Pioneer Day carries a uniquely important message in today's world. It celebrates the examples of hardy people who placed virtue and spiritual satisfaction above money and personal fame - a choice becoming increasingly foreign to modern value systems.
Last year, that lesson was easily taught amid the highly publicized re-enactment of the trek west. The grand scene that welcomed the re-enactors in the Salt Lake Valley was a powerful object lesson. But the lesson cannot be allowed to dim simply because it now is 151 years old. Indeed, the lesson seems to be getting more timely with each passing year. Each generation must relearn the things that truly matter in life, and the legacy of the pioneers stands ready to teach.For example, of all the ills gripping society today, gambling is among the fastest growing and the most destructive. It has become a multi-billion dollar industry and has turned itself into a staple of revenues for state and local governments. Yet it is the exact opposite of the pioneer spirit.
The pioneers knew all about the allure of gambling, which is that riches can be had without effort. Not long after they settled in the Salt Lake Valley, gold diggers began streaming through on their way to California. Without a commitment to higher principles, the pioneers might have picked up and followed along. But they stayed and suffered hardships because of their greater vision. Today, we have them to thank for building some of the cleanest, most livable communities in the world. And, not coincidentally, Utah is one of only two states left where gambling is outlawed. It must remain so.
Greed, in its many forms, has great power over people these days. Ultimately, however, it is a doctrine of despair and hopelessness. Everyone eventually must die, and his or her riches must fall into the hands of others.
But the bedrock principle that motivated and sustained the pioneers was faith in God and in a higher purpose for their own lives. It is a doctrine of joy and hope - one that helps people endure incredible hardships and one that leads to triumph, rather than despair, at the end of mortal life.
The pioneers of 1847 set an example in fortitude and determination, not for self-aggrandizement or riches, but for a cause larger than themselves. It is one of the main reasons they are held in such esteem today. They teach us of courage, discipline, commitment, devotion and love - principles that endure and build societies, and that touch lives around the world.
Those principles are just as valuable today as they were in 1847. Pioneer Day should be a time for celebrating these lessons and for personally committing to follow the examples set by those early settlers.