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LDS Pioneers and Converts

I gave this talk on July 25, 2003, the day after "Pioneer Day", which commemorates when the first Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, where they settled after their trek west. This topic was challenging to me, since I am a convert, and had no relatives who made the trek.

As it turns out, the other speaker (who spoke after me) was descended from people who survived the Martin Handcart Company. This was one of the last hardcart companies to leave for Salt Lake during 1856. They experienced a number of problems, including most of their cattle being stolen by natives, early snow storms. Many died along the way, and many of those that survived lost fingers, toes, or feet and hands from exposure to the cold.

Table of Contents


Dear brothers and sisters:

I figure that if I live long enough, the Lord will teach me what I need to know. It hasn't been easy for him, but fortunately he never gives up. This week, several things came together to help me (once again) learn a lesson He has been trying to teach me for some time.

It all started last Sunday during our Branch Presidency Meeting, when they were discussing today's Sacrament Meeting. The topic would be pioneers, and I wondered to myself, "what do the pioneers have to do with me?" I'm a convert. None of my ancestors crossed the plains to get to Salt Lake.

Shortly after that, President Boik assigned me that very same subject for a talk. Great! I don't mind giving talks, especially if it is on a topic that I know and love, but this topic? Why me? It seems that I have a short memory.

Church History

When I first joined the Church, my least favorite part of the scriptures was the Doctrine & Covenants. There were a few sections that seemed important, but there was also a lot of revelations to early church members, and I wasn't sure how they applied to me and my life.

That was the first sign that I needed to develop a better appreciation of early church members.

At one point I was called to teach in Primary. I was the Valiant B teacher, which is now called the Valiant 10 class. These were 9 year olds turning 10 that year. They were great kids, and I loved to teach them. The only problem was the lesson manual. Back then, each class learned a different topic. And the topic for Valiant B was Church History.

I loved teaching that class. I really got to enjoy the portions of church history covered by the class. We learned about the early beginnings of the church, the pioneers, and the presidents of the church.

Well, eventually I was released from Primary, and after several callings, I was asked to teach early morning Seminary for our ward. This is where Sister Boik and I first met. We were both teaching Seminary that year. As most of you probably know, each year, Seminary studies a different set of scriptures. They will study the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. Care to guess what they were studying the year I was called? Yep, Doctrine and Covenants.

I very much enjoyed teaching Seminary, and got a much better appreciation of the Doctrine and Covenants that year. But, as before, shortly after I got released, I seemed to forget how much I enjoyed Church History.

One of my favorite Primary lessons consisted of four letters that were written from early pioneers to my Primary class. The lesson manuals had these four letters that were based on the writings of these early pioneers, but they were worded as if they were written for you and me today.

If you haven't served in Primary, it is hard to imagine how spiritual it can be. Some of my most spiritual experiences in the Church have happened in Primary. As I read these letters again in preparing for this talk, I was able to remember how much the pioneers meant to me.

I would like to share them with you at this time.

At this point in my talk, I read four letters that were part of the Primary Lesson from back in the 1980's and early 1990's. The manual, of course, was copywritten, and unfortunately, the LDS Church has not granted permission to post these letters on this site. As a result, only a summary can be provided at this time.

Dan Jones

(See Ivan J. Barrett, Dan Jones: The Modern Day Paul mimeographed [Provo Utah: Missionary Training Center]; Rex L. Christensen, Ensign, Mar. 1982, pp. 19-20)

C. Allen Huntington

(See Solomon F. Kimball, Improvement Era, Feb. 1914, p. 288.)

Ephraim K. Hanks

(See LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Handcarts to Zion [Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1960,] pp. 135-146; "Church Emigration," Contributor, Mar. 1893, pp. 202-203.)

Amanda Barnes Smith

(See Amanda Barnes Smith, An Account of the Haun's Mill Massacre, original notebook and typescript found in the Church Archives.)


As I think about the Pioneers, two things come to mind.

The first is that, not matter how hectic my day gets, it is never as bad as what those early pioneers went through.

The second is that, in some ways, we are all pioneers. Hopefully our children, our grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and the children and youth that we work with will look back on our lives and be impressed with how we were true to the Gospel.

Each of us should live our lives so that we can set a good example, and encourage others to love the Gospel.

And this is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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