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Ask Dr. Elia: On Pioneer Day it's worth noting: We're all pioneers

July 24 is a Latter-day Saint holiday! It commemorates our Mormon pioneer heritage. There are many known and well-documented stories of the early pioneers trek westward. Men, women and children sacrificing everything they owned, even their very lives at times, just to find a place to worship free of persecution. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their faithfulness, perseverance and love of the gospel.At the same time, aren't we all pioneers in our own way? When I look back at my immediate family, I see converts who bring a richness of their heritage to the LDS Church. My wife's father is Armenian and her mother is from Germany. My wife went to Brigham Young University as a non-member and joined after her freshman year. My wife's sister also joined the church. She and her husband have sons who, along with ours, will serve missions in the next few years. I have cousins in California who joined before I did, and they come from a Jewish and an Italian background. Mine, of course, come from Greece. All these ancient cultures converge within our small family to open the gospel doors to future generations, hopefully in many parts of the world. In our family, we are pioneers by being the first in our family to embrace the church and its gospel of good tidings. Personally I can say that life was good before I knew anything about the restored gospel, but the spiritual aspect of life after baptism has enriched my life and blessed me beyond my wildest expectations. Every day missionaries all over the world are teaching, sharing and testifying about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Often they are successful in opening the doors of the restored gospel, and baptisms soon follow. I can promise you that for every baptism that takes place in Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia or right here in the U.S., another pioneer is born! Many of these brothers and sisters who join the church are the first ones in their extended families. For some the cost is minimal, because family members who are not of our faith were still loving and supportive. For others, the price of choosing to worship in the LDS faith might cost them important relationships. Tomorrow our oldest son leaves for Wyoming to participate in a pioneer trek. It will only last four days, but hopefully he will get to experience a little of the physical trials of the early pioneers. Pulling a wagon with Ma, Pa and new "siblings" should be an adventure of a lifetime. July 24 will find him and his "pioneer family" out on the dusty plains. I'm sure he'll be tired and a little dirty. His body will ache from the day's journey, but it will also strengthen his testimony of the Lord's plan for his Latter-day Saints, especially those who came before him! What a wonderful way to honor the pioneers of old!Like I said, in some ways, we're all pioneers. For some, their LDS heritage can be traced back to the 1800s, and for others, just to last year. Whatever the case may be, at some point we've all had to gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel in our own lives. Let us renew our commitment in faith, hope and most of all, love! Let us open our mouths, our homes and our hearts. There are many more "pioneers-in-waiting" all around us!