Listen to President J. Reuben Clark Jr. pay tribute to Mormon pioneers in rare audio file
Editor's note: The following story and accompanying podcast (also available toward the bottom of this page) and transcript were first published by Mormon Times in 2008 and, by popular request, has become a regular feature published for the Pioneer Day holiday.
The centennial celebration of the Mormon pioneers' 1847 entry into the Salt Lake Valley was coming to a close. Parades. Dramatic pageants. Pioneer reenactments. A newly dedicated "This is the Place" monument stood at the mouth of Emigration Canyon.
It was October, and with general conference coming, most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints probably thought everything that could be said about the pioneers had been already said.
But the most significant talk about the pioneers was yet to be delivered.
President J. Reuben Clark Jr., first counselor in the First Presidency of the church, was concerned. Like many others, he had heard the laudatory auditory concerning Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and other stalwart church leaders. He had also heard members boast of their ancestral pioneer bona fides, almost as if their ancestors' deeds were their own.
Something hadn't yet been said. One group had not yet been praised. One story had not yet been told. President Clark was to deliver what some consider the finest talk of his life. It was to capture the imagination of the members for generations. It was a transformational talk. The church has never been the same since.
On October 5, 1947, President Clark presented his talk titled, "To Them of the Last Wagon." He began with his testimony:
"My brethren and sisters, I should like in the beginning to add my testimony to the many that we have heard during this conference — my testimony that God lives; that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the World, the First Fruits of the Resurrection; that Joseph Smith was a prophet; that through him the gospel was restored and likewise the priesthood, the authority delegated to man on earth to represent Deity here among us; and that the Prophet has been followed down to and including our present president, George Albert Smith, by men who possessed the keys of the last dispensation as conferred upon Joseph Smith."
"The matter that I shall give you today is very dear to my soul," President Clark continued. "Since I should like to say what I have to say in the best way I can say it, I have written it down and shall read it." His delivery of his prepared remarks was measured and Churchillian. His voice dignified.
Although many members of the LDS Church today have heard J. Reuben Clark Jr. quoted by modern general authorities, few have ever heard him speak. In honor of Pioneer Day, Mormon Times presents a rare audio file of President Clark's classic talk, "To Them of the Last Wagon," which follows.
A full transcript of President J. Reuben Clark Jr.'s "To Them of the Last Wagon" talk:
At the near close of this one hundredth year of the entering into these valleys of your fathers and your mothers, some of yours and mine, I wish to speak a few further words of humble tribute and thanksgiving to them, and especially to the meekest and lowliest of them, those great souls, majestic in the simplicity of their faith and in their living testimony of the truth of the restored gospel, to those souls in name unknown, unremembered, unhonored in the pages of history, but lovingly revered round the hearthstones of their children and their children's children who pass down from generation to generation the story of their faith and their mighty works, and the righteousness of their lives and living, those souls who worked and worked, and prayed and followed, and wrought so gloriously.
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