Since the days of the first steam locomotives in the 1820s and 1830s, people have been fascinated by trains and the lore of railroading.
Such famous stories as the race in 1830 between a diminutive steam locomotive called Tom Thumb and a horse owned by a stagecoach line, which incidentally won the race, add flavor and color to railroading lore.The "iron horse" helped to carve out the western frontiers of America. Even though the trains didn't open the land for western colonization, they were responsible for bringing thousands of people, both in the United States and Canada, to a new life in the West.
Such was the case of Mormon immigrants who came to Utah after the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. No longer were these religious refugees forced to cross the plains and the mountains by foot or handcart or covered wagon, or even stagecoach.
While steam locomotives have given way to diesel, the fascination about trains has not diminished. The distinctive sound of a train's whistle as it pierces the solitude of the night air still conjures up in the mind pictures of adventure in far-off places.
But today there is also a lesson that can be learned from watching a locomotive pull huge loads of freight across the land, particularly in the western mountains.
When a locomotive, pulling a long train of rail cars, has insufficient power to pull the load, additional engines are added. Sometimes there are three or four engines all pulling together to move the freight.
This analogy applies to us in the Church today, a principle taught so beautifully by the Savior. One of the first things Jesus did after calling the Twelve to assist Him in the work of the ministry was to teach them the doctrines of the kingdom.
After He selected the Twelve, they followed him "about Galilee" as He taught in the synagogues, preached the gospel, and healed all manner of sickness and disease among the people. (see Matt. 4:23.) He taught His apostles by example; He showed them what needed to be done.
He then instructed the Twelve and empowered them to go forth to preach the gospel, "heal the sick, cleanse the leper, raise the dead, cast out devils." (see Matt. 10:8.)
The Twelve, from that time on, were helping to "pull the load."
Each of us today has part of the load to pull, but no one is expected to do it all by himself or herself.
As early as 1920, the First Presidency commented on sharing the work of the ministry. In a letter to stake presidencies in May 1920, President Heber J. Grant and his counselors Anthon H. Lund and Charles W. Penrose wrote: "The purpose and genius of the Church organization isT not to have a few willing and faithful members performing two or three times their share of Church work."
There is great strength and power in the gospel when we pull the long, and sometimes heavy, train of responsibility together. All of us are needed to help build the kingdom of God. Each of us is needed in our callings.
The Lord told Joseph Smith:
"Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling, and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?
"Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect." (D&C 84:109-110.)
In his April 1984 general conference address in the priesthood session, President Ezra Taft Benson declared:
"You are needed in the service of the Lord today as never before. " `The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few.' " (Luke 10:2.)
That is our clarion call. We are needed in the service of the Lord, and from that service, our efforts can be like the modern trains of today - pulling our weight together - and not like the little engine in the child's story that had to chug up the mountain pulling its load all by itself.