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A few days ago, I opened an email that said, “Carmen, we’ve found pioneers in your family tree.”
Logging into FamilySearch, I discovered several new pioneer ancestors I didn’t know about. Scrolling through their names and reading their stories, learning of their hardships, trials and blessings was so powerful. I felt surrounded by a great legacy of faith and a responsibility to continue that legacy in my life and in the lives of my children.
On July 24, I sat at the breakfast table eating with my four boys while my sweet husband attended his weekly Sunday meetings. As we munched on granola and Honey Nut Cheerios, I felt impressed to share my testimony about our pioneer ancestors.
“Boys, do you know what today is?” I asked them.
“Sunday?” my 5-year-old replied.
“Yes, but a very special Sunday,” I said. “All weekend we’ve been celebrating a holiday here in Utah called Pioneer Day. Did you know we have ancestors that were pioneers?”
After briefing explaining what an “ancestor” was, I began talking to them about who the pioneers were and why they are so amazing and important. We sang songs, “Pioneer Children Sang As They Walked,” “The Handcart Song” and “To Be a Pioneer”:
“You don’t have to push a handcart / Leave your fam’ly dear / Or walk a thousand miles or more to be a pioneer!” (see “To Be a Pioneer” in the “Children’s Songbook”).
For family home evening the next night, I showed my boys our ancestry chart and all of the pioneers we are related to, including Hyrum Smith, the brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who helped restore The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“You mean, we’re related to them?” Boston asked in awe. Tears sprang to my eyes as I proudly responded, “Yes. We are!” And it’s because of them we get to live in this beautiful state with so many opportunities.”
And with those opportunities come responsibilities.
I was in Arkansas a few weeks ago speaking at a youth conference. Most of the time I am eager to share my testimony and excited for a day or two of “quiet time” to myself to reboot and serve.
However, I was feeling particularly anxious about this trip. Maybe it was because it came so closely on the heels of my last girls camp in St. George, which was followed by another youth conference in North Carolina, which was followed by another in Saratoga, California. Between those speaking engagements and other performing opportunities, I felt I had hardly been home this summer. My kids agreed, and they were not excited about me leaving.
During the plane ride there, I wondered about what I was doing. Had I made the right choice? Should I be leaving my young children at this point in my life? I felt unsettled and unsure.
The days quickly passed, and on the last afternoon in Jonesboro, Arkansas, I stood on the stage talking about how being a member of the LDS Church has blessed my life. I suddenly thought of the youths in the congregation — so many of them the only members in their entire school — and how they were just like our pioneer ancestors, standing for truth and righteousness, even when it meant standing alone.
After my talk, a young woman approached me with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know why you decided to come all the way here to speak to us,” she said, “but I am so glad you did. I hope you know you are changing lives.”
And then I knew. “This is why,” I thought, reaching out for that young woman and holding her tight. “This is why I sacrifice my time and give of my talents.” To help carry on the legacy of faith that my pioneer ancestors died for. Every time I open my mouth and share the gospel, I am telling them, “It wasn’t in vain.” Although it is difficult to leave my children for two or three days and fly across the country to declare what I know to be true, it is nothing compared to the months of travel my ancestors endured in order to do the same.
They gave everything for me, for my family, for their descendants. The least I can do is open my mouth and hold true to their faith, to my faith.
“You do have to have great courage / Faith to conquer fear /And work with might for a cause that’s right / To be a pioneer!”
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former “American Idol” contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News. Her email is email@example.com.
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