News Release

Mormon Pioneers Past and Present

Mormon pioneers forge paths of righteousness


Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shares a faith promoting pioneer story, "Mormon Pioneer Day" is celebrated on July 24.

The prophet Malachi taught that in these latter days, the hearts of the fathers will turn to the children, and the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers. My heart, for one, has been turned to my ancestors. And I will be forever grateful for the heritage they left behind, a legacy of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
My great grandmother Sarah Elizabeth Moulton was born in Gloucester, England, in 1837.  When she was four years old, her family was converted to the gospel and baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At that time, their great desire was to immigrate to America to be with the majority of the Saints.

By 1856 the Moulton family had seven children, and 18-year old Sarah was among them. With the help of the Perpetual Emigration Fund and bits of savings in a fruit jar, the family set sail from Liverpool, England, to America. Before departing, the family was promised that if they would go to Utah, they would make the journey safely without losing even one member of the family.

The Moulton’s arrived in America and ultimately joined the ill-fated Willie handcart company. It is difficult for me, surrounded by the comforts and amenities of modern life, to imagine the daily misery of Sarah and of the remarkable men and women who traveled with her. Can we imagine, day after day, the blistered feet and hands; the sore muscles; the dust and grit; the sunburn, flies, and mosquitoes; the ever-dwindling food stores and scarcity of water?

By October they were trapped in a snowstorm below Rocky Ridge on the Sweetwater River, about 350 miles from Salt Lake City.

When Brigham Young learned of the mortal danger of the struggling travelers, he quickly made a call for men, food, and supplies to leave and render assistance. As the rescuers finally reached the Willie camp, they were greeted with indescribable joy and gratitude from the frozen and starving Saints.

When the survivors finally completed the journey, and arrived in Salt Lake City, 66 of their company had died, and many suffered from frozen feet and limbs. But the promise to the Moulton family in that blessing in England had been fulfilled. They had not lost even one of their children, including a baby born on the ship from Liverpool.

Gratitude and appreciation toward one of the young rescuers, John Bennett Hawkins, blossomed into romance and love for Sarah. On December 5, 1856, they were married and later had 10 children, including my grandmother Esther Emily. This great heritage of faith and endurance lives on in the generations that have followed the pioneers, by their descendants as well as those who have been touched by the incredible devotion to a cause greater than themselves.

I have met many modern pioneers throughout the world, and I have seen that legacy carried on through them. As modern pioneers, our personal journeys may be no less daunting. But we are creating a heritage of faith for those who will follow us.

As I look upon my own children and grandchildren and at the host of God's children across the globe, my fondest hope is that we will continue in this sacred heritage built upon the faith and teachings of Jesus Christ. Whether you have multiple generations of LDS ancestry or if you are the first modern pioneer in your family, build upon and continue the legacy of these great men and women who have come before us. What moved them on? What pushed them forward? It was a sure testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I did not pull a handcart across the plains. But as a great-grandson of pioneers, what they felt, I feel. And what they knew, I know: that Jesus is the living Christ, the Son of God. I love Him, and this is His Church. I leave these thoughts with you, my friends and brothers and sisters, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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