During World War II a Latter-day Saint who was a bomber pilot was assigned to some of the most dangerous raids in Europe. On one occasion he had the opportunity to meet with a younger brother who had just finished his own pilot training and was heading for duty in another theater of war.
The two were able to spend a couple of days together before the younger pilot left on his assignment. They talked of courage and fear. The younger brother asked his older sibling how he had held himself together in the face of all that he had endured. The more experienced pilot said, "I have a favorite hymn,
Come, Come, Ye Saints,' and when it was desperate, when there was little hope that we would return, I would keep that on my mind and it was as though the engines of the aircraft would sing back to me:Come, come, ye saints,
No toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you
This journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day." (October 1973 general conference report, Ensign, Janurary 1974, p. 28.)
William Clayton's hymn celebrating hardship and brimming with hope and optimism has brightened the lives of Latter-day Saints for 150 years. It stirs the soul, it strengthens those who heed its message and inspires us to persevere, even when all appears hopeless. That "Come, Come, Ye Saints" has become synonymous with Mormons conquering fear is not surprising.
We are all, in a sense, pioneers, whether we are the first members of the Church in our families or whether our heritage extends back to that first company of 152 individuals who arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. We are blazing our own trail in the gospel, heading out from paths established long ago by others. But we must undertake the journey ourselves, not necessarily retracing all the routes of our forebears, but building upon their legacy, not reliving the past, but preparing to usher in the future - our future.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, "Our great pioneering challenge today is to maintain and expand that state of freedom in which man is the master of his own destiny, and in which government is his servant. . . . The new pioneering is difficult. It calls for the utmost self-discipline - a discipline based on truth. It demands that we seek wisdom, act with integrity and courage, and accept individual responsibility." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 415.)
In preparing for the trek west, Church leaders called captains of 10 and captains of 100 to organize the Saints and ensure that all were provided for and prepared for the difficult times ahead.
Just as pioneers of old looked to their leaders for guidance and inspiration, so should we today keep our eyes focused on our "captains of tens" and "captains of 100." The likelihood of us losing our way as we travel is remote if we follow the Brethren and incorporate into our lives their counsel and instruction. We can receive an assurance of their words if we remain close to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. We are being taught each week the plan of salvation. We are reminded of our goal, of where we stand today. We can look back at where we have come and look ahead to what awaits us.
President Heber J. Grant had a favorite quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased."
As we strive to live all aspects of the gospel, it becomes easier if we keep our minds focused on the end results, then use our increased power and understanding to assist others along the way.
President Benson told a story of a member of the Twelve, Adam S. Bennion. Elder Bennion would escort youth groups to Temple Square and point out the Osmyn Deuel log cabin (then located on the Square), typical of the one-room huts that many of their pioneer forebears lived in. He would then invite the groups to stand midway between the temple and the old log cabin, reminding them: "On your right you see the circumstances of those early pioneers - how they lived - but on your left you see the temple - the vision they had of the future." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p 131.)
That image of the tiny hut and the magnificent temple remains with us today. Though our circumstances may be humble, or even "comfortable" by the world's standards, what awaits us is glorious and wonderful. Our task then becomes to fulfill our mission, to complete the journey, to endure to the end. By trusting the Lord and His servants and submitting our will to do His, then we, too, can truly "make this chorus swell" and provide comfort to our fellow saints with the reminder "All is well, all is well."