Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
“We are all time voyagers leaving history in our wake, pioneering into the future.”
— Erwin Raphael McManus
As we approach Pioneer Day, most Utahns raised in the Mormon faith automatically reflect on sacrifices ancestors made to settle Great Basin communities.
Although Utah Jazz’s Karl Malone thought Salt Lake City was throwing him a massive birthday party when he rode in the Days of ’47 parade back in 1985, he later learned we were simply honoring our pioneer heritage.
Mormon baby boomers probably remember enduring summer Primary classes and trudging through the chorus of “Pioneer children sang as they walked, and walked, and walked, and walked.”
In Utah, July is typically a time to reflect and honor the leaders and families who trekked across the plains, mountains, and valleys before settling on this desert sod.
A pioneer is defined as a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.
While there is value learning of the sacrifices of Mormon pioneers, I also enjoy reflecting upon biblical pioneers. Two of my favorites are Nathanael and Paul.
The gospel of John records that Nathanael was from Cana in Galilee and was one of the first disciples called by Jesus. The other three gospels refer to Philip’s friend as “Bartholomew.”
When Nathanael first heard that the Savior of mankind was from Nazareth, he skeptically asked if anything good could come from the tiny, obscure town.
Philip simply replied, “Come and see.”
When Jesus saw Nathanael from a distance, he described him as an Israelite without deceit.
Since the two had never met, Nathanael wondered how Jesus knew of his character. Jesus informed him that he knew him even before Philip called him.
Immediately, Nathanael recognized Jesus as the Son of God.
Like a true pioneer, Nathanael showed us the way we should accept and follow Jesus.
The Apostle of Paul led the life of a true pioneer as he ventured primarily on his own declaring Christ’s Good News.
In his early life, Paul was known as Saul. He was a tentmaker of the Pharisee sect and took an active role in persecuting Christians.
Following his miraculous conversion, Paul traveled over 10,000 miles on land and sea proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With the faith of a mustard seed, Paul slept in meager shelters as he traveled without purse or script through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, Greece and Italy.
It is difficult for any of us to imagine the physical challenges Paul faced on his four Mediterranean Sea journeys. Sun, wind, rain, heat and cold constantly pounded him.
In 2nd Corinthians, Paul gives an inkling of the obstacles he overcame as he shared the message that the Son of God lived a perfect life, was cruelly crucified, and then rose on the third day.
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
“Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
“In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
“In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”
Paul then explains that in addition to his daily sufferings, he tended to his primary mission of ministering among the churches.
This Pioneer Day is an ideal time to read and reflect upon pioneers whose voyages spread the message of Christ.
Charlie Roberts is a former LDS bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward.