Beloved Pioneer


Here is the talk I gave yesterday in Church, but without all the sniffling.

Beloved Pioneers
Meg Stout
July 23, 2017

While the choir was preparing to sing Faith in Every Footstep, we learned how this song came about. K. Newell Dayley had a son going on a mission. So Newell said they should both memorize a scripture each day.

They did this for about two weeks. Then on a Saturday morning, the words to this song started flooding into Brother Dayley’s mind. He completed the words and tune that very morning. 1

Sometimes we don’t even know we are laying the foundation of a great work. Brother Dayley had no idea his scripture memorization would do anything more than help his son be more ready for a mission. Yet how many thousands and millions of people have heard this anthem and been lifted by its message.

What is a pioneer?

The term pioneer comes from Latin, and originally meant a foot soldier, one sent ahead to prepare the field for the army. 2

The first ones we call pioneers were the Mormons who had been driven from Missouri. They had endured the deaths of Joseph and his brother, Hyrum. When it was clear that the courts would not punish anyone for murder, mobs began attacking again. I have ancestors who died during these so-called Wolf Hunts. 3

Despite attack, the Saints completed the temple and decorated it in the dead of winter with green plants, to symbolize paradise. They sealed themselves together as families. 4 Then they turned west. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. “The Story Behind Faith in Every Footstep,” online 7/22/2017 at http://quantumleap42.blogspot.com/2009/07/story-behind-faith-in-every-footstep.html.
  2. pioneer (n.), “foot soldier who prepares the way for the army,” from Middle French pionnier “foot-soldier, pioneer,” from Old French paonier “foot-soldier” (11c.), from peon (see pawn, as in the pawns in a game of chess (n.2)). Figurative sense of “person who goes first or does something first” is from c. 1600. Related: Pioneers, online 7/22/2017 at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pioneer. Fun thought – in a game of chess, the pawns are the first, but are relatively weak. But as they “endure” to reach the other side of the board, they gain strength to move like the most powerful player, which in chess is the queen.
  3. Mary Amanda Bunnell and Ralph Henry Delong. According to the oral histories, the family was given “blueberries” that fall by neighbors and all who ate the pie made from the berries died. Most died within a day of eating the pie. Mary went into premature labor and then she and the infant died, consistent with how a deadly poison would have affected a pregant woman and her unborn child.
  4. Cook, Lyndon, Nauvoo Marriages Proxy Sealings, Grandin Book Company, 2004, available at https://www.amazon.com/Nauvoo-Marriages-Proxy-Sealings-1843-1846/dp/B000RAHCCM.

Be Ye One

Getty ImagesLast night my pre-mission daughter shared a new cool thing she’d seen on the internet:

Synchronous Fireflies

There are a few places in the world where these unique fireflies can be found, including the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

A question researchers had was “why do they light up at the same time?” The hypothesis was that there was some master bug that was somehow commanding the others to blink in unison. One imagined viscious attacks of the master bugs on asynchronous outcasts, producing successive generations where mindless obedience was bred into the system.

Honestly, researchers did posit some kind of centralized control for these insects.

But then they found out what is really happening. It turns out the flashing of a firefly is controlled by an internal clock. Most species of firefly flash to their own rhythm and don’t take cues from their neighbors. But Photinus carolinus fireflies will adjust their internal clock in response to their neighbors. Let’s call it photoluminescent empathy.

This empathy causes a firefly that hasn’t yet lit up to see another’s light and say “let me speed up my next cycle a bit to be like them.” My daughter had found a website where you could turn on this “empathy” and watch the screen as dozens of animated fireflies slowly blinked into synchronicity, based on the math of the natural phenomenon.

The animation was set up so you could click and move your mouse to cause a photonic disturbance in the unity. So we spent some time “messing up” the unified blinking, only to relax and watch as the virtual fireflies slowly returned to their soothing unison pattern.

Those who accept Christ’s baptism and strive to honor that commitment are like these special fireflies. They look to the faithful around them and yearn to be one. It isn’t because of central mind control from Salt Lake City or harsh sanctions against the slackers, but because one sees another doing good and is inspired to try a little harder oneself.

It made me reflect on a couple of events of the past, recent and non-so-recent. As we would click to disrupt the unison flashing, I thought of high-profile disruptions that have spun away segments of those who were previously one with the Saints. Like wounds in the beauty of the unity, however, our click and drag disruptions would heal. And in similar manner I see the disruptions in our own unified body healing.

Alas, my quinquagenarian google-fu isn’t leading me to the fun animation I enjoyed with my daughter last night. If any of you know where to find the synchronous firefly animation, please share.

And in the mean time, I will look to my brothers and sisters and try to be more like the good I see in them.

Adam and Eve in the Lost 116 Pages?

Recently my Stake President challenged us to read the Book of Mormon this summer (or this year). I’m always up for another foray into the lovely pages, so I decided to start listening during my daily bus commute.

I had also recently helped my daughter finish documenting her completion of the Personal Progress requirements. Therefore I was reminded of the Lenten Personal Progress program I developed, which among other things tells you how you can complete the Book of Mormon in 46 days.

Reading 1 Nephi 1-7, I came across the following in 1 Nephi 5:11, 17, 18, 19:

11 And [Lehi] beheld that [the plates of brass] did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents…

17 And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed—

18 That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.

19 Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed.

Recall that Manasseh (hiss boo) had reigned for decades in idolatrous and infanticidal polytheism within recent memory when Lehi fled Jerusalem. So the monotheistic Judeo-Christian creation story where man is created by God would have been precious indeed.

An account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve…

We know that the original 116 pages of the Book of Mormon were lost. Might these pages have contained an account of creation and the Abrahamic covenant that, though brief, was paradigm altering for Joseph Smith? I’ve sent a query to Don Bradley, who has made an extensive study of the likely contents of the 116 pages.

But here’s what I do know.

Book of Moses. In 1830 Joseph turns to the Bible, to create an expanded version of the text therein. This is very shortly after Joseph has published the Book of Mormon and organized the Church.

Joseph’s alterations to the creation story are significant – so significant that we have canonized that particular portion of Joseph’s inspired Biblical revision as the Book of Moses, now in the Pearl of Great Price.

Remember the words Joseph was given after losing the 116 plates regarding the Book of Mormon: even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people… 1

We know the Book of Mormon talks about Jesus Christ constantly, incessantly, with some Christian scholars suggesting the Book of Mormon almost qualifies as Jesus fan fic.

But what if all this adulation of our Lord and Savior was in a book that initially told us of how Jesus had volunteered to be the Savior of mankind, to save us all from death and sin at the very beginning, when Adam and Eve transgressed? Would it not make sense that prominent recollection of the salvation of the seed of Adam and Eve would create the Christ-worship we see throughout the Book of Mormon? Continue reading

Notes:

  1. D&C 3:16

Resonance: The Fruits of Living in Love

This week a good friend 1 lost his battle with cancer.

Last night we gathered to celebrate the life of this good man.

I was not prepared for the richness I would feel at the celebration.

The stories moved me to laughter and tears.

His daughter told of a time while babysitting as a teenager, when noise of the front door handle being rattled caused her to call her Dad. He’d shown up toting a rifle, only to discover it was a cat jumping up and attempting to grasp the shiny knob that was causing the worrisome noise.

His son-in-law told of being a young man and inviting my friend to be treated to lunch. My humble friend had suggested McDonald’s. When the suitor had asked what my friend wanted to eat, my friend declined, pulling out the bag lunch his wife had packed for him. And then they sat and shared a memorable lunch as they discussed the young man’s plan to propose marriage to my friend’s oldest daughter.

But it was not so much the stories and the preaching of the sweet doctrines of eternity that I will remember the most. Nor will my primary memory be the sublime music my friend’s family and friends shared with us mourners.

It was remembering sitting with my friend’s first wife in 1984, when she was dying of cancer. It was seeing another of my friend’s sons-in-law playing the organ and remembering that we had been each other’s first date. It was looking at my former Relief Society President, whose son had been the young man nervously sitting at the McDonald’s with his future father-in-law. It was the dozens and hundreds and thousands of other connections and shared experiences with those in that room.

As I looked around the room, I was surrounded by people I have cherished, who have cherished me for decades. I’ve seen them marry. I’ve seen them as Sunbeams in Primary, now grown and with children of their own. I’ve seen them as harried parents or uncertain adults, now confident in their silvered years.

Even the architecture resonated. That was the pulpit where I had given a eulogy when my own son died. That pulpit was where I first heard President Benson speak as a President of the Church, the first time he would as President of the Church utter the invitation to read the Book of Mormon. That was the pulpit where Elder David Haight had stood and told us of the godly event he’d participated in when President Kimball was given permission to open the priesthood to all worthy men.

The decades of marriages and baptisms and funerals and loving interactions and kindnesses built on one another, resonating with this single instance where we, the mutually beloved, honored the life of one who has been so humble and good and kind. We yearn to see our friend once more, in that world that will be free of pain and illness, in that world where we will know as we are known and love without fear of loss. And beyond the hope of seeing that particular friend again, we have a confident hope in that sweet world, where all we have loved will live together in sweet humility and fond friendship. 2

This is the sublime fruit of the good and wise life we are urged to live. This is the precious sweetness we are given when we repent of our wrongs.

This is the love everlasting Our God and Our Lord yearn to pour out on us.

This is the hope of a peace that overwhelms death and heartbreak.

This is the faith of my fathers and mothers, my daughters and sons, for all generations and all eternity.

 

Notes:

  1. Barry Blacka
  2. The vision of the afterlife related by Heber Q. Hale in 1920 suggests all co-exist in the afterlife, with those in the Celestial glory having full ability to visit with their loved ones, even if their loved ones are restricted to a lesser glory. Online 13 Jul 2017 at http://emp.byui.edu/davisr/121/Vision%20of%20H%20Hale.htm.