To the spirit of heroes we give honor today.
We are awed by the stories of the price
they had to pay,
And when we think of their trials, we must
marvel that they
Still found joy as they went on their way.
Though our fathers would surely be the
first ones to say
That the dangers were different from the
kind we face today,
Across the years they are calling,
“There’s a price still to pay,
But there’s joy on the plains of today.”
So come, come ye sons of the pioneers of old
And take your burdens up bravely as did they,
For we have trials and challenges to meet even now
As we all cross the plains of today.
There is no handcart in my heritage. I am the pioneer.
That was not unusual in the little Texas branch where we spent 9 years before returning to Utah in 2011. Ask first-generation members there to raise their hands and most hands went up. In that last year, we saw 14 adult converts baptized. That’s in the Bible belt, and in many cases they paid a price to become a Mormon. Radiant in their testimonies, fresh from the waters, basking in the fellowship … they were hungry to know everything and full of questions.
“What is Pioneer Day?” was on, like, page 23 of their question list. But they understood commitment and not a few had known hard travel of some sort.
Over 257,000 adult converts have joined the Church in the past year. This week, many will watch the Pioneer Day Concert for the first time. What is now “their” Choir will sing the great hymns of the gathering. It will become their story, too, just as it became mine over 50 years ago.
In 1983, when I wrote this song, Matt was only 6. That was the year we were told about the plains stretching out before us. As we packed our handcart with the essentials … testimony, faith, prayer … I remember thinking that, well, every family is pulling a load. Some loads are just more visible than others.
For me, the power of the pioneer saga is how those early Saints faced their unexpected journey … not just courageously, but joyfully.