Monday, July 24, 2006

Happy 24th!

Pioneer Day has always been a favorite of mine. This year I am feeling a little sad because we chose not to attend our stake Pioneer Day celebration. That decision was largely mine. I am tired of traveling, and hot as it has been up here, it is even hotter down in the valley.

For my non-LDS readers, Pioneer Day commemorates the day in 1847 when Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. Utah has a State holiday filled with parades and fairs and all sorts of events that I've never been to. Local church units tend to have their own celebrations as well and the ones I grew up with in the small Amherst Ward beat any big stake production I have been to out here.

I used to dress up in my Holly Hobbie bonnet and apron. We would gather in the church parking lot and eat pioneer food and have watermelon seed spitting contests and parades, complete with "ox"-drawn "covered wagons." We sang pioneer songs accompanied with an acoustic guitar and listened to Sister Tripp tell stories of her pioneer ancestors. Maybe it was because I was young, but these events always seemed authentic.

Celebrations in Southern California that I have been to feel more like county fairs. They are somehow less personal and a tad more modern. Still, they are a lot of fun to attend together, and my kids know nothing else. Every year I think that next July I'll make myself a pioneer dress and bonnet. Similarly, after each Halloween I vow that I'll make myself an Elizabeth Bennett costume for next. I tend to let myself down frequently.

This year I at least filled my Sabbath with a bit of celebrating at church. We had a newly-returned missionary speak in Sacrament meeting, but since I pick the hymns, we sang "Come, Come, Ye Saints" and "They, the Builders of the Nation."

Luckily, this was also my month to do Sharing Time with the kids. You can do a lot more with a Primary of 6 than of 75. So I brought "provisions" in a large basket and we set up "camp" on a quilt under a tree in front of the chapel. We ate dried apples and apricots and homemade Pioneer Hardtack, sometimes known as sea biscuits, which seems to me to be the grandfather of the Wheat Thin cracker. I told two Mary Fielding Smith Stories, illustrating how Heavenly Father heard and answered the prayers of the pioneers. Abbey had the talk, so I helped her tell the story of the Crickets and the Seagulls, which has also long been a favorite of mine. We sang "Whenever I Think about Pioneers."

It is always amazing to me to reflect on all of the sacrifice and tribulations that the early Saints endured voluntarily. I am thankful for men and women who "met the test" in a way that I am not convinced I could have done. I face adversity much better in a climate controlled environment. Because of their faithfulness and fortitude I can live the gospel in relative comfort. I certainly have many trials of my own, but my own desire to press on is strengthened by those who have pressed on before me. We are united through the generations by common faith and hope--by a common goal of salvation. Through their stories and examples they tell us all to take courage and face the world with a strong heart.

"Whenever I think about pioneers,
I think of brave women and men.
I like to remember that children came, too;
I would like to have been a child then.

"I would like to have sung with all the pioneers,
With their voices loud and strong.
'Hosanna, Hosanna, we've found our new home,'
Joy and thankfulness filling their song."

"Whenever I Think about Pioneers"
words by Della Dalby Provost
CS, p. 222

1 fishy comments:

Jenn said...

Your home ward activities sound like a lot of fun! And it sounds like Sunday was really neat for the kids. I'm not familiar with that particular Primary song. We had our Primary kids sing 3 pioneer songs in SacMtg on Sunday, but not that particular one. The pioneers really were amazing, huh?