[This is Brooke’s farewell talk which she gave on Sunday, April 21st at our local church building. We appreciate those who came and showed support for Brooke and this exciting time in her life.]
For most people the word pioneer is often accompanied with the mental image of men, women, and children pushing handcarts for thousands of miles in less-than-ideal circumstances. For me the word pioneer evokes the mental image of my ancestors sailing the South Pacific to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. For some of you the word pioneer may remind you of close relatives who overcame opposition. No matter how different the images may be I think we can agree that the traits found in pioneers are equivalent throughout all generations. Obedience, sacrifice, faith, and perseverance are the pillars of being a pioneer.
In the 1800’s the early saints, or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, were obedient to a prophet’s call to gather in Zion- a place where they would be of one heart, one mind, and dwell in righteousness away from the persecutions of others. They sacrificed everything- clothing, shelter, food, money, and property. Many sacrificed their own lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ. For some this sacrifice came at the hands of malicious mobsters who were determined to stop the “Mormons” from living their beliefs. For others this sacrifice came from frostbite, starvation, and illness that occurred on the trek west to the Salt Lake Valley.
“A few years ago, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
shared his feelings about the deep-rooted faith of pioneers
who pushed toward the Salt Lake Valley
even after the deaths of their children.
He said, “They didn’t do that for a program,
they didn’t do it for a social activity,
they did it because the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ
was in their soul, it was in the marrow of their bones.”
He expressed, with tender emotion:
“That’s the only way those mothers could bury
[their babies] in a breadbox and move on, saying,
‘The promised land is out there somewhere.
We’re going to make it to the valley.’
“They could say that because of covenants and doctrine
and faith and revelation and spirit.”
These pioneers had true faith- the kind of faith that says,
“Our God will deliver us from
ridicule and persecution, but if not we will trust in the Lord.”
“Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not we will trust in the Lord.”
“He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not we will trust in the Lord,”
Because they had the gospel written in their hearts as it says in Jeremiah, this deeply rooted faith sustained the early pioneers in their trials and aided them in persevering to the valley.
I have been blessed to learn from many modern pioneers who I hold very near and dear to my heart. My dad’s parents were building missionaries in the South Pacific for the Church. They were obedient to the commandments of God and the call of a prophet. They sacrificed the luxury of having a permanent home and they also sacrificed their time, energy, and talents. Their faith built up the walls of schools, chapels, cultural centers, and holy temples so that thousands could worship Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I can testify that they persevered until the end using every drop of talent, time, and energy that Heavenly Father granted them.
My mom’s parents (who are here today) are and will always be unwavering examples to me of obedience, sacrifice, faith, and perseverance. When the missionaries knocked on their door years ago my grandparents acted on the small particle of faith described in Alma 32:27. They listened to the missionaries and were eventually baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They were obedient to the commandments of God which included being faithful tithe payers and visiting the House of the Lord, or the temple, frequently. Between raising seven children and fulfilling various church callings, my grandparents have sacrificed for decades. However what I have learned from them about sacrifice is found in the 4th verse of hymn #27, “Praise to the Man”: Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven” and yet my grandparents have never made living the gospel of Jesus Christ seem like a sacrifice. Even as they grow older with their bodies and minds failing them, they persevere. I have seen first-hand how each night they kneel side by side and offer thanks to the Lord for their countless blessings. It is humbling to watch and has strengthened my testimony in more ways than they’ll ever know.
Another group of people that are close to my heart are the full-time missionaries who are serving in various places around the world today. Missionaries are exemplars of being a pioneer. They answer the call of God when He said in Doctrine & Covenants 112:28. Leaving behind all other personal affairs including instant communication with loved ones, comfort and familiarity of their own homes (sometimes even leaving behind the comfort and familiarity of their own language and even country), they serve for periods of 18 and 24 months where they live in strict obedience to the laws and commandments of God and to the rules of their specific mission. They are tried and tested, molded and stretched physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually and yet they keep going. Why do they sacrifice so much for what may seem like so little?
That question can be answered by looking at the life of an individual whose name these missionaries wear boldly on their name-tags day in and day out.
Jesus Christ is the perfect example of obedience, sacrifice, faith, and perseverance. He obeyed the will of Heavenly Father in its entirety. He sacrificed His time and energy to building the Kingdom of God on earth. He sacrificed His life- His perfect life- for each and every one of us so that each and every one of us may return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again.
It is because of Him that the pioneers of the early church were willing to walk barefoot in the snow for hundreds of miles. It is because of Him that missionaries are willing to leave behind life as they’ve known it to serve in any capacity they can.
It is because of Him that I am standing here before you today. It is because of His example that I desire to serve a mission. It is because of His love that allows me to feel the love I feel for the people of Brazil. It is because of obedience to His gospel that I have felt joy and it is because of His trust in me that I am going to strive to give 100% of my heart, might, mind, strength, and time for these next 18 months.
Brothers and Sisters it is my prayer that as Elder Holland once so eloquently pleaded,
“…we declare ourselves to be more fully
disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ,
not in word only and not only in the flush of comfortable times
but in deed and in courage and in faith,
including when the path is lonely and when our cross is difficult to bear. May we stand by Jesus Christ “at all times and in all things,
and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death,”
for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death
and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone.”
I testify that we are not alone. The prayers uttered from our lips, our hearts, and our tears are heard by an all-knowing, endless-loving Father in Heaven. I testify that the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth in these latter days. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. I testify that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God and that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of God on the earth today. I testify that Jesus Christ lives and that through His atoning sacrifice we can return to live with Him again in the Kingdom of our Father. I testify of these things in the name of our Lord and Savior, our Advocate with the Father, our Brother, our Friend, and our Redeemer- even Jesus the Christ, amen.