Members of the Church today are heirs to a pioneer legacy that, if remembered, can help break the cycle of great civilizations crumbling from faded vision and forgotten principles.
This was the essence of Elder J. Richard Clarke's address at the July 24 sunrise service in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. Elder Clarke is a member of the Presidency of the Seventy.Historians argue that civilizations rise through travail, Elder Clarke explained, then stagger and decline under the weight of self-sufficiency. "It is up to our generation to break the cycle. Let us not forget who we are and how we got where we are . . . ."
The future is linked with the past, Elder Clarke said at the early-morning service, sponsored by the Pioneer Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers. "Our sense of being, achieving and dreaming is made possible because of those intrepid pioneers who braved incredible adversity to open new trails to human progress."
He said honor is also paid to those who wrote history. One such historian was Hubert Howe Bancroft, who accumulated 60,000 volumes of Western histories. Elder Clarke said this ultimately resulted in a 39-volume history of the West.
Elder Clarke said personal journals are also priceless and "capture the tender, poignant memories of those who paused for a few moments from their toil to leave a legacy of written word."
Pioneer Day, he continued, is the celebration of the largest migration under common cause in American history. "The western frontier loomed as a panacea of hope, wealth, power, security, concealment, or as in the case of the Mormons, religious freedom."
He said those who had seen the valley tried to dissuade the first company. Elder Clarke quoted President Brigham Young as simply responding, " `Give us time and we will show you.'
"Could anyone have possibly dreamed from that day 143 years ago until 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was linked, that more than 68,000 Mormon pioneers, 9,600 wagons, and 650 handcarts would make the 1,000-mile journey just completed by this first company?" Elder Clarke asked. He then added that some 6,000 died along the way.
"Being forced to leave in February [1846T was a terrible waste of life and equipment," Elder Clarke continued. He said the pioneers were "thrust into a hard, hostile environment and challenged to survive."
Elder Clarke said President J. Reuben Clark observed that these pioneers " `battled accident and disease by prayer, faith, and such medical skill as they could get; they fought the elements - cold, heat, wind, and storm - by every device wisdom could suggest or necessity invent . . . .' "
Music for the service was provided by the South Davis Community Choir.