The Ghosts Of Pioneer Past


I once watched a documentary on the Public Broadcasting Service about animals that live in the desert.  The show highlighted the fact that at first glance it appeared that very few animals lived in such harsh conditions.  As the camera panned the landscape there seemed to be no life.  But, upon closer examination the narrator began to educate us, that indeed, many species of animal life not only existed, but thrived.  Throughout the next hour I watched in amazement as he showed us various animals that lived in such extreme heat.  Each animal had adapted to the environment in their own way.  Each had developed the necessary features and attributes to survive.  I marveled at their resiliency and unique manner of living.  They were “desert ghosts” that are not seen to the common eye, but are to those who take time to keenly study the landscape.

Driving through or flying over the western part of the country, you can’t help but marvel at the true “Desert Ghosts,” our ancestors, the pioneers.  Driven from a country of ‘milk and honey’ to the uninhabitable, the early saints are a testimony to what faith can accomplish.  The words of Isaiah ring out:

“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.  (Isaiah 35:1)

It is hard to comprehend what present day Utah might have looked like to the pioneers as they entered the valley. What were they thinking as they gazed on their new home? They had endured much, and surely knew that they were just beginning to face challenges that might require their very lives! They began as ‘Desert Ghosts,’ barely visible to all those around them.  Yet, they adapted and developed attributes that would enable them to not only survive, but to thrive.

I once sat in a church meeting where we were discussing the importance of celebrating “Pioneer Day.” One brother, who had no ancestral connection, said, “I don’t see the importance of making such a big deal about the pioneers.  I feel a greater connection to the ancestors of the revolution!” Quickly another brother of African decent, raised his hand and respectfully said:

“Well, I see the importance of it. Although my ancestry is one of slavery and persecution, when I joined this church, its heritage became my heritage.  I think it is important to celebrate our pioneer ancestry!” The room went silent. Here was a man who understood the words of Paul written to the Galatians:

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye all are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28).

This brother understood the meaning of becoming ‘one’ in Jesus Christ.  He was a man who had gained a testimony of the important role of ‘the ghosts of pioneer past’,  who paved the way so that we might gain eternal life.

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