Webster’s dictionary defines the word pioneer as “a person who plays a leading part in the early development of something.” Therefore, in the truest sense of the definition, as the only person in my immediate family who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am a pioneer. And so, I would like to take just a few moments to share some of my thoughts about being a pioneer member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we are taught, “To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I strongly believe that I am the person that has been chosen, and given the responsibility by my Heavenly Father for such a time as this to lead the rest of my family to the saving knowledge of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a responsibility that I dare not take lightly.
I am reminded of the words of President Lorenzo Snow:
You exert a certain degree of influence, and be it ever so small, it affects some person or persons, and for the results of the influence you exert you are held accountable. You, therefore, whether you acknowledge it or not, have assumed an importance before God and man that cannot be overlooked.” (JD, 18:299).
And so, I have a responsibility to be a positive influence on my family. Along those same lines, I must also set the example that I wish my family to follow. I am reminded of the words of President Harold B. Lee:
You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is. You must be sure if you would rescue the man that you yourself are setting the example of what you would have him be. You cannot light a fire in another soul unless it is burning in your own soul.” (CR, April 1973, p.178.)
One of the ways that I can be a positive influence and set the example that I should before my family, is by having and maintaining a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel. I must always be ready to give an answer for not only what I believe, but why I believe it. This principle is taught to us in 1 Peter 3:15-17:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you of the reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience that whereas they speak evil of you as evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
On 10 March 2014 I celebrated my 16th year as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Never would I ever have imagined that one day I would be a member of the Lord’s true Church.
I was raised in a good Christian Baptist home with a dear mother who made sure that her four children were nurtured in the good Word of God. I grew up in a home where it was understood that if mom was going to church on Sunday, than so were you. There was no argument, discussion, or debate. From a very early age as I grew to love and appreciate the blessed Scriptures, my focus was set on one day fulfilling my grandmother’s dream and what later became my own personal goal of becoming a Baptist minister. But the Lord had other plans.
Through all of my years of being taught righteous principles as a youth and later teaching Sunday school classes and training in Bible College to become a Baptist minister, the Lord was preparing me for a greater work that He had for me to do. I am so grateful that I yielded to His will for my life instead of pursuing the path that I had chosen. I am a living testimony that if we will but “Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart; and lean not unto [our] understanding and in all [our] ways acknowledge Him . . . He shall direct [our] paths” (see Proverbs 3:5). In the words of one of my favorite hymns:
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me. I tremble to know that for me he was crucified. That for me a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died. Oh it is wonderful that he should care for me. Enough to die for me. Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
I am thankful for the callings that I have received over the past 17 years – Activities Chairman, Single Adults Representative, Youth Sunday School Teacher, First Counselor in the Young Men Presidency (Ward level), member of the Stake High Council, a counselor in two Bishoprics (as Second and then First) Counselor, High Priest Group Leader, Ward Mission Leader, Ward Missionary, Teacher for High Priest Group, Gospel Doctrine Teacher – and for the lessons that I have learned from each of them. Each of those lessons has helped to strengthen my testimony and have given me a stronger desire to do those things which the Lord would have me to do. Even more so, I am grateful that a loving Heavenly Father would call me to serve in these capacities and it is my humble prayer that I will always be willing to serve wherever the Master would need me to serve. May I always be willing to serve with the attitude of Nephi:” I will go and do the things which the Lord have commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7, Book of Mormon).
Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taught me that living the True Gospel is not in thinking about myself all the time, but rather it is about serving others. Being a member has also given me a greater understanding of the importance of, and appreciation for, family history work. The work that I have begun on my family history has sparked a great deal of interest in my family. It has also opened many doors of opportunity to share my faith and my testimony with family members, prayerfully planting seeds that will one day soon, yield a rich harvest.
As I look back through the pages of my family history, I can see the hand of God at work. I come from a heritage that is rich with people who dedicated their lives to being community leaders, educators, defenders of this great nation in several wars, and ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think it is no coincidence that I would grow up to also have a thirst for education, to honorably serve my country, and most importantly to have a sincere love for the Gospel. It was all part of the Lord’s plan. I believe that every stepping stone along the way was setting the pathway to bringing me to where I am today. As I prepare family names to take to the Temple, I know that the Spirit of Elijah is present and that the Lord, as well as my ancestors, is pleased with the work that I am doing.
I will close with the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are a favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory, “the dispensation of the fullness of times,” when God will gather together all things that are in heaven, and all things that are upon the earth, . . . when the Saints of God will be gathered in one from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue, when the Jews will be gathered together into one, the wicked will also be gathered together to be destroyed, as spoken by the prophets; the Spirit of God will also dwell with His people, and be withdrawn from the rest of the nations, and all things whether in heaven or on earth will be in one, even in Christ. (HC, 4:609-610.)
I testify to you of the hope that is in me and that hope is Jesus Christ and the knowledge that I know that His Church is the True Church and that His Gospel is truth. I further testify that I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and that President Thomas S. Monson is our living prophet in these the latter days. I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that as the pioneer member of the Church for my family, as I continue to share my testimony of this Gospel, others will want to follow in my footsteps to learn of that blessed hope. The windows of opportunity are open and I am willing to do the work which the Father has for me to do. That I may do so humbly and by His perfect will is my prayer. In the sacred name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.