Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pioneering in 2010

"To Them of the Last Wagon"
Painting by Lynn Fausett

This is the time of year when I pause to reflect on all the asphalt "trails" I cruise every day in air-conditioned comfort.  I did not blaze those trails in the dusty barren wilderness.  I drink from wells I did not dig.  I partake of food that comes to my table each day with ease and abundance.  And I had little to do with all the systems, processes, and packaging that goes into it so I have no need to hunt, skin and cook it over a meager fire made of "buffalo chips" along the way.

It is the annual celebration of the Mormon pioneers who accomplished those mighty feats about which I know so little and can only read.

My ancestors were among those noble souls who came as immigrants from Europe with little but the clothes on their backs.  Out of the alkaline soil of Lehi, they somehow scratched their existence as sugar beet farmers, they survived and gifted to me and my family a legacy of faith, grit and determination not unique among others like us.

Today's Deseret News contains its annual tribute to the definitive pioneer talk given by President J. Reuben Clark, entitled To Them of the Last Wagon.  The link will take you to a podcast and a transcript of the talk.  His thoughts are my thoughts, expressed so eloquently.

I commend the whole thing to you, but this paragraph was particularly poignant to me tonight:

"But back in the last wagon, not always could they see the Brethren way out in front, and the blue heaven was often shut out from their sight by heavy, dense clouds of the dust of the earth. Yet day after day, they of the last wagon pressed forward, worn and tired, footsore, sometimes almost disheartened, borne up by their faith that God loved them, that the restored gospel was true, and that the Lord led and directed the Brethren out in front. Sometimes, they in the last wagon glimpsed, for an instant, when faith surged strongest, the glories of a celestial world, but it seemed so far away and the vision so quickly vanished because want and weariness and heartache and sometimes discouragement were always pressing so near."

In so many ways each of us is in the last wagon at times in our lives.  Like those in the last wagon, when despair and hopelessness seem our common lot we too must press on into the night knowing only that our efforts, meager and scant as they seem, will someday be acceptable.  While our challenges are not theirs, I often wonder if any of them would have changed places with us in 2010, given the option.  Would we have relished their lot? 

I like hot showers, warm breakfasts, and comfortable beds.  Camping, hiking, hunting and pulling a handcart, are not welcome thoughts.

What is obvious to those of us who now travel the trails, drink the cool water from pure mountain wells, and partake of food in excess with so little effort expended, is that someone who loved us very much went before us and paved the way, made the sacrifices and did it all with an eye to improving the lives of their posterity for generations yet unborn.

There is still room in today's world for that pioneering spirit. 

Let us go and do likewise.

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