of the Almighty …

The lights are extinguished, the camp fires burn low … and in a short time … not a sound is heard except, perhaps the moan of some sick brother or sister, the wailing of an infant … or the soft footfall of the camp guard as he paces his lonely vigil.

We also honor pioneers whose journey to Zion began before they hitched up wagons or put their shoulders to handcarts. Before they reached that point, many had already crossed an ocean by ship, and half of North America by rail, all of which travel had its own challenges:

A missionary guiding a company of European converts in 1868 wrote of having to stand in the July sun at Albany, waiting to change from one train to another. “[T]he heat was such as I never witnessed before.” Conditions were no better once the emigrants boarded the train cars.

[A] sister by the name of Mary Watson, died through the effects of the heat … she was left at Albany arrangements being made for her burial.

At … 6:30 a bro James Caldwell aged 70 died through sun strok[e].

At about 8 P.M. our hearts were made sad by the death of Elder Ezra P. Clark [through] sun[stroke] … His body was brought on to Fonda Fulton County …

At about 11. the same evening a young sister named Margrett Boulton died aged 19, through Sun stroke. 11.30 Margrett Jones, aged 30 (a Welsh sister) also died leaving a husband & 5 small children these two Sisters body’s were left at Cyracuse …

When historians compile the lists of those who died while trying to reach Zion, the record is limited to those who died at sea, or on the trail. There is no monument to these forgotten pioneers – those who died in between the sea and the frontier, or those who had the grief of leaving the bodies of their loved ones on railroad sidings, praying that strangers would keep a promise to bury them after the train moved on.

And pioneering did not end with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. Twenty years later, a chartered train carrying 156 English converts and 9 returning missionaries left Norwalk, Virginia. It was raining when they left, and continued to rain all afternoon and into the night. In the darkness, the engineer did not see that a flooding creek had washed away a bridge. The engine shot across the chasm and wrecked on the far side of the creek. The baggage car carrying the emigrants’ luggage almost reached the far side, but smashed, with the destruction of all their belongings. Two passenger cars plunged 30 feet into the water below, with passengers, seats, heating stoves, and other wreckage landing atop each other in the waist deep creek. Missionaries from the third passenger car, which derailed but did not wreck, scrambled down the bank, fearing the worst when they heard no sound of human voices in the wreckage.

Mary Clayborne, inside the wreck, reported:

I was awake … when the car went over, but most of the party were asleep. I was thrown about ten feet on top of a dozen people, and it was several minutes before any of us realized what had happened. Water was running into the car, and we all thought that we had been plunged into a river, and expected every minute to be our last. Not a word was spoken, and the only whisper I heard was from a poor woman near me who murmured, ‘My babies! May God take care of my babies!’ It seemed an age after the accident occurred to when Elder Payne called out to us, and then the silence was broken, and oh, how glad we were to say that we were alive.

Everyone was alive, although there were injuries and broken bones. Twenty-four hours later, the Saints were still alive, after a second train wreck, when the relief train sent to their rescue was rear-ended by another train. What commitment did it take for those Saints to board a third train to carry them to Zion? What courage was displayed by the next company to emigrate, after hearing the news of such hardships? They were all pioneers.

We also honor the pioneers who gathered in other places, in other times, after the call went out to build Zion throughout the world.

Léon Fargier was a former sailor and a carpenter when he and his wife joined the Church in Valence, France, in 1932. Missionary work had always moved slowly in France, especially during the Depression years when few American Saints could afford to serve foreign missions, but there were a handful of Saints scattered throughout the country – an elderly woman in this city, a young mother and her children in that one. Elder Fargier was called as a local missionary, and traveled with the American elders to hold services in various cities, so that these isolated members could gather in twos and threes, and partake of the Sacrament.

In June 1940, Elder Fargier received a letter from the mission office in Paris:

I have just received a letter from the First Presidency telling me to close the office in Paris and return to the United States. …

My departure leaves you as the only active priesthood holder in France. I know that you will do your best to use the talents the Lord has given you.

For six years, until the European relief tour of Ezra Taft Benson in 1946, Brother Fargier shepherded the isolated French members under wartime conditions. He traveled throughout the country, sometimes with the train pass he held as a government worker, and by foot and by bicycle when trains weren’t available. He blessed the sick, he blessed babies, he baptized children. He took the Sacrament to women who had no other contact with the Church. He kept track of members as they became refugees. And he remained faithful after the war, serving until he was a very old man in Grenoble. He and his wife Claire passed away in 1981. One year later, the Geneva Stake of Zion was organized, including a ward in Grenoble. I was a missionary in Grenoble then, and know the esteem in which Brother Fargier was held, as the pioneer in that corner of France.

Sometimes we have pioneers who race ahead of the missionaries. When Zion is too slow to spread her stakes, the pioneers call us to gather to them. As early as 1946 and frequently thereafter, the First Presidency received letters from citizens of Nigeria, pleading for missionaries and Church literature and baptism. It would be 40 years before these pioneer Saints received those blessings, and we’re probably all familiar with the response once the way was opened for the gathering of the Saints in Africa.

If we had a screen, I would show you pictures of another pioneer trek I read about this week. A missionary couple serving in the African nation of Cameroon posted a letter and photographs on the Internet, documenting the travel in 2005 of 43 Cameroonian Saints to the newly opened temple in Nigeria. … (see this link from our sideblog for this story)

[Removed here are remarks personal to our very international ward, referring to members of the congregation who have shared their dramatic and highly intimate stories of “coming to Zion” from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Sierra Leone, and other places.]

With Pioneer Day, we honor those who, no matter the hardships, accepted the gospel, were baptized, and gathered with the Saints. The best known crossed the plains to build the community we live in now. Less well known, but just as worthy of honor and remembrance, are those who gathered with the Saints in later years, or in places far removed from this valley. The pioneers are all those who have blessed Zion with their unity and commitment. That includes very many in this congregation – those who, in Neal A. Maxwell’s phrase, with “quiet heroism [made your] way across the border into belief.”

May we remember with love and respect those who blazed the trail we all follow …

42 comments for “To the Mountains of Ephraim

  1. Sometimes we have pioneers who race ahead of the missionaries. When Zion is too slow to spread her stakes, the pioneers call us to gather to them.

    Sometimes the Lord moves us where He wants us to live and spread the gospel. Sometimes those destinations are far away from family and friends and the expectations of “where I want to live”, but our pioneer heritage demands that we move, anyway.

  2. Ardis,

    That was fantastic. I do get concerned sometimes about how we dwell on pioneer heritage in the presence of new converts, and I think you did a great job of extending its meaning to newer members of the Church. Well spoken.

  3. I was longing for a Pioneer Day talk today, after having two Recycled Conference Talks from our High Council speakers today. And no Pioneer Day songs! I’m a convert–none of my ancestors crossed the plains, but I still claim the Mormon Pioneer story as my own. My children and my students know that I will cry at any story that includes a pioneer. Something about their noble sacrifice is so beautiful, so epic and archetypal, that it moves me deeply. Thank you Ardis!

  4. Two questions:

    1. It was Pioneer Day? No hint at my ward today. Remembering it seems to be a dying tradition away from the Utah corridor.

    2. They’re letting single women give talks in church now?

    (Just kidding, obviously. Great talk!)

  5. Ha! Kevin, our new bishop went to a three-speaker format a few months ago. Today it was a couple and me, but often it’s three totally unrelated people. Such a small and easy change, yet it has brought all of us single people out of the shadows and given us opportunities that most of us haven’t had in years.

    I understand why people outside of the western states don’t care as much about Pioneer Day as we do here, but I think it’s a little sad. As BiV said, it’s our heritage, whether it’s our blood or not. We need to broaden the definition of “pioneer” beyond just us “old stock” patting ourselves on the back, and it needs to be specific and sincere, not just a throwaway line about “of course, all converts are pioneers.” That’s like all the sops we throw to women, or single people, or others when we don’t REALLY care enough about inclusion. So that’s why I went the direction I did, and am glad to know — thanks, Dan — that it seems to have worked.

    Thanks, Mark, and queuno, and Guy.

  6. In 1993 we had an exhibit at the Church Museum about the Latter-day Saints of West Africa. It was titled A People Prepared. When we started researching for this exhibit we assumed that the West Africans were being prepared to receive the gospel. Before the exhibit was opened, without a change of title, it was clear to our exhibit team that it was we who were needing to be prepared to receive them. They were ready for the gospel and had been for years! It was humbling to come to know their pioneer stories. One of the things that especially impressed me is that after the gospel came to them, many of them became very serious students of Church History. Their interest was not at all acedemic, but rather to see what was coming next for them. They saw themselves as replicating early Church History. Even when serious persecutions were their lot for a few years they said they “knew it would happen.” They had already read about it and were expecting it. Such amazing people–as indeed ALL pioneers are.

  7. Wonderful, Ardis.

    My 12-year-old daughter gave her first Sacrament Meeting talk today on “Pioneer Heritage”. I won’t include the whole thing, but I want to share a few paragraphs, in the spirit of echoing Ardis’ message about modern pioneers.

    “I was asked to talk on pioneer heritage. It is easy to talk about my own personal pioneer heritage. I am the 7th descendant on my mom’s side and at least the 5th on my dad’s. But I wasn’t asked to talk about mine, just pioneer heritage in general . . .

    What things were so important to them to make them go through the persecution and death and even at times to leave their homes and families? Their belief that God is our Father, Jesus atoned for our sins, the Book of Mormon is the word of God, there are present-day prophets, and Jesus’ church had been restored are just a few.

    Everyone has a pioneer in their family, the first one to join the church. My ancestors who lived in the 1800’s are mine. Sister H is the pioneer for her family. Brother and Sister P are for theirs. For (this) area, people like Sister R, Brother and Sister L, Brother and Sister A, and Brother and Sister M are the pioneers.

    As we celebrate Pioneer Day it’s important to honor the early saints who built the church, but it is equally important to live our beliefs as strongly and openly as they lived theirs. They were willing to endure persecution and death for their beliefs. Are we willing to stand up for ours?

    Also, it’s important to honor pioneers in our own ward and support them as they try to provide a heritage for their descendants.

    As a youth, it is important for me to remember and appreciate my pioneer heritage so that I will be able to teach and pass on this heritage to my children and future generations.

  8. While you’re right that we all have the impulse to gather with other believers for the puposes described by Alma the Elder when baptizing at the Waters of Mormon. But I wonder if some of the amazing sacrifices undertaken by our ancestors (and by others since) were not in response to the workings of the Holy Ghost as the “spirit of gathering” that many of them mention in their diaries and journals–something that probably doesn’t work on us the same way today. Whatever the origins of the “gathering” impulse for them, I marvel at what they undertook without much if any idea about what they’d be encountering. We (I, at least) would have a hard time doing something like that without being able to see more of the end when undertaking it. They had a lot of faith–more than I do, I think. I wish I knew more about what they were feeling and thinking when they undertook their form of gathering.

    Excellent and thoughtful talk.

  9. Thanks, all.

    Plutarch, I think you’re right. There is even something in George D. Watt’s history, which I can’t remember well enough to quote, about his spiritual intimation that he would be going to Nauvoo well before the idea of immigration and gathering was broached by the apostles who were then in England as missionaries.

    Jacob, I work with a lot of never published (usually never even transcribed) original records in the church archives — it’s a wonderful place for discovering new stories. While I appreciate the value of retelling the old ones, it has kind of become my “thing” to find new stories and new people to make the same points we are used to making with familiar stories.

  10. Wow, Ardis. What a fabulous talk. Thanks for sharing (and making me so jealous of the lucky members of your ward!)

  11. I got to be there when Ardis gave her talk, nyah nyah nyah nyah. Need further proof of it’s brilliance? All the people in the chapel overflow were actually listening rather than chattering. It was cool.

    And to further brag about my ward, our bishop not only went to a 3 speaker format, he often asks one member of a married couple to speak while leaving the spouse for another time, a helpful move in getting people to see us as individuals with merit based upon our marriages. It’s great–less stress during preparation, more ward unity, and (well, I am from FMH so I have to say it) more women with substantial talks which do not consist primarily of “this is the story of our courtship and now my husband will handle the actual topic.”) Ardis’ fantabulous talk came 2 weeks after the first Independence Day talks I’ve ever enjoyed in my life.

    I have a crush on my ward.

  12. English teacher types “its” as “it’s” AND ellides the word “not” from the key phrase “merit based upon our marriages.” Shudder and apologies. I’m sleepy.

  13. BYU English Professor Eric Eliason argues in his dissertation “Celebrating Zion: Pioneers in Mormon Popular Historical Expression” (BYU Studies reprint, 42-45) that the traditional notion of “the pioneer” is rapidly losing significance for the Church outside of Utah. He argues that Mormons have utilized four strategies to deal with this dilemma: abandonment (I think that’s what we’re seeing in wards outside of Utah that don’t even mention Pioneer Day), exportation (I heard that there’s a suburb of Dallas that has big Pioneer Day celebrations), replacement (Eliason argues that Book of Mormon sacred history is replacing the the pioneers as our great mythic unifier), and reinterpretation (which we see in Ardis’ fabulous talk, where she reinterprets the pioneer as any first generation convert).

    While I agree with Eliason that the traditional notion of “the pioneer” is undergoing a transformation, I think there’s ample evidence that it is persisting and is not about to disappear. When one looks at the major commemorations celebrated by the institutional Church over the last ten years, we have the 1997 sesquicentennial of the Great Trek, the 2006 sesquicentennial of the Willie and Martin handcart companies, and the 2007 rededication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Pioneer Day may not be observed much outside of the Mormon Corridor, but the Church still sees great value in commemorating its pioneer past.

  14. Exportation and reinterpretation are the order of the day down here. I think that’s much more faithful to the mission of Mormonism than abandonment or replacement.

  15. Obvious threadjack, but I have to ask, since multiple people have mentioned it in multiple threads:

    Do wards in Utah commonly have couples speak in the same Sacrament Meeting? I have lived outside Utah for most of the last 20 years, and I can’t remember the last time I heard a couple speak in the same SM.

  16. Since I joined the Church in 1979 the wards I have been in have almost exclusively had couples speak in Sacrament Meeting. I’ve lived in wards in North Carolina, Massachusetts, Eastern Canada, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, Hawaii, Nevada, California, Texas, and Utah. Ray, where is it that the wards are so enlightened??

  17. Thank you, Ardis. These are fantastic.

    So many stories are forgotten. I love how you tell the stories. The saints whose tales are lost between the sea and the plain, in a boxcar. The brother in France, alone, a pioneer of a different sort. It’s obvious that a great deal of research and care goes into this.

    Thanks, Ardis, for remembering these pioneers to your ward, and to us.

  18. BiV, MA, AL and OH – currently in Ohio and haven’t had a couple speak together in the last 10 years.

  19. Though it may put me at odds with y’all, I’ve always felt kind of excluded by Utah-centric pioneers stories. Lacking the familiy or geographic connection, it’s just not quite the same–it emphasizes difference, reinfocing the ‘old’ members versus those that aren’t. I think it’s important that we not forget, but at the same time these stories lack some of the resonance that they have for others. I felt this rather crystalized in the Tabernacle dedication session of conference–while deeply moving remininces for some, it was at most nice stories, lacking a strong emotive character.

    But then as an eansterner I think it would be nice to have more conference stories (etc) that communicate the experience of saints in wards whose size is measured in counties rather than city blocks…

  20. I’ve got some of those stories for you, TMD, at least about New York City and vicinity, and I’ll try to put some up for you soon. One of my secret (now announced for anybody to read) ambitions is to see some of the new stories I dig up begin to percolate through the church — maybe even in conference.

    I suspect — you’ll have to tell me if I’m right, or even partly right — why Utah-centric pioneer stories don’t resonate for you is because they are so often told with a whiff of snobbery (“My ancestors were special, and by extension I am special”) or from too much of an insider’s perspective (“We have this great shared memory, and don’t realize or don’t care that you don’t share the memory. It ought to be important to you because it’s important to us”). The stories themselves might move you if those off-putting elements weren’t there.

    We all seem to understand and appreciate Wilfried’s stories of Belgium and the Congo despite the fact that few or none of us have any ties to those places except through Wilfried. If Utah stories were told from the same perspective — with all the “centric” taken out of it — I wonder if they wouldn’t resonate more with you.

  21. Ardis, what a wonderful talk. Thank you.

    Back in March I gave a talk about women in church history, and I used two of your articles as sources. My talk was concurrent with the anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society.

  22. Bored in Vernal (22),

    My two cents: Minnesota tends to have rather enlightened wards, too. Transplants are welcome…in January if you dare. :)


  23. a helpful move in getting people to see us as individuals with merits not based upon our marriages.

    less stress during preparation

    more women with substantial talks which do not consist primarily of “this is the story of our courtship and now my husband will handle the actual topic.”

    The latter two are bonuses. The first isn’t. We’re marriages, not individuals, and should be happy to be seen as such.

    My wards have done a mix of having spouses speak together and have them not and I like it fine both ways.

  24. Adam–wer’e individuals in marriages. To quote Ayn Raynd (who I really never thought I’d quote since I generally find her philosophies alarming): zero multiplied is a still zero. If you don’t have individuals going into the marriage, you don’t have much of a marriage. And the usual problem with seeing a church couple only as a couple and not as people AND a couple is that the less extroverted member gets swallowed up and subsumed by his or her spouse. In church talks, the woman usually talks about domestic drivel and the guy handles the meaty stuff, but in our marriage our ward’s change has been good because DH is the introverted one. For the first time in 10 years he had people discussing his talk with him, and not my talk with him. And his talk was awesome. It’s just that since people know me better, he rarely gets any notice. Which sucks.

    So I’m glad if the new format helped people see him as an individual and not just “Janet’s husband.” I do miss knowing what the other speaker will say, however, so I don’t trounce all over their toes if I go first or find myself bereft of content if I go second :).

    But then perhaps I wasn’t clear, what with the typos and all. Nobody wants to replicate Star Trek’s Borg in their wedded bliss, I hope.

  25. If you don’t have individuals going into the marriage, you don’t have much of a marriage.

    If you your individuality remains prior to your marriage after your marriage, you don’t have much of a marriage.

    seeing a church couple only as a couple and not as people AND a couple

    A good mix of couple talks and talks as individuals best reflects this, I think.

  26. “f you your individuality remains prior to your marriage after your marriage, you don’t have much of a marriage.”

    I’m not trying to threadjack, but I admit I’m not sure what you mean, Adam. That if your individuality remains the same regardless of your marital status, then your marriage stinks? I’d agree with that, while still defending the idea that you still have to have some sense of individuality in order to keep your marriage from becoming a quite boring bog of weirdness.

    But I agree with your last sentence. It’s nice to know who is married to who, and “couple talks” provide this quite well. I just like the notion of mixing things up a bit, both for the reasons i stated above and because it helps deconstruct the cultural perception that married people are somehow more important than singles.

  27. My ward has SO many equity refugees moving in that every week is a new family speaking in Church. It only makes sense to have husbands and wives speak, although when a single person moves in, they get their own primetime slot, usually accompanied by two youth or a missionary.

  28. We had a LDS (but not LDS Social Services) marriage therapist (therapist who happens to be LDS) speak at a Fifth Sunday RS/HP/EQ meeting a while back, and she brought up three points relating to invidivuality:

    — There are aspects of your individuality you give up when you get married, and we’re not doing a good enough job of stressing that to the youth.

    — The idea of “his money” and “her money” is a very contentious area in marriages, and its increasing due to the number of dual-income families. Her recommendation was that ALL money needs to be “our money” — if couples have an no-questions-asked allowance, that’s fine, but that it comes out of “our money”.

    — There’s a growing problem among Church members that a personal problem is not a family problem. I.e., “oh, my spouse has a problem” (emotional, family member, whatever) and that it’s not a family problem. Her contention was that “if one of you has a problem — any problem — you both have a problem”. As in, “he has a problem with his family” needs to be replaced with “we have a problem with his family”, or “we have a problem with his boss”.

  29. although when a single person moves in, they get their own primetime slot, usually accompanied by two youth or a missionary.

    See, that’s one of the problems for singles. We’re too often seen as “junior,” which is only reinforced when we are paired with children and young people instead of with other individual adults.

  30. Thank you Ardis for these stories, which not only reminded me of my community that lived before (doesn’t the temple teach us that community transcends time and space) but also a reminder to make sure to nurture my own faith and dedication.

  31. Thank you Ardis. The last couple of years have found me with a renewed great longing to gather with the saints, not to the valley, but to the core of the community of saints. I’ve spent years on the fringes trying to reclaim adventurous kids and feeling unfit for the centre for my failure. It’s also led me to a far, far greater appreciation of the value of the foundation laid at such terrible cost, that I might be such an easy pioneer in my own line. In the embrace of that community I am safe.

  32. 1) Re: #26: well said. I might push the envelope and say that even when the comments are not “centric” that they are still sometimes heard that way. We must realize that Pioneer heritage is Mormon heritage and not just an individual’s heritage. Once on my mission in the United States a discussion in Sunday school turned to “pride” and one man remarked that some members think they are better than others because they are from Utah. I was from Utah but had never considered or heard such a thing. I thought the guy was a crank until I later heard the stake patriarch say something similar about “pioneer stock’ and its attendant arrogance. It was my introduction to an apparently widespread belief that I consider mostly myth.

    2) Wilfried’s stories are analogous and I think another good analogy can be found in Americans (meaning here citizens of the U.S.). While the United States is not a “nation” in the cultural or racial sense, it has a shared story that almost every American buys into. To illustrate, as a citizen of the United States, I always feel a strong connection to MLK and feel I am a beneficiary of his heritage even though I am clearly not a descendant of his, and I think many Americans feel the same about the Pilgrims, etc.

    3) To all of us: Regardless of years in the Church or even nationality, don’t be so sure that you don’t have “Utah Pioneer” ancestry unless you can tell where all your forbears were between the years of 1847-1869. Barring the marriage of cousins, each one of us has 32 3rd-great grandparents, 64 4th-great grandparents and 128 5th-great grandparents. There are people of many faiths around this world who have Utah Pioneer forbears who may not know it.

    4) To any who felt “cold” or distant when listening to the GC talks on the Tabernacle: What a shame! Maybe this is a good time to re-read them. Many of the memories listed by Bishop Burton occurred before ANY of us were born, and I believe the purpose was to unite, instruct and remind us of OUR heritage—not to give a message of exclusive interest.

  33. Thank you. That was about the only pioneer celebration I had this year. Just a couple three random unrelated thoughts:

    1. How a gang of northern Utah ward rowdies sang that favorite song about 40 years ago with a whiff of snobbery.

    Oh babble on, oh babble on,
    We bid thee farewell.
    For you’re going to heaven,
    and we’re going to hell.

    2. I always thought the term “pioneer stock” referred to the ability of Mormon children to endure cold weather. Nothing more. Yes, it was true, the kids who descended from more recent converts who moved into Utah later wore thicker coats and wore them sooner each winter than the descendents of original settlers, as we used to wait for the bus. Remember during the SLC Olympics when four young guys showed up shirtless to cheer an event during sub-zero temperatures and a certain famous woman media celeb autographed their bare bellies? That was vintage Utah pioneer stock.

    On a camping trip last winter, my son was hiking along in a cold rain, soaking wet without wearing a coat. It must have been about 45 degrees and he had a perfectly good coat in his pack. During a break our scoutmaster asked him to please review with the rest of the boys the signs and symptoms of hypothermia, since surely he must be feeling them at that point! My son began: confusion, memory loss and lack of judgement… That was his “pioneer stock” showing through.

    3. I’ve always considered myself as a sort of pioneer living in wards that were struggling. Especially, the first generation of Mormons, I feel, have a valid claim to the title. I also like to tell stories. So I share the desire of Ardis to have some of my “pioneer stories” passed around the church. If you don’t like them then just delete them.

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