I just wanted to quickly share a thought about the First Presidency message from this month. President Monson reminds us in his message that as Latter-day Saints, we are all pioneers. To me, we are pioneers in part because we are often going to spiritual places that no one has gone before. The world is changing so rapidly that we are often carving out new spiritual territory. The demands of modern life require us to adapt and to understand spirituality and faith in our Heavenly Father in new ways every day.
We are also pioneers in the tradition of those Mormon pioneers who came to Utah, because we are trying to build something majestic in the midst of a climate that is at first inhospitable. We have to figure out how to channel the good from this sometimes desolate world like the pioneers channeled the water of the rivers, and irrigate our families and our lives. With the right skills, we can build places of spiritual refuge even in this world that sometimes seems like just as much of a spiritual desert as Utah is a physical one. When you know where to look, there is still a lot of good in the world.
In my opinion, our pioneering is more in the mind than physical. As this blog points out, faith can be mentally hard. There are many “problems” that must be overcome. Some say it is not worth it: belief in the Church made them feel “not good enough,” leading to depression or other mental ailments; it made them struggle with doubt, when if they had just subscribed to no belief at all they would not have suffered that kind of anxiety; it made them feel unhealthy social pressure to conform or to believe. There are many more “problems” that could be mentioned.
When understood in the context of pressing forward as pioneers, such problems are no surprise. The early pioneers had plenty. Yet many in the world seem to assume that the presence of these difficulties are evidence that dedication to the gospel is a negative thing. One could have said the same thing about the Mormon pioneers: physically speaking, their dedication to the gospel was a negative thing. It didn’t increase their net worth. It made them do things that, temporally speaking, didn’t make sense (like moving to a desert like Utah). There were casualties along the way, and probably all sorts of emotional difficulties. But they obtained the deeper blessings through their perseverance. And so can we in our pioneering efforts to build spiritual strength in the high-tech, globalized world we live in.
While there are general principles that always apply to righteous living, sometimes when it comes to the lived details we may literally be carving out a new trail for others to follow. We shouldn’t be afraid of this. We shouldn’t be concerned when our spiritual search gets to a point on any given issue where there are no more answers from those who have gone before–where our only recourse is the Holy Ghost and prayer. We will find the answers if we seek them, and clear the path for those who will come afterward and go even further than we have gone.