Friday, May 16, 2014

My People were Mormon Pioneers

I have been thinking for the past two weeks what I should blog about. I have had several ideas for a blog. At first, I thought of talking about the time when I seriously bruised my fingernail when a brick fell on my finger. I thought of talking about tenebrism. I also toyed with the idea of talking about pain or suffering or some other issue that I have confronted in my life recently. And even as I write this post, I am not sure what this post will end up being about. 

A couple weeks ago when I was going through some intense emotional conflict, I listened to a Mormon Stories podcast by Carol Lynn Pearson. The same week, I devoured No More Goodbyes. As Carol Lynn was talking about her experiences in the Church with John Dehlin, she read a poem that she wrote about her Mormon heritage. 

"My people were Mormon pioneers.
Is the blood still good?
They stood in awe as truth
Flew by like a dove
And dropped a feather in the West.
Where truth flies you follow
If you are a pioneer.

I have searched the skies
And now and then
Another feather has fallen.
I have packed the handcart again
Packed it with the precious things
And thrown away the rest.

I will sing by the fires at night
Out there on uncharted ground
Where I am my own captain of tens
Where I blow the bugle
Bring myself to morning prayer
Map out the miles
And never know when or where
Or if at all I will finally say,
“This is the place,”

I face the plains
On a good day for walking.
The sun rises
And the mist clears.
I will be all right:
My people were Mormon Pioneers."

As the past month has brought so many changes, I find myself returning to this poem. What does it mean that I will be all right? 

I think of my own pioneer ancestors. I think of the little girl who told her mother that she wanted to return to Philadelphia. I can imagine myself saying the same thing if I had come from the East to the barren Salt Lake Valley. I think of my father's ancestors who came after their conversion in Germany. Per the family lore, my great-grandmother was at the grave of one of her children that she had recently buried. The missionaries approached her and taught her that she could see her child again. I don't know how true this story is, but I do know that they were converted and that they traveled to Utah, leaving behind their home to gather with the other Mormon pioneers in the valley. 

My ancestors were tough. They didn't give up in the face of adversity because they followed their hearts. I imagine that many of them felt frustrated or confused. I think a lot of them were probably stubborn and impatient. Some of them may have gotten too emotionally involved in the issues of those around them. Others may have loved too deeply. I imagine some saw their hearts broken by harsh words of fellow Saints and by others that they love. As I describe my ancestors, I realize that I am just like them. I'm stubborn and brokenhearted. I get very emotionally involved in the issues of those around me. And I think we all get frustrated or confused. Somehow my ancestors inspire me to keep trying. As they kept trying, everything worked out okay for them. Maybe everything will work out all right for me. 

"I have searched the skies/ And now and then / Another feather has fallen" What feather has fallen? What am I seeking? The feather that has fallen is perhaps much like the dew from heaven that I have mentioned in several posts. It seems like nowadays I am seeking a feather just like how my ancestors sought one in the West. Where will my feather fall? I don't know if I feel ready to pack a handcart or to travel on uncharted ground. Being a pioneer is a scary proposition. I don't know if I like charting new destinations or traveling in terrain that is full of the unknown. In the past four years at BYU, I have experienced many periods of heartache and sadness, but I feel like it is in all in search of that feather. As I have tried to search for that feather (perhaps my identity or sense of belonging?), many experiences have scarred me and shaped me. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Our experiences are valuable. And as we search for that feather, we will discover more about ourselves than we could ever imagine. 

And as I continue to search for that feather, I can rest assured because, "My people were Mormon pioneers." 

No comments: