"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 filed for divorce and shortly thereafter, married a woman he worked with. Now, my friend struggles to raise their three children while sharing custody with her ex-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,"