Worshiping Pioneer Ancestors

24 July

Originally published 2011


I write this article with the intent of introducing the Mormon people to the idea of

Mormon Pioneers coming down through Echo Canyon, UT 1866

thinking about what, and/or whom they are worshiping. What I don’t want to do is send the message I’m here to bash, or ridicule the intent they hold in their hearts for Jesus.

Each year the state of Utah celebrates Pioneer Days in July, with the 24th of that month being the apex of their homage paid to the early Mormons who pushed, and pulled their handcarts and wagons from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Wasatch Front. Their second prophet Brigham Young, led the group of believers to their new home where they thought they could “live their religion” (aka polygamy) without being bothered by non-Mormons.

I have taken an interest in what I’ve witnessed over the past few years in the amount of attention given to this one event in history. To be honest, it’s more than just a passing interest. It’s more like a sadness I just can’t get past.

How Do Handcart Re-Enactments Produce a Stronger Faith in God?

Each day I receive e-mail alerts called “LDS Daily News”. The e-mails are filled with anywhere from three to five news stories of varying topics. Each will give a summation of the topic, and a link to read the story in full.

For the past several months in these articles I’ve read, and e-mails received, there have been countless stories of how another person, or group within the Church, is “honoring” the pioneers by walking several miles to think upon their ancestor’s faith, or they’ll participate in a re-enactment of the long trek made to the west in 1847. Some of these re-enactments take a month, or longer, to get from Iowa to Utah, or Illinois to Iowa.  They’ll dress in the fashion of the nineteenth century, and labor with their handcarts in tow.

I must admit I admire their determination and dedication in the task, there certainly is something to be said of their fortitude. But, oh how I wish their focus would be placed solely on Jesus! Acts 4:12 says; “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Can you just imagine for a moment what they could accomplish if this were truly the case for the Mormon people?! Instead of laboring over the steep terrains and passes, they could move mountains of untold triumphs! They’d be rejoicing over the salvation provided by God’s perfect Lamb, instead of thanking the Mormon god it’s finally over, and wondering yet again how “Grandpa Smith” ever got through it all.

While the re-enactments may give faithful members a sense of what it may have been like for their ancestors, my question is this: how does this produce a stronger faith in Jesus? The devotion is misplaced from the foot of the cross, to the once tired feet of those who’ve long since been gone.

Each time I write an article I do so while praying my own mother will one day read it, and come to the Lord Jesus of the Bible. I pray something inside of these articles will speak to the inside of her heavy heart. She has labored far too long.

Yesterday I was reminded again of how she’s been taught her role in life is to be that of a martyr in a joyless existence. My thirteen year old daughter, Axi, was going through her baby book, and discovered a card my mother had given her years beforehand.

The front of the card has a picture of the LDS version of Jesus floating in the clouds with a caption at the bottom reading, “I never said it would be easy…I only said it would be worth it.”

This, my friend, is a lie. Jesus never said that. What He did say is: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The burdens of life are many, and far too much for us to handle with our own understanding, or rationalizations of how to “fix” the messes we find ourselves in.

When we set our hope upon the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, we are transformed!

We are continually reminded of our salvation because of Jesus, and not the muck and mire of today’s troubles, which is great comfort for our tired souls! The card my mother had given Axi serves as an example of how there’s no hope given to members of that church by a false Christ. Where’s the comfort? They tell them to “just get through it, and someday if you’ve been good enough, you might qualify for godhood status”.

Jesus told His disciples to watch out for the false Christs, and apostles who’d lead many astray. Matthew 24:24 ; “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

Salt Lake City Pioneer Days 1897 Mormon Newsroom

When trudging along with the task of pulling a handcart through the mean mountains of the West, I’m left wondering if for but a moment, did they ponder upon the price paid for them some 2,000 years earlier?

What stories about Jesus were told around the campfires at night? Did anyone stand to talk about the blood that was spilt for their sins?

Or was this mission in these ‘latter-days’ merely a diversion to honor the ancestors of yesteryear?

Serving God, or Self?

If you’re LDS, what purpose for God does this serve in your life? Does recounting how horrible of a trip it must’ve been for those who lived through it build your faith in God? I can’t help but wonder if this is a ploy to teach the new generation of Mormons how to have more determination to be self-reliant…

It wasn’t until several years after I got saved before I realized the self-reliant part of me was actually a sin. I had always taken great pride in knowing I had taken care of myself from the time I turned 18. Somehow this justified my self-serving ways of being judgmental of others, and worse yet, it intensified my lack of need for God. Self-reliance can be a good thing, don’t get me wrong. When it goes to the extreme of working to provide for your own salvation, we’re in deep trouble.

Having the young folks learn of what the pioneers had to endure can also be a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with teaching the next generation what price had to be paid in order for them to have what they do today. I’m all for celebrating the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and other holidays to pay homage to the many sacrifices made for me to live in this great country.

My point to all this? Where is the adoration being spent, and to whom is it directed?

Paul warned us of worshiping our ancestors, and giving heed to countless generations. 1 Timothy 1:4 ; “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

Now if anyone had reason to brag about his credentials it’d have to be Paul at the top of the list. He was a Benjamite, a Roman citizen, a Pharisee, schooled in the upper-echelon of Judaism by no less than Gameliel,  Phil. 3:4-7; Acts 21:39, 22:3.

He wasn’t about to bring his long list of who’s who in Judaism to get him special honors. Everything he did, everything he said, was nailed to the cross of Christ.

Our ancestors hold absolutely no power in regards to our personal salvation. Their legacies hold influence upon our lives; thus we see the LDS Church in action today. But performing works for the dead in temples, re-enacting the handcart movement of the nineteenth century, has absolutely no effect on how we get to heaven. For proof just take a look at what Jesus told the Sadducees in Luke 16:19-31.

The hope we have is a gift given to us by God, and we’re praying today members of the Church would be as determined to know Jesus, as they are to re-enact something that has no affect on their personal salvation.

With Love in Christ;

Michelle Grim

1 Cor. 1:18

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