I was in my 20's before I had ever heard of Pioneer Day. July 24th was just another hot day in Texas; no different than the 23rd; no different than the 25th.
When I did begin to understand the significance of the day, I didn't think it applied to me. I wasn't from Utah; my ancestors didn't make the trek west. The day had nothing to do with me.
Rewind a few years: July 9, 1997
I was 24 years old and had been out of the Navy a sum total of 34 days. Two days prior I had flown into Salt Lake to take in a few sights before driving to Provo, pinning my name tag on and dedicating the next 18 months to the Lord.
I hadn't been at the MTC long when it was announced that we, the Missionaries at the MTC, would be participating in part of the Sesquicentennial celebrations of the first pioneers entering the valley.
I don't really know all the details of the festivities that night, but I do remember this. The program was held in the stadium where the BYU Cougars play. The plan was that we were to march from the MTC down to the stadium, enter the stadium singing Called To Serve and then join with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in singing a new song that had just been written a few months earlier by K. Newel Dayley called Faith in Every Footstep (lyrics).
I'm feeling the spirit just thinking about it. It was an awesome experience and one that I'll never forget.
I served in Salt Lake and for the rest of that year I remember the church highlighting different things about the pioneers and their trek west. I don't know if it was church wide or if I just saw and heard it so much because I was there in Utah.
I still don't quite identify my heritage with that of LDS people whose ancestors trekked west, but I do believe we are all "pioneers" of some sort.
- Some are first generation LDS, paving the way for past a future generations to enjoy the fruits of the gospel.
- Some are the first to attend college in their family.
- Some are able to break negative cycles within their families and go on to lead healthy and productive lives.
It'll sound corny, but what goes through my mind when I think of being a pioneer is the primary song, To Be A Pioneer, Children’s Songbook, p218-219.
You don’t have to push a handcart,
Leave your fam’ly dear,
Or walk a thousand miles or more
To be a pioneer!
You do need to have great courage,
Faith to conquer fear,
And work with might for a cause that’s right
To be a pioneer!
I've been singing it in my head and whistling it all day today. My coworkers already think I'm a bit nuts, this just reinforces it!
I had an idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to say with this entry, but I feel like it kinda wandered off course. Hopefully it made a bit of sense to you.