I just got back from a Regional Stake Conference presided over by President Boyd K. Packer where Elder Jeffrey R. Holland also spoke. This was a Stake Conference for Utah County, and with this in mind, Elder Holland spoke about examples of Pioneer faith. It was interesting for me, having grown up outside of Utah, to be in Utah and see so much emphasis on Pioneer heritage. Growing up we heard the stories of Mormon Pioneers, but that’s all they were, really. Just stories, because I had no personal connection. Occasionally someone would get up in Testimony meeting and talk about their great-great-whatever who came across with the Saints, but in Seattle, that was more the exception than the rule. Most of us, if not converts ourselves, were children of converts or grandchildren of converts. I found the same to be true as I served a mission on Germany. Most members in Germany, I would say, are converts or children of converts. And they are definitely not descended from “Pioneer Stock”.
But what was interesting is what Elder Holland said about Pioneer heritage. He spoke of faith. Faith is the real heritage that we gain from our Pioneer ancestors, whether or not they crossed the plains in the 1840s. And faith is definitely something I learned from my parents, both of whom are converts to this Church. My mother joined the Church in high school, and my father joined the Church when he met my mother. He liked her, but she didn’t like him. He was an airplane mechanic in the US Air Force, he smoked, drank, acted just like all the other GIs. Not what my mother was looking for. But he was persistent, and so to scare him away, she invited him to Church. He loved it. He met with the missionaries. When they told him about the Word of Wisdom, he said he’d been wanting to quit anyway. And he did. when they taught him about tithing, he said it made sense and accepted it. (He had been raised Greek Orthodox, and had never really understood why he needed to give money to the Church. He saw his priest, whose house was bought and paid for by the Greek Orthodox Church, whose new car was bought and paid for, who had a maid, for whom the congregants cooked meals, and then they passed a plate around asking for money? It didn’t make sense to him. But when my father learned that LDS leaders are not paid, and that tithing is used for the work of the Church and the Humanitarian and Welfare needs, he accepted it wholeheartedly, and has never gone back.) Seeing that she couldn’t get rid of this guy, my mother married him!
And that faith has been what I have learned from them my whole life. They tell the story of the day they got married. They ended up getting married two weeks earlier than planned because dad had the leave. They got married on a Saturday morning, and Saturday evening they were sitting at the Stake Center at Stake Conference. Some friends asked them, “Didn’t you get married this morning? What are you doing here?” to which they replied, “Shouldn’t we be at Stake Conference?” That is the heritage I have gained from my parents. Do what needs to be done, be where you need to be.
Elder Holland told a story about Mormon Pioneers who had already been asked to leave the Salt Lake Valley to settle in southern Utah, then being called by Brigham Young to settle the Muddy Mission, named after the Muddy River. He read from a journal of a young girl who says she cried when she heard the Prophet read her father’s name. Her friend asked why she was crying, her father had been named as well, but she knew he wasn’t going. “That’s the difference”, came the reply, “I know my father will go. And I wouldn’t want to claim him as a Father if he wouldn’t” She knew the faith of her father, that he would heed the call from a Prophet. Elder Holland said, “When you’re called, you go.” And that phrase really hit home with me.
When I heard that phrase, “When you’re called, you go” the next sentence that came to me was “Even if you need to fix somethings in your life to qualify yourself to go.” That thought, that impression, that idea has been with me since I served in Germany. I heard the story of a young man who had grown up in the Church, was very intelligent, knew the gospel very well, but as a teenager did not live it. A faithful and loving Sunday School teacher, faithful and loving parents, and a faithful and loving Bishop all tried to help him. But it wasn’t until the Bishop issued him a call that things changed. The Bishop met with him and told him the Lord was calling him to serve a mission. I heard this from his father, who said he came home angrier than ever at the Bishop. “You won’t believe what the Bishop said. He wants me to serve a mission. He knows I’m not worthy to serve a mission!” In the next few weeks, and other meetings with the Bishop, this young man knew he had to get his life in order if he wanted to fulfill that call to serve a mission. That’s what I thought about when I heard Elder Holland say, “When you’re called, you go.”
I am not a Pioneer in the traditional sense of the word. Most of my friends are not. But we have parents and family from whom we have gained as rich a legacy of faith and faithfulness. I have learned from them how to build a foundation for my life. My parents have taught me values and virtues that have been the basis for who I have become. I am grateful for the legacy, for the heritage I have from my parents. They have been my examples and have taught me so much. That is the Pioneer heritage I have.