"Our heritage will not save us; the deeds of the pioneers were their deeds. We, as their descendants, must stand on our own feet, and, as President J. Reuben Clark Jr., so aptly stated, 'not only on our own feet but in our own shoes.' "
That quote from President Ezra Taft Benson (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 421), appropriately pays tribute to the pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley but puts the burden for our own salvation where it should be — with us.
By all means, particularly at this time of year, let us remember the courage, determination and dedication of those who gave so much, including their lives, in their quest for religious freedom.
But, as President Spencer W. Kimball so articulately noted: "Could the thousands of our pioneers have voice this morning, I am sure they would ask for no shrine, no monuments to their name, no words of praise, but this thing they would ask: that we, their posterity, should consecrate our lives, our fortunes, our energies, and ourselves to the work of the Lord, the cause for which they gave so much." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 156.)
Indeed that is the same thing the Lord asks of us; that we consecrate our lives to Him. As He stated, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15.)
Different people are called upon to do different things in different eras. But the principles are always the same regardless of the time frame. The Lord "is the same yesterday, today, and forever. . . ." (Moroni 10:19.)
The Savior stands ready to help us providing we do those things that allow Him to do so — "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10.)
We need to be content with that which the Lord has allotted us. We're alive at this particular time because it fits in with the Lord's overall plan. The pioneers had their roles and challenges just as we have ours. Who is to say which are the greater?
There is a temptation to ponder what it would have been like to have lived in another era. But we are best suited to helping the Lord now.
Nephi, the son of Helaman, was one of those who pondered — even lamented — the timing of his life:
"Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord —
"Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.
"But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren." (Helaman 7:7-9.)
Despite his very human act of briefly feeling sorry for himself, he knew he had work to do and diligently and valiantly served the Lord.
Because of that devotion, the Lord was able to use him as an instrument of salvation for his people. The following passages of scripture show that Nephi was put on the earth at precisely the right time:
"Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
"And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee, according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." (Helaman 10:4-5.)
The Lord, as He had done with Peter (Matthew 16:19), then gave Nephi the power to seal in heaven what he had sealed on earth (Helaman 10:7).
Nephi used that power to bring about righteous results to the extent that the people "did no more seek to destroy Nephi, but they did esteem him as a great prophet, and a man of God, having great power and authority given unto him from God." (Helaman 11:18.)
As already stated by President Kimball, the best way to honor the pioneers — and all those who labored diligently to give their posterity a brighter future — is by serving the Redeemer of us all, the Lord Jesus Christ.