Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kinda' Like A Pioneer

Growing up in the church, I was constantly reminded of the suffering of the Saints as they crossed our great nation in search of the promised land free from religious persecution. I was taught about the sacrifices they made by giving life and limb through rough terrain and voyaging through unknown elements to get to Utah. I even had the chance to travel the LDS 'handcart experience' in Iowa with the youth in my ward last year. I heard story after story of the suffering and the deaths along the way of this Mormon trail.

I can honestly say, growing up in a very diverse and rough neighborhood and watching people struggle daily to survive and then moving to Samoa, 'child labor' central (if you're Samoan, you would understand that), I was NOT impressed. I know of worse tales of suffering and struggles to lands unknown in America of people either by their own will or not of their own will such as, the Native Americans and the African Americans. I still think their journeys were the most difficult in the forming of our great country. The way I see it, the LDS pioneers made the decision to follow someone from there homes to go into the unknown in search of somewhere to bring up their religion. It has been proven scientifically that the human spirit will normally NOT go willingly into death, but fight it until one or the other prevails. With that being said, death along this Mormon trail was inevitable and was probably a consideration before heading West. That does NOT mean I do not know the pains and suffering of those particular Saints were in vain or meant any less tragic. As real as I mourn those who I have lost, I know the pain of the LDS pioneers were real and painful.

My great-grandparents were the first to be baptized into the church and even when my Primary teachers tried desperately to tell me they were the pioneers of my family, I wasn't buying it. Every time I hear someone say that now, after I mention my great-grandparents were the first to join the church from both their families, I laugh as I try to picture my great-grandparents in traditional Samoan wear sporting a bonnet and a 10 gallon hat; still NOT impressed and definitely don't see them that way.

Pioneer Day, now that was a different story growing up. I LOVE pioneer Day. I knew that was a Saturday I looked forward to every year growing up. In my old Stakes, we would go to a local park dressed as pioneers (or cowboys if you were Samoan - same thing, right?), eat a huge pancake and sausage breakfast, march in the Primary parade (my personal favorite), play games and cheer at the adult sports tournaments. When I was in Utah, the celebration was on a grand scale complete with fireworks and all kinds of sports events. Sort of like an unofficial State fair. I came to Minnesota, uhh, not so much of a celebration.

What I can relate to and respect about the LDS pioneers was the internal struggles and questions about Faith.
How much pure and complete Faith must a man have in his heart to follow a man who proclaimed himself to be THE Prophet of God?
How many tireless hours, days, weeks, months and years did the LDS Pioneers question their own sanity and prayed for signs from God to give them hope to carry on?
How many of these LDS Pioneers wavered in their beliefs and harbored anger towards our Heavenly Father after losing so much, even those they loved as they struggled on their journey?
How many of these LDS pioneers wanted to go back home and have their regular life back?
Could I be this faithful and follow a man who proclaimed himself to be the Prophet of this church?

Without a doubt, I can tell you I am that man today who follows the words of Thomas S. Monson and sustain the leaders in this church, but I am pretty sure I wouldn't have been that pioneer back then. I know Heavenly Father in His perfect timing, chooses people to be placed at the time He needs them to be who and what they must be. It is in knowing that, I am comforted and humbled that my time has come to make my own sacrifice and go do the Lord's work and become kinda' like a pioneer in my own family.

I will be the first one to serve a mission in my family.
I will be the first and only Samoan Sete to date that has ever served an LDS mission. I say that because my sister and I are the last of my grandfather's lineage to carry the Sete last name that are Mormon. My grandfather's family are all devout Catholics.
I will be the first grandchild from both sets of grandparents to serve a mission.
I guess in that sense I can finally relate with the first LDS pioneers. I can finally say, I have a way to appreciate the LDS Pioneers trail as part of the Lord's Master plan.

*On a side note, I want to share something from a wonderful missionary, Sister Clark:

"Ou te iloa o soifua Iesu Keriso ma e alofa o ia ua ta toe. Ou te iloa o Iesu Keriso ole ulu o le talalelei. Ma ta'ita'i i ta tou e ala mai i Perofeta. Ou te alofa ile talalelei ma e tele fa'amanuiaga i maua mai ai."

My family and I were so touched not only by her words, willingness to serve a mission and her testimony, we are moved by Sister Clark, because she always chooses to be selfless and show people the utmost respect. We really do love and miss you.