My first ward seemed to be entirely made up of descendants of the pioneers. In classes, everyone would take turns telling stories about their ancestors and I would sit silently, with nothing to say. I wondered if I was a second-class Mormon because, as a convert, I had no LDS history in my family.
Then someone told me that every Latter-day Saint family has a Mormon pioneer, and in mine, I was the pioneer. This was a puzzling thought to me. I realized, though, as I thought it over, that a pioneer is one who goes first. The early Saints aren’t important to the church’s history or future because they walked to make it possible for their descendants—and through temple work, their ancestors—to have the gospel.
Everyday, people are becoming Mormon pioneers. All over the world, people are talking to members and missionaries, kneeling to pray about the gospel, and gaining a testimony. They commit to making important changes in their lives and accept baptism, often at great personal sacrifice. Some members today make sacrifices every bit as difficult as the ones made by the famous LDS pioneers of the 1800s. Some sacrifice their jobs, their homes, and their families when they choose the gospel. They are pioneers, blazing a gospel trail for those to come. Their willingness to take this challenging step benefits the church. From their legacies will come missionaries, bishops, Relief Society presidents, Primary teachers, and prophets.
The church’s story is one of pioneering efforts made every day in every country. You became a part of our pioneer heritage the day you opened your heart to the gospel. Your name will be spoken of with awe and honor by those who come after you. You gave them the gospel and the path will be easier for them as a result.
In addition to the pioneering we do ourselves, the traditionally defined Mormon pioneers are part of our own heritage. Even though we may not be a direct descendant, they blazed the trail that helped make the gospel available to us. Some of their descendants may have taught us the gospel, or taught those who taught us. They took the first steps to helping the church survive and to begin the growth that made it more likely we’d hear about the church.
When you joined the church, you became part of a large, extended family working for a common goal. As such, those early church pioneers are part of your family and your history. Enjoy them, and emulate them as you build your own pioneering story.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.