It would not be complete to not include the link to this post by Holly Welker; Latter-Day Saints and Modern-Day Pioneers, which generated in me a culmination that it has become time or even past time for me to lift up my voice with my husband's voice in honoring the spirit, integrity and courage displayed by his familial ancestors as reflective of the pioneer spirit of Mormonism. I can admire the story, the people, the experience and relate to it strongly as it mirrors for me that deeply held faith beliefs can sustain horrific life experiences.
I do believe believe that through arduous reflection, introspection, and determination, faith can help rescue human pain, human hurt. I am not of the belief that there is some immediate miraculous lifting of the anguish, but that faith is a process and like many processes, it evolves in increments, steps, time and experience. I think for the most part humans will experience varying kinds of levels of deep pain, deep hurt that need the balm of healing. And I believe a combination of factors to include reaching out for or holding onto faith can be that balm.
My husband's viewpoint on his ancestral story is better told in his own book 'And Should We Die', which is not an effort on my part to promote his book in this post; more that his own words tell the story of how he feels about his ancestral heritage and story. Given what I have come to learn about this fateful and dangerous trek and the costs in terms of loss of life of men, women and children, I do not share quite the same viewpoint as my husband. We do share in common a mutual admiration for the people who were his relatives, who made that trek, who brought his family to the West.
In that vein, when I read Holly Welker's post, I let out a hoop and holler of Yes! A person who not only shares my viewpoint but brings additional material to the discussion, offering up resource material for me to seek out and digest. Bringing me to an almost 'aha' moment, which generated in me the desire to initiate this blog.
Quoting from her post;
As far as I'm concerned, my activity in the Mormon church is irrelevant to my identity as a Mormon. Mormons call themselves saints; I suppose these days I'm a secular saint rather than a devout one. But that indelible mark made on the collective Mormon psyche by the trek across the plains? It's as vivid and deep on my psyche as on anyone's. What it marks is not my relationship to orthodoxy but to sacrifice, landscape, the unknown, and change.
I am proud of and humbled by the actions of my ancestors. They abandoned the familiar and strode bravely into the unknown, confident that doing so would enable a better future. They gave up possessions, relationships that no longer nurtured them, ideologies they had outgrown. They did the hardest thing they could, both because they could and because they had no other choice.
I cannot count the number of people who have said to me,"I have profound doubts about the church -- its politics, its doctrines, its social structures. I don't always feel at home. But I'll never stop attending or voice certain doubts in public because that would render the sacrifices of my ancestors null and void."
And I say, "How is doing the opposite of what your ancestors did the best way to honor their actions? Isn't the best way to honor their examples simply to follow it?"
I currently live in Salt Lake City, with ample opportunity to celebrate Pioneer Day: concerts in the tabernacle, a ball, a powwow, fireworks, the obligatory parade. I'll probably skip it, because these days Pioneer Day is about settling down, when the spirit that made the arrival in the Salt Lake Valley possible in the first place was about rising up. Mormons today are instructed to submit to authority, when the impetus for the trek across America was rejection of authority.
So this year I celebrate by imagining the Pioneer Day parade of my latter-day dreams. The marshals of my parade wouldn't be men who make pronouncements about doctrine, but the contemporary pioneers who challenge and remake the ways Mormons lives their day-to-day lives.