I’m not sure exactly where I got this term “worldwide nation”. I thought it might have come from a hymn called “They, the Builders of the Nation”, but I think I was just filling in words with the right amount of syllables. Whatever the case, the term caught my attention and got me thinking. Today is Pioneer Day. Almost 170 years ago, after going through years of persecution (including one or two rather horrific massacres) and seeing their prophet and leader become a martyr, the Mormon Pioneers trekked across Indian territory, through the plains and the Rocky Mountains and settled in Utah. It was a place where they were free from fear and free to believe what they knew to be true without getting killed for it.
In Utah, Pioneer Day is kind of a big thing. There are fireworks and parades and people even get the day off work. I had never heard of it before I lived here. The Primary kids would usually sing some sort of pioneer song in sacrament meeting, but I never connected it with an actual day set aside for remembering the pioneers. To be honest, I kind of thought it was a little ridiculous how big of a deal it is. But today, as I’ve thought about it a little more and been reminded of the many pioneer stories I’ve read and come to know over the years, I’ve realized that Pioneer Day is a lot more important than I originally thought. It’s a day that SHOULD be celebrated, and not just in the Church. Pioneer Day is a day that is all about remembering ancestors who endured hardships that we can’t really imagine today. It’s a day that is about remembering ancestors who left behind families, friends, farms, precious heirlooms – they left behind their entire lives as they knew it to follow God and to forge a new and better way for the posterity that would come generations after them. Without our ancestors doing whatever it is they did, inside and outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we wouldn’t be who we are today.
Each generation learns from the generations that came before them whether through stories, journals, legends, myths, etc. The past often influences the future. We can see that even within our own short lives as we make decisions based on what experiences we’ve had previously. On this day, we remember those stories and honor the people who experienced them. I personally have also taken some time to be filled with gratitude for those pioneers who crossed the plains, particularly those who crossed with nothing but 17 pounds per person of all their belongings in handcarts. The sacrifices they made, some of which included the deaths of children, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers simply because they knew that God had asked it of them continue to blow me away no matter how often I hear the same stories. Pioneer Day is a celebration of the faith our ancestors had to have in order to make some of the hardest decisions of their lives.
Now, back to the term “worldwide nation”. It sounds kind of like an oxymoron – a word or term that contradicts itself like bittersweet, same difference, accidentally on purpose, etc. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense in conjunction with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many churches throughout the world are run by local leaders. There are very few churches which have the same thing taught in every single church house every single week. What’s taught in most churches is whatever the pastor, preacher or rabbi decides to teach that Sabbath day. This isn’t a bad thing, by any means because it allows each congregation to be taught according to its needs. However, this is the reason I really love being a member of the LDS church – no matter what meetinghouse you go to, no matter what part of the world you’re in, you will be taught the same thing that everyone else throughout the world is being taught that same day and it will be taught using the same materials that are used in your home ward (congregation). I love this because to me, it testifies that Christ wants all of His people to know the same exact things. It unites His people in a way that makes everyone feel welcome, known and loved and allows everyone to be able and comfortable participating in discussions, even when they’re on vacation in Timbuktu and have never set foot in that chapel before in their lives.
Today in sacrament meeting, about 10 people performed a special musical number. They sang a children’s hymn in Portuguese. Some of the people served in Brazil on their missions, some were from Brazil and some were from Spanish speaking countries (my ward is very diverse since I live right next to the English Learning Center at BYU). While they sang, I felt the Spirit testify to me that this truly is Christ’s Church and that He loves each and every one of us no matter our culture, no matter our background, no matter the language we speak, and no matter our skin color. We all matter to Him and we all are important. The Gospel of Jesus Christ unites people all over the world. Missionaries are taught different languages so that EVERYONE can receive the Gospel and understand it in their own tongue and in their own culture. As we stand united throughout the world because of what we believe and know about Jesus Christ, it allows us to stand for righteousness and truth wherever we go, whoever we are with. Because we are united in this way, it allows us to be a worldwide nation.
I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to find true joy and eternal life. The Savior provided a way for us to return to Him and He expects us to share it with everyone around us – including other countries, other cultures, and our own family, friends and neighbors. As we become more like Christ by following the steps of the Gospel (faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end), we unite ourselves with others who are doing the same and who have done the same throughout the world and throughout time. We, our ancestors, and our posterity are all pioneers in our own way as we each do our part in building a worldwide nation – in building the kingdom of God.