A couple of years ago, I was speaking with my husband’s aunt about an experience she had with a church friend of hers. This friend had come to visit with her, to see how she was doing. After some chit chat, this friend of my aunts shared that she was so happy for an upcoming wedding in her family. Her grandson was to be married to a beautiful girl. And this friend was so happy that this girl came from “pioneer stock” like her grandson who was to be married to her. My aunt must have appeared confused, for this church friend went on to say how important it was that her posterity marry those that had the same pioneer ancestor history as they did. That those marriages “were the best,” because they came from such a long line of Mormon saints [“saints” is another word for Church member].
My aunt then expressed how, even though her ancestors weren’t pioneers, that she was still a good member of the church. That it shouldn’t matter if you are a first generation member or if your past relatives shook the hand of Joseph Smith. That the blessings we feel from belonging to Christ’s church on the earth should be universally praised and felt, regardless of the specifics of our lineage.
I come from a pioneer family. On both my mother’s side and my father’s. They traveled across the plains. They faced many hardships after leaving their homelands, some from Canada, many from England and Europe. All the stories you may have heard of death and sickness and pain….my family experienced. I have journals and family history records that could fill a bookcase.
But rarely do I share these truths with others. And here is why.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate and praise all that my ancestors went through so that I could be where I am today. I do. Believe me I do. It’s just that…I have this feeling…this sacred, quiet and beautiful feeling that my pioneer family would not want to be put on a pedestal so high, so above everyone and everything, praised and adored and made into eternal heroes, that they are revered to the point that we forget why they were who they were. Why they did what they did. They would want us to be like the Savior…as they tried to be like Him.
When my husband’s aunt told me of this woman, she was quite upset. I then told her of my family’s history. Of my own relatives’ pioneer heritage, and that what her church friend said, was not only inaccurate, but that it wasn’t something she should dwell on. In the gospel, we all are on an equal playing field. Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, suffered for us all so that, if we follow Him, we can live in the eternities with those we love and with our Heavenly Father. And one will not get their simply because he or she married someone of “pioneer stock.” The only way we can achieve eternal life is by using our agency, our free will, to follow the Savior and by keeping all of His commandments. Not because one of our distant relatives crossed the plains as Mormon pioneers.
I am grateful for my ancestors. But do I follow the Savior because of them? No. I do it for myself and for my family and for those around me. And I think that my ancestors would be perfectly fine with that…in fact, I believe they would feel the same way.