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Monday, July 25, 2011

Pioneers of the Future

On July 24, the state of Utah celebrates the wonderful holiday of Pioneer Day.  The purpose is to commemorate the day the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.  It's like a second 4th of July, complete with parades, concerts, family and fireworks.  And it's not even a mail holiday!
I grew up hearing stories about my great, great grandparents and their trials as they pulled handcarts across the country.  Last summer I had the chance to relive part of their journey as Wifey and I went with 500 other Wellsvillagers to re-enact a few days of the pioneers' journey.

I had the opportunity to see something most people will never witness: 500 people in pioneer clothing pulling handcarts for miles and miles across the barren Wyoming wilderness.  Even more impressive than the lack of cell phones and iPods was the lack of whining.  In four days I didn't hear a single complaint about being separated from virtual lifelines.

The purpose of the Trek was to teach the youth about what their pioneer forebears experienced.  What I learned was that we are the pioneers of the future.  They trudged through barren wilderness and muddy rivers.  We blaze paths through distraction and uncertainty in an ever-changing world.

The word pioneer can refer to the first people to settle a region, or someone who is among the earliest in any field of study or progress.

From Adam and Eve all the way down to pioneers of the digital age such as Mark Zuckerberg (one of the founders of Facebook), many of the most honored and respected people in history bear the title of pioneer. 

The era of the pioneer is far from over.  I doubt any of us will pull handcarts across the country in our lifetimes, but there are so many new frontiers to conquer.  Not only are there new inventions to be made, new stories to write, and new technology to discover, but also new challenges to overcome, and new trails to be blazed. 

Any young man or young woman who refuses to participate in the worldly activities of gossip, immorality, selfishness, or any other of the myriad of vices so common in today’s world is a pioneer, breaking away and treading a new path in a world that is so off-course. 

Kids are not the only ones forging paths through unexplored territory. Parents have to raise children in this ever-changing environment.  Even empty nesters are faced with new blessings and challenges with each succeeding generation.

So what are you doing to establish a legacy for those who follow you?  Will your grandchildren hear stories about your legendary kindness?  Will your great, great grandson look at a picture of you and remember the story about the stew you cooked for the entire neighborhood using only items from your garden?  Will your kids think of you and smile as they pass along the family traditions you started? 

While we place many pioneers up on pedestals, the truth is they were normal people like us.  They found a way to overcome hardships and go in a direction no one had ever gone before.  There is nothing stopping us from doing the same.

So step out of your comfort zone.  Step away from destructive habits no matter how prevalent they are.  Decide that whatever it is you devote yourself to, you will excel at it.  In the words of David O. McKay, "Whate'er thou art.  Act well thy part."

After all, we are the pioneers of the future.

(For more pictures of our pioneer Trek, visit Wifey's blog at So I've Been Thinking.)

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