Friday, July 24, 2015

Dallin H. Oaks on following the examples of pioneers

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (1932- ) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984.
"It is not enough to study or reenact the accomplishments of our pioneers. We need to identify the great, eternal principles they applied to achieve all they achieved for our benefit and then apply those principles to the challenges of our day. In that way we honor their pioneering efforts, and we also reaffirm our heritage and strengthen its capacity to bless our own posterity and 'those millions of our Heavenly Father's children who have yet to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ' (Our Heritage 145). We are all pioneers in doing so.
"Many of our challenges are different from those faced by former pioneers but perhaps just as dangerous and surely as significant to our own salvation and the salvation of those who follow us. For example, as for life-threatening obstacles, the wolves that prowled around pioneer settlements were no more dangerous to their children than the drug dealers or pornographers who threaten our children. Similarly, the early pioneers' physical hunger posed no greater threat to their well-being than the spiritual hunger experienced by many in our day. The children of earlier pioneers were required to do incredibly hard physical work to survive their environment. That was no greater challenge than many of our young people now face from the absence of hard work, which results in spiritually corrosive challenges to discipline, responsibility, and self-worth. Jesus taught: 'And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt. 10:28)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Following the Pioneers," Ensign, Nov. 1997, p. 72
Click here to read the full talk

Today, July 24, is the traditional "Pioneer Day" commemoration. It's now been 168 years since the first of the Mormon advance company entered the Salt Lake valley. Elder Oaks counsels us to do more than just study their history, or participate in reenactments of their challenges and accomplishments. He provides the great challenge to find "eternal principles" that helped them achieve what they did, and then "apply those principles to the challenges of our day." In doing so, we link ourselves to them and to the truths they held dear.

He then proceeds to give several examples, comparing some of the pioneer challenges to our modern circumstances. I appreciate this insight; it's a model of how we should always ponder as we read the scriptures or any historic account. We should not just be learning about the past; we should be learning lessons that can help us today!

Pioneer image, Glen Hopkinson, courtesy of

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