What would the pioneer men and women who crossed the Mormon Trail say if they were here today?
What if they stood at the podium in the Tabernacle, walked around Temple Square, looked at the Church Office Building and then crossed the street to the Church's 21,000-seat Conference Center? What if they stood on Ensign Peak and looked over the Salt Lake Valley?
"They could discern West and South Jordan, Hunter and Magna and catch a vision of what Brigham [Young] must have seen when he said, 'This is the right place,' " said Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy.
Speaking at the Days of '47 annual Sunrise Service in the Tabernacle July 24, Elder Featherstone reflected on the pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley never knowing that one day it would be magnificent.
"Surely our great pioneer forebears would drop to their knees after seeing all these things and exclaim, 'What miracles hath the great God in heaven wrought?' They would speculate whether all this were possible in 153 years," he said.
"It would be incomprehensible to them to glimpse the abundant life which their descendants partake of every single day."
Then what if the pioneers who crossed the Mormon Trail could see Logan, Ogden, Bountiful, American Fork, Provo, Manti or St. George?
"I wonder if they would not stand with tear-stained cheeks, humbled to the dust of the earth and exclaim, "This is what Brigham saw. This is the right place. Our sacrifice, our lives, our obedience, were not in vain.' "
Elder Featherstone called the pioneers great examples of obedience.
"Pausing before they entered the valley, they listened as Brigham pointed out over the dry, desolate wasteland covered with sagebrush, . . . located on the banks of the great salt sea. . . .
"Had it not been for their faith in God and their loyalty and love of His prophet they could have crumbled hopelessly where they stood. But with the great leader's voice ringing loud and clear, 'Drive on!' they obediently followed. Hardly had they time to contemplate where they would build small log cabins in which to survive when the great prophet leader announced, 'Here we will build our temple.' Most would never live the 40 years to see it dedicated. They would build it for a future generation."
Yes, said Elder Featherstone, the Salt Lake Valley was the promised land, "but all the promise was in the future."
Reviewing the marvelous legacy of the handcart pioneers, Elder Featherstone then read a poem he wrote titled "They All Came Through in Glory."
For their faith proved true,
For me and you,
And they all come through in glory.
The heart doth melt,
For the tests they felt,
In the pioneer handcart story.
Elder Featherstone said he wished he could speak to those who came as pioneers. He would tell them:
"We will never forget the miracle wrought by you few who, under overwhelming odds and unbelievable adverse conditions, clung fiercely to a dream. The miracle is not in Salt Lake City or its buildings. . . .
"The miracle is in the hearts of the people. It is the miracle of faith handed down from your generation to the next and the next and the next and still glows brightly in the hearts of the saints today."
Elder Featherstone asked the congregation to be "true to the faith" for which the pioneers sacrificed so much, who laid the foundation upon which members today build.
"Sixty thousand missionaries go essentially to every nation, kindred, tongue and people," he said. "We are the world capital for family history with 8 million hits on the Internet a day. Humanitarian efforts are unparalleled by any other church. Hundreds of thousands of people are blessed every year through the Church welfare program."
Elder Featherstone said that if he could tell the pioneers just one thing, he would say: "It was your great faith that laid the foundation for all we are doing today."