Jul 24, 2008

The Pioneer in You

by Stephanie Abney

Bet you can guess what my topic is today. Actually, there is something inherently wrong in my mind to write about anything else on Pioneer Day. I’m a life-long member of the church and come from what is fondly referred to as “pioneer stock.” All eight of my great-grandparents walked across the plains to get to the Salt Lake Valley. Most of them did so in their youth so my great-great grandparents also crossed the plains with them. Even my grandfather walked across as a child. (He was an older gentleman when he married my grandmother, both of them widowed and then they had 3 more children, including my mother, in case you were wondering how I could possibly have a grandfather that was a pioneer). In fact, I remember being told the story of when he was sick and his mother told him to get into the wagon and he refused. He said he wanted to be able to tell his children and grandchildren that he walked every step of the way. Three of my great-grandparents (and the grandfather mentioned above) were born in Europe so you can add that long sea-voyage into the mix as well. It is thrilling and amazing how the love of the gospel and a desire to conquer new territory can sustain someone through the most difficult of experiences.

I’m actually half Danish and half English. My maternal grandfather was English and my maternal grandmother was Danish, while my fraternal grandfather was Danish and my fraternal grandmother was English; making each of my parents “half and half” and when you add up all the fourths (one from each grandparent), my sister and I still come out “half and half.” Sounds kind of like cream. Well, that’s a good analogy because cream rises to the top!

The human spirit fascinates me and I marvel at what drives people to accomplish such remarkable tasks. Today marks the anniversary of the arrival of a weary group of Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. President Young told the saints that it was enough, saying, “This is the place.” For 20 more years another 70,000 Mormons traveled by wagons and handcarts to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. After the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, overland wagon travel declined and emigrants began arriving by rail. In the end, it didn’t matter how they came, only that they arrived.

Thus it is with each of us. It doesn’t matter what struggles we have to face to get where we are going; it only matters that we get there. The obstacles along the way shape us; they reveal our true character and prepare us for eternal life with our Heavenly Father and our loved ones. By its very definition every one of us is a pioneer: to be the first to prepare the way, to take part in the beginning of something, to initiate, to lead the way… so, to this I say, “Go forth and be bold!” Happy Pioneer Day, all you wonderful pioneers!!

Being the research queen that I am, I’ll leave you a couple of great links to help you celebrate:

Special treat ~ Pioneer Coloring Book: The Prayer Quilt ~ here is a pdf file of a coloring book about the pioneers that you can download and print off for any little ones in your family:

Excellent site for tracing your Mormon Pioneer ancestry from Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, and South Africa to Salt Lake City, Utah: http://www.xmission.com/~nelsonb/pioneer.htm

Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing “Come, Come Ye Saints”


  1. Stephanie, I always love your words. You say things so well, I can't help but feel the spirit of being a pioneer. Both my parents are converts so I am not 'pioneer stock' but I do feel that I am still a pioneer. I feel that my parents are pioneers as well for standing up and living in such a way and making such choices that have placed me on the path I am today. Here Here to all pioneers!

  2. Stephanie: I loved what you wrote today. I'm not from Pioneer Stock either but I am a pioneer in my own family. We all are in a way. Thanks for your writings and I loved listening to the Mormon Tab at work in honor of Pioneer Day.

    Valerie Steimle of Loxley

  3. Somebody has to be the first in a family to join the Church, and I so admire those who are and do. I'm grateful that I'm from pioneer stock because I'm not sure I'd have been wise enough to listen to the truth. I had to have it drilled into me from childhood. Even so, it was still my choice to believe.

    I honor and revere my forebears. All four of my grandparents crossed the plains. One grandma was born in Winter Quarters in February 1847 and was carried to the Valley, arriving in Sept. My other grandma was eight when she left Denmark and walked almost all the way from the Mississippi on. She did ride the one day she was sick, and told me it was so miserable she begged to walk the next.

    Only six of my great grandparents were Utah Pioneers. The other two died in Sweden. My grandpa was born there in 1825, believe it or not. He was the originator of the Liljenquist name.

    My mother's ancestors were earlier pioneers. None were on the Mayflower, but most of them were in America a hundred years or longer before the Revolutionary War. When I recite, "I Am An American" by Elias Lieberman, I almost always tear up with gratitude.

    Today's LDS Nuggets quote is particularly appropriate for all of us. Angel Abrea said, "The great challenge...is not to determine how to escape the afflictions and problems, but rather to carefully prepare ourselves to meet them." And may I add, "And write about them."

    Sorry to be so wordy, but your entry brought back too many wonderful memories. Thanks.

  4. I just had to add still more. I loved the coloring book. It's the kind I wish I had written. Simple and ever so touching.

    And thanks for the clip of the T.Choir singing 'Come, Come Ye Saints'. I remember in 1943 I when blubbered as a missionary quartet sang it in Sacrament Meeting in Indianapolis, It absolutely thrilled me. This time I only smiled until the fourth verse. Most of the time we sang the first couple of lines softly, then swelled for the ending. Now the choir crescendoed with joy and thanksgiving as they sang, "And should we die before our journey's through, happy day, all is well." It touched me deeply, and I sat staring at my computer screen, hand over mouth, with shoulders shaking and happy tears wetting my cheeks as they continued to the finish. Thank you for including this. It's so true!

  5. Someone recently said that those of us who are the first to join are the pioneers in their families. I often think of myself as a great link between generations, reaching back to baptise my ancestors while reaching forward to have an LDS second generation. That said, I do not have that feeling President Ulfdorf (sp?) mentioned about pioneers also being our forebearers. I just think of them as an awesome group of people who did a tremendous thing. What a great legacy for you Stephanie.

  6. Thank you for your wonderful words, Stephanie! The coloring book is cute, and the music beautiful.

    While my ancestors on all sides predominantly came to this continent between the 1620's and the 1700's, only my mother's line found the gospel in the early days of the church. Levi Ward Hancock is my 3rd great grandfather. Both my natural father and the father to whom I am sealed (and even my father-in-law for that matter) are converts to the church. While I had ancestors cross by wagon and in the Willie company and Mormon Battalion, my husband's family came around South America on the ship Brooklyn...that carried so many members to what is now San Fransico.

    I have fun thinking about how many of our (any of you who read this)ancestors must have known each other...

  7. My mother's father's line came from pioneer stock, but by my grandfather's generation, he had gone inactive. My mother's mother was not LDS when she married my grandfather, but she decided to take the children (my mother and aunt) to the LDS Church, and when my mother was 8 years old, both she and my grandmother were baptized into the Church. So although I do have pioneer heritage (which I love and honor), I frequently think that, had it not been for my non-member grandmother investigating her inactive husband's faith, I probably would not be a member of the Church today! I owe her a debt of gratitude as great as any that I owe to the Pioneers.

    My father never joined the Church. Both his parents were immigrants from Italy, and I do consider them Pioneers, in the sense that it surely took great courage for both of them to leave their homeland and come to a strange, new country to start a new life, even if it wasn't in the Salt Lake Valley. (My mother once heard my dad's father say, he would rather be in a prison in the United States than a free man in Italy.)

    I sometimes wonder, if my father's parents hadn't come to the United States, whether I would have been born here or in Italy? Even though my dad never joined the Church, I think the Lord had a hand in bringing him and my mom together, so that I could both be a member of the Church and help do the temple work for my Italian ancestors, who might not have had anyone to do their work, if my parents hadn't married.

    (I think I might have beat Anna on wordiness this time!)

  8. Stephanie,

    It's always humbling to be reminded of the sacrifice of those who brought the world the gosple. I feel connected to them even though they are not my literal ancestors. I hope one day I could thank them for their courage, faith and goodness.



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