Saturday, September 24, 2011


The gamut of experiences in a pioneer’s life included solitude, nostalgia, and resolve.  As the day progressed on my  last day, I witnessed a few scene that seemed to transport back to the era we were portraying. 
When I was young, I used to believe that the pioneers traveled “together.”   As I have studied the journals, the history of the trail west, I have learned that regularly the wagons and the handcarts were strung out for miles.  It seemed that frequently the only times they were truly together was at morning and night.   The trial was dusty, long, and even lonely at times.   
The first scene I viewed was of an extra walking on the trail.  I am not sure where he was going, but with a step back into time, I could imagine he had somehow fallen behind the rest of the company.  There was urgency in his long stride, accented by the conditions of heat and time.  It was very warm and it was late afternoon.  The “pioneer” must have been hot, tired, and dirty.  Yet, he walked with purpose, with energy.   It made me think of the real pioneer who had, perhaps, gotten behind for whatever reason and now was trying to catch up.  What was he thinking?  About the dangers of being alone in the wilderness?  Perhaps about his family trying to carry on without him? 

The second scene gave a sense of sadness, of longing, of wistfulness.  I was walking back to the shade of the refreshment canopy, when I saw Dianne sitting on a rock, looking off into the distance.  Her body was facing almost perpendicular to the road, but her face was following the road.  Echoing in my mind came the words, “Zion, O Zion, when will we reach thee.”  It was quiet.  There was no one else in the scene.  Transporting back to 1956, I felt the sadness…at leaving home, at losing a loved one, at having still so far to go.  I felt the longing…for being through with the journey, for enjoying companionship with others, for reaching the promise.  I felt the wistfulness… for a completion of the journey, for sorrows to end, for Zion, for God


Dianne turned and saw me taking her picture.  The “pioneer” turned joyful.  The face of recognition, of companionship, of completeness.   I could imagine a pioneer mother being "caught" by her child in this contemplative mood.  It would not do to show discouragement of any kind and so she quickly changed into a grand grin for encouragement to her daughter or her son.  She seems to glow out all around her “We can do it!”  Those strong saints must have carried both emotions into the rough country. 

It was a long trail—the pioneer one.  It took months to traverse.  Many were lost, not only in the Willie and Martin Handcart companies but in every one of the wagon and handcart companies.  During the mid 1800, there were many people traveling across the American wilderness.  Some were full of greed, some full of faith.  The trail was the same.  It was the obstacle in the path of destinations.  It was dusty and dirty.  It was long and often very difficult.  It was lined with bushes and sagebrush.  It could be muddy, sandy, rocky, bumpy.  It was isolated.  But the trail for the pioneers of faith led to the beginning of a dream.  It led to Zion.  Not a Zion of paradise, but a Zion where work and industry would produce a good life…for them and for their posterity.  It would give freedom from prosecution.  It would allow the peace needed to reach for God.  For a season, they would achieve  the “rest” of the Lord.   The pioneer trail was a pathway to eternity.

  This picture made me think of a song my mother used to sing to us.
It turns out it was a song written in 1913. 
Every time my mother would sing it, I would always picture 
in my mind something like the above scene.  
For the pioneers, it was a long, long trail
often creating a dream of reuniting
with loved ones who had died along that 
dusty road.

"There's a long, long trail a-winding
Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing
And a white moon beams.
There's a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true;
Till the day when I'll be going down
That long, long trail with you."
-Stoddard King
and Alonzo "Zo" Elliot

           Like the pioneers, we all have our journey to make on this earth.  That journey has obstacles in the pathway of destinations.  They can be difficult, long, and bumpy.  They are often very isolated.  The path is not easy...if we learn what we should.  We may get dirty and even wounded along the way.  Some journeys last longer than others.  But the trail, if we allow it to, will guide us to the beginning of our dreams.  With work and industry, It too can lead to Zion.  We have been handed a good life from those pioneers of old.  They earned for us freedom from prosecution.  We have had the peace needed to reach for God. If we take advantage of the paths of our lives, allowing God to guide us, we will reach Him and them. 

"Thank you" is not enough to express our debt of gratitutde.  
Our debt can only be paid by the life we live.
"By being true to the cause for which (our) ancestors
suffered so much to be part of."
(James E. Faust)

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