Monday, July 21, 2008

Pioneer Heritage

Yesterday, Scott and I had the opportunity to speak in our church's sacrament meeting. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the worship services are taught by the everyday members of the church. Speakers and chosen and topics are assigned by our bishops, but the meeting is directed by ordinary members of the congregation. This week, it was our family's turn to speak and we were assigned the topic of our pioneer heritage.

A pioneer is someone who leads the way, making it easier for others to follow. We often think in the Mormon church of the pioneers that made the trek out West, fleeing persecution and searching for a safe-haven where they could make their home and worship according to the dictates of their own conscious. They tamed the wilderness in Utah and set up the headquarters of our church, making it possible for us to belong to God's true church today.

But those are not the only pioneers that have impacted my life. I have recently been very impressed with the legacy that parents and grandparents leave behind. They form righteous traditions that become a lasting heritage. In my talk, I talked about some of my family members that made difficult changes in their life, making it easier for me to follow. I talked about my great-great-great-great grandfather, Moses Clawson, and the early saints following first Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young as prophet. They were pioneers, showing us that no matter whom the Lord’s mouthpiece, commandments still come from God. Because of their faithfulness, when Gordon B. Hinkley died this past year, it was natural for the members of the Mormon church to transfer our loyalty from Gordon B. Hinkley to Thomas S. Monson. I also talked about Scott’s family and how his older sister was a pioneer. She was the first person in their family to go on a mission and she got a lot of flack about it from her extended family. But she went and made it easier for Scott to follow. I also talked about my mom and how she was a pioneer in establishing a healthy and eternal family relationships and how my home today is modeled after the one she showed me how to build. I was very grateful for the topic because it helped me not to take for granted the blessings I have received from my family’s pioneers.

Scott spoke about how we are all adopted into the family of Christ when we become members of the church and how because we are all spiritual brothers and sisters, we can all take pride in each other’s heritage. He told the story of the Hmong saints and how he was proud to share in their heritage and how excited and proud they were to share in the pioneer heritage. It was really moving.

I appreciate the way our church is organized so that all its members have an opportunity to both teach and learn. As always, it's when I'm called upon to teach that I learn the most.


Debra said...

Does Scott have a copy of his talk about being adopted into Christ's family and being spiritual brothers and sister's and the story he told. I am learning more and more about your church and I love it. It makes sence. I'd love to read his talk if I can. Your's was good too. I like the way you guys teach each other. My email is (I found your blog on google by the way) just looking up any info I can find.

Carolyn Duede said...

I have been trying to get Scott to expand his sparse notes to a full version of the talk but, alas, to no avail. So I'll paraphrase the important bits for you.

He began with this scripture from the book of Ephesians: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God." He talked about how he does not have any ancestors that joined the restored church in its early years or cross the plains to Utah, seeking refuge with the saints. He did not have the literal heritage that some church members can boast of. He compared this to the Greek saints who were converted by Paul just after the death of Christ. Many of the Jewish Christians felt that because they were had already been God's chosen people, they were the superior Christians. They thought that their Israelite heritage and subsequent baptism was more valid than those who had merely been adopted into the house of Israel. Some of them felt that in order to become a Christian, the Greeks should first become Jews by being circumcised! Paul tried to end this prideful thinking by teaching that all members of Christ's church were fellowcitizens, adopted into the household of God. When we join Christ's church, our biological heritage becomes second to the great legacy of faith we inherit from all the Christians who went before us. My husband talked about how that is part of what it means to be of the household of God. We are brothers and sisters and we can rejoice in all the stories of all the Christians who are a part of that family.

To illustrate his point, my husband talked about the Hmong people. He has recently been working with the Hmong members in California as the scriptures are being translated into their language. The Hmong people were a persecuted ethnic group in Southeast Asia that fought alongside the American troops during the Vietnam War. When the United States pulled out of the conflict, these people were left behind, surrounded by people who hated them. America made them the best deal we could, considering the politics at the time. We promised the Hmong people that if they could cross the country of Laos, which was filled with people who hated and wanted to kill them, and cross the border into Thailand, we would pick them up and take them to the United States of America, where several states were prepared to naturalize them. Many of the Hmong people made the journey through Laos; few of them made it across into Thailand. Those brave people were then brought to America, where they have been joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in droves. Their story of courage and sacrifice became a part of my heritage when they became our fellowcitizens, and of the household of God.

Scott felt very keenly the strength that the Hmong people add to our congregation and he shared with our ward how very excited the Hmong saints were to celebrate Pioneer Day. Although they have no biological ties to the 19th century church members who built up our church's headquarters in Utah, they recognized their spiritual connection to them and were so grateful for their sacrifices.

That's the gist of it. I hope that this helps.