Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Pioneer Day

Today, July 24, is a holiday in Utah, and is a date of celebrated remembrance for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world. July 24 is "Pioneer Day" and commemorates the date that the Mormon Pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley (July 24, 1847). In Utah, it is celebrated much the same way as Independence Day - fireworks, parades, etc. In the rest of the world, it goes unnoticed and unobserved except for the occasional celebration held by local LDS congregations.

The Mormon exodus from, what was then, the United States to what is now Utah (and areas of surrounding states) plays an important role in the Mormon psyche and in our history. In the early days of the Church, persecution forced the early Saints to move from New York to Ohio to Missouri, and finally in Illinois. While in Illinois, the Church's first president and prophet, Joseph Smith, was martyred in June 1844. In the next few years, the Saints began their exodus west. The hardship of the trek solidified the faith of those who participated and created a legacy of faith that has been passed down to Saints of today. I have ancestors who were among those early pioneers, some who walked across the plains and pulled all of their possessions in handcarts. I'm so grateful for them, for their examples of faith and devotion, and for the faith that they passed to their children and grandchildren and which I will pass on to mine.

I am also mindful today of the modern-day pioneers I have met - those who sacrifice so much to join the Church today, who are the first members of the Church in their families. I met so many of these pioneers on my mission to Romania and I have met many here in Alabama. I'm so grateful for their faith and example.

This video put out by the Church is fitting and touching. May we all be grateful for the pioneers who have gone before and who continue to pave the way and devote their lives to advancing the Kingdom of God.

Happy Pioneer Day!

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