This post is part of the General Conference Odessey This week covers the Sunday morning session of the April 1997 conference.
When I was serving as a missionary (1979-80) in the Florida Tallahassee mission investigators would sometimes say, "I'm not sure if I can join the church, I don't have any pioneer ancestors." To which I would reply, "Neither do I; but I will be forever grateful to my grandpa who joined the church in Norway in 1905 and immigrated to Zion. You will be that grandpa (or grandma) in your family, and your descendants will love and honor you forever."
Elder M. Russell Ballard said this:
We are all bound together--19th- and 20th-century pioneers and more--in our great journey to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and to allow His atoning sacrifice to work its miracle in our lives. While we all can appreciate the footsteps of faith walked by Joseph Smith and his followers from Palmyra to Carthage Jail and across the Great Plains, we should ever stand in reverential awe as we contemplate the path trod by the Master. His faithful footsteps to Gethsemane and to Calvary rescued all of us and opened the way for us to return to our heavenly home.
Handcart Pioneer Statue, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, by Torleif Knaphus (my great-uncle)