Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pioneer Day

Yesterday was Pioneer Day.  It is a day we celebrate in the LDS church for when the first group of pioneers entered the Utah valley after travelling so many miles from Nauvoo to escape the persecution they were experiencing in Nauvoo.  Every year we remember these saints of long ago that sacrificed so much to be able to find a place where they could worship God without fear of harm.  They were hungry, tired, sick, and poor.  Many died along the way yet their faith in God kept them strong and helped them through these hard times. 

I don't have ancestors that were pioneers.  But my family does have it's own pioneer story.  My parents were married 48 years ago this month.  Four or so years into their marriage they had a baby girl.  They named her Kathryn Anne and called her Katie.  She was a beautiful little girl.  However, she was born with a liver defect and her life here on this earth was short.  She and my mom were very close.  Katie never learned to talk but they communicated back and forth and understood each other completely.  My dad says he has never seen a relationship like the one Katie and my mom had.  It was very special.  As a result of her defect her body would fill up with fluid and the doctors would have to drain all the fluid off.  The fluid kept her body off balance so Katie was never able to learn to walk either.  One night when Katie was 2 years old, my mom said her prayers and released Katie into God's arms if He was ready to take her.  It was hard to do but she knew she needed to.  That night Katie sat in my dad's lap for a longer time than usual.  The next day as she and my mom were napping together, Katie passed away.  When my mom awoke, Katie was gone from this life. 

Losing Katie brought so many questions.  Where was she?  Why did she have to come here and then leave so quickly?  Will they ever get to see her again? They went from church to church searching for answers that spoke to their hearts and souls.  No one had the answers they so desperately needed.  My mom was pregnant again and along with the answers they were searching for they were looking for something to help them raise their future children.  They wanted them to grow up and be good people.  They remembered a group of LDS youth they had met years before in Yellowstone and West Thumb that had impressed them.  They were nice, respectful, ready to serve and had faith in God.  My parents wanted their children to be like that. 

They remembered about a Book of Mormon that these youth had given them so many years earlier.  (In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we use the Book of Mormon along with the Bible.  We believe it is a record of people on the American continent.  It teaches us of Jesus Christ and His gospel just as the Bible does.)  Anyways, they got this book out and began to read.  As they read they began to find answers to their questions of Katie.  They knew that she was with God and that yes they would see her again.  They learned that our family could be together for eternity, not just for this life.  My dad finished reading the whole book in two weeks.  Then they called the missionaries, learned more about the church and asked to be baptized. 

My mom had cried every day since Katie had died.  She was baptized a year tot the day after Katie passed away and she never cried like that again.  Yes, she still missed her and yes she was still sad, but she had the answers she had been looking for and she knew she was on the right path to lead her back to Heavenly Father and to Katie. 

Just as the pioneers of old, my parents were first generation members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  While, they didn't have their lives and homes threatened and didn't have to flee from place to place, they did face persecution because of their faith.  They did face rejection.  I and my siblings, have also faced taunting and teasing because of our faith.  However, just as the pioneers of old, we used our faith in our Heavenly Father and in our Savior Jesus Christ to help us overcome and get through it. 

Our faith is who we are.  It is not just something that we do on Sundays.  We try to live it every day of our lives.  We try to follow the example of the Savior and live as if He were walking along with us every day. I fall short of this on a regular basis, but I repent and try to do better the next day.  I hope that when people know me, they can feel of my spirit and know of my love for the Savior.  I hope they can come to know Christ better because they have known me.  I hope I can teach  my children to do the same - to live as Christ would have us live.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I am grateful for those early pioneers that suffered so much for their beliefs.  Their stories and faith strengthen my faith.  I am also grateful for modern day pioneers whose testimonies and faith do the same.  I am thankful now to live in a place where Christianity is so much a part of every one's life.  Friendships are built through faith. Children are taught with love and kindness.  Service is given to friends and strangers.  Prayers are a part of daily life.  We may all belong to different faiths but our belief in the Savior Jesus Christ brings us together and unites us as we try to raise our children to be good, honest, God-fearing people.  I have been blessed since moving here with so many wonderful friends.  My children have been blessed with the same.  As I remember and celebrate the history of my church and the blessings of the gospel in my life, I also remember and celebrate the wonderful people God has brought into my life of all different faiths and religions and the blessings they are in the lives of me and my family.

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