Sunday, July 26, 2015

Modern Day Pioneers Have Faith In Every Footstep

Many of you participated in our wonderful stake Pioneer Day yesterday evening to commemorate the pioneers of our church and family history. As a follow-up, on there is a nice article entitled “10 Ways to Honor and Share Your Pioneer Legacy” with a video, I Am a Pioneer, that encourages us all to consider how we are pioneers today. It states, “A pioneer is one who goes before, showing the way for others to follow.” Therefore, all of us who have tackled something new, set and achieved a new goal, and made a stellar example for others, we are pioneers! Please, replace the image of a hand-cart-pulling, bonnet-wearing, biscuit-eating, ox-cart-driving pioneer and picture yourself! Today, I am speaking about how we, as modern pioneers, must have faith in every footstep. As you listen to my talk, consider these questions:
  • How are YOU leading the way?
  • How are YOU making your dreams a reality?
  • How are YOU making a difference?
  • How are YOU building a solid foundation?
  • Will future generations reflect with gratitude on your efforts & your examples?
Take some time today to ponder how YOU are a pioneer and, as recommended on, share your thoughts on social media using hashtag I Am A Pioneer (#IAmAPioneer).

A couple of weeks ago our young women and leaders returned from a week away at camp. One of the experiences we offer the third and fourth level young women, is a 1-night backpacking trip into the Carson-Iceberg or Emigrant Wilderness. You’re probably wondering, “Why would you take a bunch of 14 and 15 year old teenage girls away from the showers, delicious hot meals, comfortable beds, warm & dry shelters, and overall security of Camp Liahona, to carry heavy packs, battle adverse weather conditions, cross treacherous terrain, and struggle with the physiological effects of high altitude?” Now that IS a good question! And sometimes I wonder the same thing...!

In her talk, “Modern Pioneers,” Janette Hales Beckham states, “The pioneers of today must have the same character and determination. We must have faith to walk away from those things that would tear us down or hold us back from our destination. We must have faith in every footstep.” Backpacking out in the wilderness with our young women, we experience similar trials of past generations of pioneers. The struggles we face give us the strength we need, to be, as the Apostle Paul counseled, example[s] of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). As modern pioneers, TRIALS help us have faith in every footstep!

And here is how...We begin with:
TRIP-PLANNING: First and foremost, we need to plan our commit to a trailhead and a destination, study the map, decide how far we will travel each day, take note of worthwhile landmarks along the trail, determine how long we will be gone, calculate change in elevation, check weather forecasts, secure permits, follow wilderness regulations, and so on...all of this can seem quite overwhelming! Fortunately, Heavenly father has already provided us with a plan, all we need to do is follow it. The gospel is our map, showing us where to start and how we can reach our destination. Our church membership provides us with guidance along the way, often revealing obstacles we may encounter well ahead of time, giving us time to prepare. Heavenly Father even sent His Son, to pre-hike the trail for us! Jesus Christ has walked our paths and suffered all of the trials we may encounter on our trip--He knows how hard it will be!

Just as our young women must make the commitment to hike, we have all committed to come to Earth to be challenged in our mortal existence. As the prophet Isaiah referred to latter-day temples, we are on the trail to a mountain—“the mountain of the Lord’s house” (Isa. 2:2). The temple is the most important destination we have here on earth. As we make sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father in the temple and live righteously, He promises us that we will be able to reach our ultimate destination, to return to live with Him again. As modern pioneers, HEAVENLY FATHER’s PLAN helps us have faith in every footstep!

Next, who are we going with? It’s time for...
TRIP SIGN-UPS: Just as important when gathering resources, is considering the friends and family we choose to travel with. For many, a first step of faith and commitment is baptism. When baptized, we take Christ’s name upon us and witness to our Heavenly Father that we will be obedient in keeping His commandments (2 Nephi 31:7). As a convert to this church, I have committed to keeping the commandments. I am a pioneer to my friends and family. Commitment is both what we’re doing when others are watching, but also what we’re doing when nobody is watching. We must pick our friends wisely--resist going along with the crowd in ways that could lead us astray! Without guidance, experience, training and support from those hiking alongside us, our journey may be more treacherous! A good friend, and modern pioneer, leads the way for others, helping to keep them on the path to the celestial kingdom. In his talk, “Modern Pioneers,” Dallin H. Oaks noted, “The pioneers who crossed the plains took their directions from the trails blazed by their leaders. For safety, those pioneers traveled in groups. Then, as now, a pioneer who got separated from the company and off the marked trail walked a lonely and dangerous path until he could rejoin the group. So it is today.” A modern pioneer encourages others to stay on course. When you lead out in righteousness, others will follow you. As modern pioneers, BAPTISM & COMMITMENT help us have faith in every footstep!

Now we need to pack the...
ESSENTIALS: In order to be prepared on the trail, we need to have all the right gear. For inexperienced backpackers packing can be quite a daunting task. Fortunately, the gospel provides us with time for growth and a succinct packing list of critical elements that will increase the chances of success on our journey. Without sufficient resources, our trail in life will be more difficult.

Compass. Along with Heavenly Father’s plan, we must bring our inner compass. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Prophet’s counsel at true north, we receive the guidance we need to stay on course. We must listen to the words of our prophets! When Sister Beckham was called to be the Young Women general president, President Monson said to her, “Tell the young women to keep the commandments so they can have all of the blessings Heavenly Father wants so badly to give them.” Heeding the words of our prophets can help ensure that our steps are secure. As modern pioneers, FOLLOWING the PROPHET helps us have faith in every footstep!

Proper Clothing. Dressing in protective clothing keeps us warm and dry even in the cold, wet, and windy weather. If you wouldn’t leave for a backpacking trip without your warm wool hat, why leave home without a prayer? In Ephesians 6:11 it states, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Daily prayer provides us with the armor of God, protecting us from temptation and evil. As modern pioneers, PRAYER helps us have faith in every footstep!

Sleeping Bag and Insulated Pad. A sleeping bag and pad provide warmth and insulation, to lift and protect us from the cold, hard ground while living in the wilderness. When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Ghost as a constant companion (2 Nephi 31:18). If we continue to live righteously, the companionship of the Holy Ghost provides comfort, imparts knowledge, protects and instills a sense of peace and well-being. As modern pioneers, THE HOLY GHOST helps us have faith in every footstep!

Tent. Despite the storms that may rage while we are out backpacking, a waterproof tent, properly staked on solid, high-ground, keeps us clear from danger and shelters us from thunder showers, mosquitoes and howling winds. Attending church meetings grounds us in the gospel and connects us to other members of our faith for sharing experiences, overcoming challenges and inspiring one another. As modern pioneers, ATTENDING CHURCH helps us have faith in every footstep!

Food, Water & Cooking Gear. Carrying a backpack while traversing steep trails requires much exertion and therefore we need to fuel our bodies with clean, pure water and high-quality, lightweight foods throughout the day. At camp this year, we spent a significant amount of time preparing our food for the trip to make sure we had all that we needed plus extra to share with ravenous hikers. Likewise, the scriptures, properly consumed, provide us with the nourishment we need to make right choices. When we become well-versed in the scriptures through study and prayer, we can readily share with those who hunger for the Word of God. As modern pioneers, READING the SCRIPTURES helps us have faith in every footstep!

Bear Cannister. Highly recommended for bear country backpackers, the bear cannister keeps our food secure from animals and protected from the elements. A bear cannister is like a strong testimony. The bear cannister, allows us to keep our food secure, close to camp and easily accessible when needed, just as sharing our testimonies strengthens them, replenishes them and keeps them accessible. At Relief Reservoir, bears were the least of our worries! BUT the chipmunks, just like Satan’s influences, were aggressive, little terrors who would chew into anything to get to even the smell of food, yet, even the chipmunks could not get into our bear cans! A strong, secure testimony can help withstand life’s challenges. As modern pioneers, SHARING and STRENGTHENING our TESTIMONIES helps us have faith in every footstep!

Emergency Gear. Our young women are required to ALWAYS wear an emergency whistle around their necks to alert for help if they should ever need it. Trail leaders also carry First Aid supplies in their packs for anything from basics like bandaids, to bigger bandages for more serious injuries. On our overnight trip, we bring Priesthood oversight with us for protection and the administration of blessings. We need to remember we always have a hypothetical emergency whistle around our necks--when we’re in trouble, even just a blister’s amount of trouble, we must never forget the power of the priesthood to bless and heal as well as our ability to bring our own troubled heart to counsel with the pioneers in our lives--our parents, leaders and Bishops. As modern pioneers, POWER of the PRIESTHOOD helps us have faith in every footstep!

Water Filter. One of the most critical items to survival is water, which we must readily drink throughout our trip. We each embark on our journey with a full bottle of fresh, clean water, but once we run out, it is essential that we find a reliable, clean source of fresh water to refill our bottles. Despite our desire to drink from a pristine-looking water source, contaminants, like the sins of this world, can pose a real threat. We use our water filters, like the atonement, to filter out the inconsistencies, like microbes, dirt, & pollen to provide safe, pure Living Waters from which we may partake. Our young women spend hours of every trip sitting at the water’s edge methodically pumping water for one another. They, in turn, have sufficient time to reflect and recognize the blessings of the atonement AND the convenience of running water. Filtering water is not easy and can sometimes be a painful and laborious process, just like repentance! Dallin H. Oaks stated, “One of the best qualities in any of the sons and daughters of God, whatever their circumstance, is a determination to become better. Since we all have a need to improve, we should always be willing to recognize goodness and encourage improvement in everyone.” As modern pioneers, USING the ATONEMENT & REPENTANCE PROCESS help us have faith in every footstep!

Trekking Poles. Last but not least, we should not forget to bring a pair of lightweight trekking poles. Poles are great for engaging your upper body, adding support when travelling up or down a slippery trail, better balance when crossing a stream, and can even be used to create a simple tarp tent shelter. The Lord loves us for our strength and courage. He is always there for us. He has promised us that when we are trying to live righteously and are serving Him, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88). Let us not forget that Heavenly Father, like our trekking poles, is always there to help us stabilize in times of trial, test the waters and provide us with the support we need to cross difficult terrain. Dallin H. Oaks reflects, “Sometimes it is extremely difficult to cope with life’s trials, yet modern pioneers do cope. They carry on without complaint, even when they have just cause for complaint. And even when they fall short, the Lord blesses them for their righteous desires (Mosiah 4:24–25), for, as King Benjamin taught, “it is not requisite that a man should run [and I would like to add, HIKE] faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27).As modern pioneers, HEAVENLY FATHER’s LOVE & SUPPORT helps us have faith in every footstep!

Backpack. Where are we going to put all of these wonderful essentials? For some, the thought of carrying all of it, is overwhelming. We must each work up to carrying the weight of these critical resources. Many of the young women prefer lightweight packs for their gear. However, as we grow and develop in our knowledge of the gospel, with time and experience, growth and development, we will often size up our packs to increase the capacity and weight we can carry. Just as church leaders and parents provide spiritual teaching, training, and strong testimonies for the youth, as leaders on our backpacking trips we carry extra items, just in case we need to share with another of our hikers who has less experience on the trail. Similarly, our baptismal covenants require that we should be “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and [be] willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9). In life we often have many opportunities to lighten the load of another. At camp we hear from our young women who struggle with injury or illness in their families, depression, difficulty at school, broken families and many more hardships. Dallin H. Oaks declared, “The path of modern pioneers is not easy. Burdens carried in the heart can be just as heavy as those pulled in a handcart. And just as some early pioneers struggled for the benefit of others, so some modern pioneers carry burdens imposed by the transgressions or thoughtlessness of others.” We are here to support one another! As modern pioneers, LIFTING BURDENS helps us have faith in every footstep!

Testimony: Brothers and Sisters, I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is our ultimate example as a pioneer. He came before us, showing the way for others to follow. I know that we can make it back to live with Heavenly Father if we follow in His footsteps! I have seen your amazing examples of living righteously—showing others the way to follow & helping one another when the going is rough. You provide service. You keep commitments that are eternal. You accept callings and willingly give your time. You are courageous and hard-working. You have integrity. You stay faithful despite suffering trials and tribulations. As a modern pioneer, when you are promoting righteousness, you’re being a hero and a trailblazer in someone else’s life. You are modern pioneers, with faith in every footstep, influencing friends and family for generations to come. Thank you for inspiring me! I love each one of you so much and I enjoy hiking beside you on this amazing journey called life! I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
More photos here:

Modern Pioneers :
Some of the material I reference comes from two articles, both titled, “Modern Pioneers” by Dallin H. Oaks and Janette Hales Beckham.

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