We were watching the Philippines Area Broadcast. Area President Brent Nielsen told of an incident with one of his children.
Dad, why do you always talk about the pioneers?
He thought a moment.
I guess it is because they set the bar, they set the standards for service that we are still trying to reach today. They gave their all.
They worked very hard to cross the plains. Then the Lord required them to climb mountains–and they did it, day after day after day. They never quit.
Mountains dominate the western United States. At my childhood home, the majestic panorama of the western side of the Teton Peaks fills the landscape. The eastern view of the Peaks is even more dramatic because there are no foothills on that side, and the mountains rise over 7000 feet from the valley floor. These famous landmarks of the backbone of America called the Rocky Mountains can be seen from a distance of 150 miles. The early hunters called them the “Pilot Knobs.”
Ma, when are we going to get there?
After we get to the mountains.
But we have been traveling so very long, and there is only flat prairie.
I know. But we won’t be there until we get through the mountains.
For emigrants seeking to go to“The West,” the first 1038 miles (1670 km) was over flat prairie. The distance was long but the travel was relatively easy. But the 50 mile uphill overland crossing from the Platte River to the Sweetwater Valley led to the mountains. They had worked hard to cross the plains, but last 186 miles (300 m) would be exceedingly difficult.
A few years ago, we had a family reunion in the Sweetwater Valley. We dressed in pioneer clothes and walked the trails. On a warm sunny afternoon, we pulled a handcart across a calm, shallow stretch of the river. It was great fun to splash through the water. Ethan went to sleep while riding on his father’s shoulders.
The emigrants found it necessary to cross the Sweetwater nine different times. Between the fifth and sixth crossing, the river pours through a massive rock formation over three hundred feet high called Devil’s Gate.
The only way around is to take the steep, treacherous, boulder-strewn 12-mile trail up Rocky Ridge. In two miles the trail rises over 700 feet, then continues over a narrow ridge, crosses Strawberry Creek, then traverses another ridge to Rock Creek. The Willie Handcart Company struggled over this trail for18 endless hours through snow and biting winds.
Rylee, Anndee, and Sunni, this spring you will graduate from high school. You have worked hard for over twelve years. Your schedules have been difficult, and stress has been your .companion. It is enticing to think of relaxing in the pleasant valley, of maybe getting a job and having your own money to spend . You look at the Rocky Ridge of mission commitment and think to yourself that you really don’t want to do that.
Dear, sweet Sunni, how I wish that I could put my arms around you now and give you a big hug. You are probably thinking that this does not apply to you. For you, your Rocky Ridge involves listening to the missionaries, studying, and spending time on your knees getting to know your Heavenly Father and hearing His answers.
None of you can stay in the pleasant valley. The river could sweep you into the abyss of Devil’s Gate. The season is late and clouds lurk on the horizon. Bitter storms will soon choke the valley. The only way to safety is to put your hand in the hand of God and climb your Rocky Ridge.
The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travelers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.
Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.
Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.
Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on!
(Bruce R McConkie, Oct. 1984)