Sunday, July 23, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell compares pioneer challenges with modern times

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.
“If you are faithful, the day will come when those deserving pioneers, whom you rightly praise for having overcome the adversities in their wilderness trek, will instead praise you, for having made your way successfully through a desert of despair, for having passed through a cultural wilderness, and having kept the faith, for having been true to the faith. And yes, you will rightly go on praising them for what they did in their days, but one day, [they,] including some of your ancestors, will praise you for having come safely home, through that cultural wilderness and that desert of despair.
"God bless you, in these your days! As those of us who love you and view you with a sense of anticipation are settled in our hearts and minds: You really are the Vanguard of those whom God promised to send in these the last days, of which I testify, as I encourage you to make of these days, 'days never to be forgotten' in the history of the Church. And I do so in love, and as your brother, but most importantly for the purposes of this evening, I do so as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has some sense of your future, and what you have the capacity to do. God Bless you.”
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Days Never To Be Forgotten," CES fireside for young adults, June 4, 1995

We often look back at the pioneer era with wonder and admiration for the difficulties they faced, and the courage and faith of their lives. Elder Maxwell suggests that the people of that era, considering our time, would have equal praise for our faithfulness in dealing with our present challenges.

Some of the descriptions Elder Maxwell uses to describe our time are very interesting, including "a desert of despair" and "a cultural wilderness." While we don't experience the hardship of a literal "wilderness trek" in our time, we deal with deserts and wildernesses in symbolic ways that present different challenges than the early Saints faced. If we survive the test and manage to "come safely home" to our heavenly origin, we will be greeted by those who preceded us with much joy and praise.

A pioneer glimpse I love was told about the first few years of settlement in Salt Lake valley. George Laub, who crossed the plains in 1852, tells that in the years that followed, as a new pioneer train would arrive in Salt Lake, the residents would come out to greet them with joy and singing, and would provide food and clothing from their meager stores to those arriving who were frequently hungry and exhausted. One of Laub's daughters later recorded that her father would bow his head and offer a soft prayer as each wagon would pull in to the city, "Oh God, we thank thee for these dear ones who have withstood the test." I think that conveys the spirit Elder Maxwell is describing; those who have survived the journey of mortality previously will truly understand the sacrifice and accomplishment of those who complete the journey later. Each journey has its particular challenges; but in the end, we will sing together, "All is well."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

1 comment:

  1. I believe the evils we face are worse than the physical trials they faced. Dying physically means you've returned to your heavenly home. Watching a spouse or child die spiritually from participating in evil is not something to rejoice about. They are not safely home and the path back is that much harder for them. I can believe that those early pioneers will look at those of us who make it as heroes too.


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