Picture from: James Poulsen: A Faithful Dane
Alma 34:32 Purpose of this Life:
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
As we commemorate 167 years from the time the early Mormon Pioneers crossed the United States to settle in Salt Lake City, Utah and surrounding areas my heart is full as I ponder their dedication, faith, sacrifice, and endurance to reach their final destination. For the past two weeks I have had the privilege and opportunity of preparing a talk on Pioneer Heritage for our Sacrament Meeting at church today. This has been a great delight and I have learned so much.
I would like to share a few things I discovered that has helped strengthen my faith and commitment to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
First of all I accepted the Family Search indexing challenge last Sunday and had fun participating in that event. As 67, 419 volunteers invested their time in a 24 hour period to help index family records, HISTORY was made beating the previous record of just under 50,000. I helped index several obituary records in Pennsylvania and Texas. It was very exciting to be of service and feel the Spirit of Elijah in my heart.
As I studied our Pioneer Heritage I found many resources regarding this throughout the Church and its websites including www.lds.org and www.familysearch.com In particular, I researched and studied my own ancestors and family history. I found several great connections and stories regarding my progenitors.
My great, great grandfather, James Poulsen, pictured above, has a fascinating story converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after being raised in the Lutheran church in Soro County, Denmark in the mid 1800's. Missionaries were sent to Denmark and eventually the message of the restored gospel reached my grandfather in a cottage meeting. He accepted and he and his wife were baptized. Soon after joining the church he was called to be a missionary in his native land of Denmark for two years.
Soon after that they emigrated to America where James lost his three children and wife to measles and other disease that hit their ship. All four had to be buried at sea. My grandfather remarried the woman who nursed him back to health on that voyage once arriving in the States. They then crossed the United States plains in the Joseph Horne company to arrive in Salt Lake valley. From there they migrated northward into Cache Valley, Utah. After a time, they were encouraged to move up further north into Bear Lake and Liberty, Idaho. They settled this area and started another farm. After years of raising crops and children my grandfather was called on another mission back home to his native land. While there he helped over 20 relatives convert and join the church and then come back to America with him.
His life was one of sacrifice, faith, and endurance. I loved learning about he and several other ancestors of mine who showed the same dedication to the gospel and the sacrifices of moving west to a new promised land.
One of my favorite scriptures is found here:
5 But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.
6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.
The above scripture teaches us that nobody is brought unto the land of Liberty, America, unless by the hand of the Lord.
The Book of Mormon's introductory chapters speak on the account of Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem, heading into the wilderness, facing trials and challenges, but proceeding forward in faith to arrive in the promised land of America.
The two examples of faith and trust in the Lord that I've written about today are powerful stories that help strengthen my testimony and faith in our Heavenly Father's plan for each of us.
From a recent address given by Elder L. Whitney Clayton:
God will bless those who live today in their challenges as He did the Mormon pioneers in their effort to create an oasis in the desert, a General Authority said in his speech at the annual Days of ’47 Sunrise Service that began the Pioneer Day observance July 24 in Salt Lake City.
“As we move forward in our own lives, with faith in our own footsteps, we too can cross the sun-baked, barren, and treacherous terrain that lies figuratively before us and, with vision and faith, overcome our own overwhelming adversities and subdue and beautify the world around us,” said Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy.
“There is a promised land for all of us, which, with faith and obedience and hard work we can help create for ourselves in this life, just like the pioneers did 167 years ago,” Elder Clayton declared.
"Surely God expects that there be something more than ease, pleasure, and comfort in our lives. Surely He expects that we also should move forward with faith manifested in our own footsteps, emulating all that we have learned from those early pioneers.” —Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy
And lastly, the Savior, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar and pioneer to follow. From our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson:
“We each can learn much from our early pioneer ancestors, whose struggles and heartaches were met with resolute courage and an abiding faith in a living God. … Youth and children were among the thousands who pulled and pushed handcarts or walked along that pioneer trail, just as they are among the Saints today who are pioneering in their own areas throughout the world. I think that there is not a member of this Church today who has not been touched by the accounts of the early pioneers. Those who did so much for the good of all surely had as their objective to inspire faith. They met the goal in a magnificent manner.”2
The Ultimate Pioneer
“Turning the pages of scriptural history from beginning to end, we learn of the ultimate pioneer—even Jesus Christ. His birth was foretold by the prophets of old; His entry upon the stage of life was announced by an angel. His life and His ministry have transformed the world. …
“One sentence from the book of Acts speaks volumes: Jesus ‘went about doing good … for God was with him’ (Acts 10:38). …
“His mission, His ministry among men, His teachings of truth, His acts of mercy, His unwavering love for us prompts our gratitude and warms our hearts. Jesus Christ, Savior of the world—even the Son of God—was and is the ultimate pioneer, for He has gone before, showing all others the way to follow. May we ever follow Him.”5