For me and many born and raised in Utah, pioneer ancestry and the stories that come with it are part of our lives. In Utah, we celebrate pioneers the same way many celebrate the founding fathers–with a full week of city-sponsored celebrations and fireworks.
Some of the earliest stories I remember from my childhood were seemingly magical tales of pioneer ancestors, both harrowing and inspiring. When I first heard them, I’ll confess that I found them boring. I was far more interested in princesses and castles than I was any old great-great-somebody I didn’t know and never would.
Now looking back though, I see how, without my knowing, my ancestors and what they did has shaped my life.
My pioneer ancestors were among those who were asked by the president of the LDS church at the time to participate in plural marriage. While there were those who were willing to immediately answer the call, my ancestor, Abraham Hunsaker, was not. To be frank, he opposed the idea.
I was told by my grandmother that three women came to Abraham in a dream and expressed to him their need for him to take additional wives, so they could be born and enjoy the blessings and lessons of this life. Reluctantly, Abraham took additional wives, had a very large family and settled Box Elder county, where I grew up.
I think about what I’ve gone through and what Abraham and other pioneers went through, and I can’t help but feel guilty for shying away from responsibilities. If Abraham was able to walk across the plains, settle uncharted and unyielding ground and follow a prophet’s words despite his own personal reservations, there’s no reason I can’t do small things like pay attention in class or spend more time with people in real life, not in real time.
We all have the opportunity to be pioneers, even without crossing the plains. For many students attending Weber State University, this is the first time anyone in their family has gone to school. For others, college is the first time they will be making decisions for themselves, getting a full-time job and having real-life responsibilities.
Sure, we aren’t the ones to settle a state or conquer the Rocky Mountains, but we do explore who we are, and we conquer ourselves in the process.
Being a pioneer doesn’t have to be all about crossing the plains or risking life and limb for religious freedom. Being a pioneer is simply working to make you and your family’s situation in life better.
That’s the American dream, isn’t it? So dreamer or pioneer, we all have hard work to do, and that’s something to be proud of.