"You Don't Have to Walk the Plains to Be a Pioneer"

In 1996, two of my kids attended the Especially For Youth conference. The theme was called "Living the Legacy," and one of the songs on the featured CD was titled "You Don't Have to Walk the Plains," sung by Brett Raymond. At the time, I was pursuing a Master's Degree and struggling with the workload while being a mother to four children. Additionally, my university newspaper was writing anti-Mormon articles, and one of my professors was outwardly hostile to Mormonism. 

During that difficult time, this song (the title of this post) helped me to identify as a modern-day pioneer. Listening to the inspiring lyrics, I felt a growing kinship to my pioneer ancestors. Like them, I wanted to be worthy of carrying their torch and their legacy. Read the lyrics below, and see if they resonate with you:

They crossed the plains together
Their eyes set on forever
And when I think of all they did for me
How they left behind their legacy
I wonder how I'll match their sacrifice
Then I hear a voice that says

You don't have to walk the plains
To be a pioneer
There's a work that still remains
So find out why you're here
The seed is sown, the field is white
Let's bring it to light

It seemed to grow from nothin'
A stone cut from the mountain
And if I hope to help it fill the earth
I'll have to take my place and live the word
I'll mark the path for those who seek
Like the way was paved for me

I don't have to walk the plains
To be a pioneer
There's a work that still remains
And I know that's why I'm here
What faith began was not in vain
I'll forge ahead and join the chain
Then pass to my posterity this legacy left for me

Don't have to walk the plains
To be a pioneer
There's a work that still remains
And I know that why I'm here.

We don't have to walk the plains
To be a pioneer
There's so much to do today
Let's tell the world just why we're here

You don't have to walk the plains.

Here's a link to the song:


Modern Day Pioneers

I have a young friend who has been through hell; her husband left her for another woman. Now, she's struggling to raise their three children while sharing custody with her husband and his new wife (her ex-husband and his wife recently had their own child). My friend asked for my counsel and prayers. So, last week, with a prayerful heart (and hurting for my friend), I attended my son's ward in Lehi, Utah. While helping my son and his wife in the nursery, I felt prompted to attend the last ten minutes of Relief Society. Entering and sitting down in the back of the room, I sensed that the Relief Society lesson was about our Mormon pioneer heritage. A young woman spoke about her trials and compared her sufferings to the pioneers who pulled their handcarts to Utah.

I'll pause here for a moment, dear readers. Perhaps, like me, you have heard fellow church members claim that we have no right to compare our trials to those of the early saints and pioneers. Other church members disagree feeling that the depth of our sufferings are similar. I could never make up my mind whether living in today's society with its accompanying scourges of hedonism, nihilism, and secularism are comparable to the persecution and deprivations of the 19th century saints and pioneers. I still haven't decided. However, I do know that we need the sustenance of the Spirit and Christ's atoning sacrifice to sustain us in our trials as much as they did.

Back to the young woman and her story: Her pre-school son had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Immediately after the diagnosis, the doctor took this woman "to a small isolated room," and told her she had approximately six months to prepare for her son's death. The tortuous months that followed included caring for her son through agonizing chemotherapy and radiation while mothering her three older children. She recounted how, engulfed in misery and fear, she had to re-teach and force herself "to breathe." Her crushing burdens had literally knocked the air out of her. Exhausted, she sat on the couch one night and prayed. Imploring God to "take over," she cried aloud, "I can't go any further." In that moment, she felt the presence of the Savior. "He was sitting next to me on the couch and taking my burden upon Himself," she said. "He was there. He was real." Soon after, she called her sister and proclaimed, "Christ loves me!" "Of course He does," her sister responded. "No, He REALLY loves me. He knows who I am."

Her child eventually stabilized although she still has no idea whether he will live or die (the tumor is in his brain stem thus remains inoperable). Gratefully, she emphasized the miracle of the extra time she has with her son. Another bombshell had rocked her world---this time from her husband. Living a double life, he had been unfaithful to her. Now, as a newly divorced single mother, she is still able to bear her burdens---because of the Savior. Her powerful and piercing words lit the Relief Society room on fire:

My handcart is just as heavy as the handcarts pulled by the pioneers. Like the early pioneers who had angels pushing the back of their handcarts, I have felt Jesus Christ pushing mine. I am stronger because of Him."

Afterward, the Relief Society president underscored this sister's testimony and admired how strong this young mother had become. The president also talked about her own "handcart" that had included a drug addicted husband who had also been a dealer. Christ had sustained her during those unbearable years. Her husband is clean now---as is her marriage. Theses sisters' stories strengthened me, and I knew I was supposed to share them with my friend. "Compared to them, I don't have problems," I told myself.

What does your handcart contain? Divorce? Infidelity? Illness? A crisis of faith? A wayward child? Depression? The list is endless. My suffering hasn't been to the extent of others, but I have suffered. And like this strong young mother, I have felt the Savior's helpful push to my handcart. He's also helped me pull my handcart, unload the junk from my handcart, repair my handcart, clear the road for my handcart, and reassure me that I will reach my promised land.

I'm trying to pull my handcart with strength, dignity, and humility, so that my children, grandchildren, and future posterity will know of my faith in Jesus Christ. And that they, too, might have faith in every footstep.

"No toil or labor fear, but with joy wend your way,"


Part 3: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? A Bitter Root Produces Bitter Fruit

I'm not into gardening, but I did marry an Idaho farm boy. My husband can grow almost anything. Over the years, he has taught me some basic principles about planting, sowing, and harvesting. (I've always been familiar with scriptural metaphors of bitter roots producing bitter fruit, but I was clueless regarding the earthly components of this spiritual and temporal principle.) I've come to appreciate more fully the miracle of planting and harvesting. Furthermore, I've learned to respect an insidiously potent foe called "root rot." The scriptures call it a "bitter root."

Podcast Series: "Opposition and Enemies" for the "LDS Single Moms" Group

Dear Readers:

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of doing a three-part podcast series called "Opposition and Enemies" with Amber, the host of the LDS Single Moms group on Facebook. These podcasts focused on my written nine part series on enemies. (To access the posts, type "enemies" in the search engine provided for this website.)

Amber is a recently divorced mom who founded the LDS Single Moms group. She is a wonderfully spiritual woman and an inspiring example. Whether married or single, women will find her group a supportive and soft place to fall.

Part 2: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? Grow Your Own "Sacred Grove"

A short time ago, I walked through the majestic redwoods in California's Big Basin State Park located in the Santa Cruz mountains. Just a short drive north from San Jose (or south from San Francisco), I grew up camping and hiking amongst these stately redwoods.

Redwoods are some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world. They average 80 feet and can be up to 20 feet in diameter. Some grow as tall as 375 feet. These coastal redwoods live an average of 500 - 700 years and some are approximately 2,000 years old. (Sequoia redwoods can live up to 3,500 years.) The rings in the tree trunks tell their history. The photo below shows the remains of a middle-aged redwood. The labels on the trunk represent a time line according to the tree's rings.

Part 1: Suffering a Crisis of Faith? Grow Your Own "Sacred Grove"

The 1980's were challenging years for me. I began 1980 as a newlywed and began the 1990's as a mom to four kids. One of my difficulties involved questions of faith. Born and raised in Mormonism, I had always had a rock solid testimony of the gospel and of the Church. Still, like many young adults, I had questions regarding Church doctrine and LDS culture. My older sister, Janet, was asking similar questions. Janet and I especially struggled with the following issues:

  • The doctrine of plural marriage and its practice in 19th century Mormonism
  • Women and priesthood authority 
  • Church administration and priesthood correlation where women's auxiliaries no longer had autonomy but reported directly to priesthood authorities (Correlation had been instituted 20 years earlier.) 
  • The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution (ERA) for gender equality (It ultimately failed to pass, but like Propostion 8 regarding same sex marriage in California, the proposed amendment divided Church members.) 

"Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant"

I must take time from the holiday scurry and scuttle to acknowledge and pay tribute to the Savior and His birth. Each year, the Christmas season brings new meaning and significance for me. And each season increasingly separates me from the festivities of the holidays while pulling me closer to the magnificence of the Savior's birth. Western culture is quickly forgetting and erasing its Christian roots and traditions while embracing secularism and multicultural pluralism. As a result, Christmas---more than ever---is my favorite time of year; not because of the traditional festivities, but because secularists and non-Christians must acknowledge (on some level) the authentic reason for the season: the birth of Jesus Christ. 

Social Justice? The Slippery Slope: From Awareness to Sensitivity to Guilt to Shame to Segregation

I'm ringing my bell again. I don't write to be a cynic or bearer of bad tidings. Still, I write with a sense of duty: To speak my truth, to promote peace, and to testify. I hope to achieve this, in part, by lighting dark corners of oppression and tyranny. 

Life is easier when I stay silent; but life is not better:

Clearing Our Consciences

A few weeks ago, my husband and I spent a few days at Lake Tahoe for our niece's wedding. 

Tahoe's south beach

Every time I visit Tahoe, the lake's deep blue hues and clear water always surprise me. In summertime, we have taken our boat out on the water, and there---in the middle of the lake---I admire the beauty of the changing hues against the green of the surrounding pine trees. 

An Open Letter of Appreciation to My Readers and Friends

Dear Readers,

In my last few posts, I have discussed some of the dangerous trends in academia and on college campuses as a result of the rise in identity politics. These trends include the stifling of intellectual diversity, censorship of free speech, and repressive sectarianism and totalitarianism. In raising awareness of these issues, I was afraid to speak and write openly for fear of jeopardizing my image and reputation as a college instructor, blog writer, and friend. Nevertheless, and in earnest prayer, I proceeded to write the posts and lay out all of my concerns.

Got Faith? Critical Thinking Requires Thinking Critically

"How do you define critical thinking?" I ask my students in a beginning-of-the-semester discussion and assignment. I always enjoy reading and listening to their ideas. Some responses make me smile: 

  • You can't be a critical thinker and be religious.
  • Those old Christian white men in Congress better keep their hands off my body (meaning access to abortion).
  • Christians are hateful. 
  • Christians are homophobic.
  • Republicans are basically insane.
  • I'm very open-minded and non-judgmental. (In the next paragraph this student condemns groups with whom she disagrees.) 
  • Religion is for weak minded people.
  • Religious people are irrational.
  • My parents are incapable of thinking critically. (Young people have been making this claim since the Stone Age.)
  • Religion is the cause of all world problems. 
  • Those crazy Christians...
  • My grandparents are conservative so they're closed-minded.
  • My parents are religious which means they're narrow-minded. 
  • We need to get the old white Christian guys out of government.
  • My parents believe in religion but I don't. I'm afraid to hurt them, so I go along with it for now. (This was written by a Hindu male.)