Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy Pioneer Day: They of the last wagon.

I have a love-hate relationship with this holiday. I love my ancestors who are remembered on this day, and the sacrifice that they went through to preserve the church. I hate the fact that sometimes it is an excuse to perpetuate the cultural aristocracy that we sometimes see whereby those who descend from the famous families in church history are seemingly more important than rank-and-file members.

I know, I know, there's also lots of talk about modern pioneers. But sometimes, the modern pioneer thing sounds to me more like an apologetic afterthought than sincere praise. It's not that I'm bitter or jealous, either; I have a pretty rich church history pedigree myself. I just don't like the aristocratic tendencies it creates. It seems at odds with the democratic and egalitarian attitudes the gospel seems to espouse. God could raise up children of Abraham from inanimate rocks if he wanted to.

That's why I love this talk. Given by J. Reuben Clark in 1947, it should be read every July 24th.


The Shark said...

I just think it's an odd holiday. I never knew it existed until I came to BYU, but thinking back I vaguely recall having ward activities in July that had a pioneer theme.

The Daily Universe had a story on Friday about Amelia Earheart as an attempt to draw attention to pioneers apart from the crossing-the-plains variety. A noble effort, though I doubt the readership of the DU is widespread enough to have a huge impact.

I do feel somewhat bad, though. I'd been planning on having a pioneer moment to myself at some point during the day to commemorate the holiday, but it slipped my mind after I started studying for a midterm. I ended up joining the leagues of people who "observed" the day by doing a BBQ. I'm so appreciative.

JKC said...

Amelia Earhart???

What does that have to do with Pioneer Day? I mean, sure, she was a pioneer in a general abstract sense, but that's not what the holiday is about. It's about celebrating the arrival of the Mormon exodus. It's about sacrifice for the gospel's sake.

I don't really see what Amelia Earhart has to do with the gospel. Once you separate pioneer day from the gospel, then it's just Utah history.

Cabeza said...

Cook- Did you expect much more from the Daily Universe?

I agree with you on the love-hate relationship. I think that the "modern-day pioneer" aspect is important as well, but like you I agree that sometimes it seems more like lip-service.

I think that another aspect that should be emphasized is the idea of adopted heritage. Some historians and anthropologists might argue that heritage cannot be adopted or acquired by outside parties; I heartily disagree.

If you can get a bunch of Mexicans to celebrate the pioneers crossing the plains, you can adopt a heritage (seen on my mission, in the Ensign). If a second-generation German-American can get choked-up over the signing of the Declaration of Independence and be excited to celebrate Independence Day on 4 July, you can adopt a heritage (this refers to one of my classmates).

I think we need to teach converts and those without "pioneer stock" that when they join the church, they are acquiring a new heritage. Much like those who may not have actual Israelite blood can be adopted when received into the church, those who did not descend from pioneers still take part in the blessings that they secured for their children.

Pioneer day applies to everyone in the Church, anyone who has been blessed by the restored gospel. You don't have to try too hard to make it apply.

And you don't have to drag Amelia Earhart into this.

Cabeza said...

Okay, so I just looked at the J. Reuben Clark link. He basically just said all of that.

JKC said...

Amen on the adoption thing. People need to know that when they join the church they are becoming a part of a great tradition (not losing their own traditions) and that they have every claim to it, as an heir with all the children.

Incidentally, the adoption doctrine is one of the coolest we have. It preserves the abrahamic covenants and the heritage of the patriarchs, but it makes it democratic and egalitarian. This way, God can keep his promise to Abraham that through his seed the whole earth would be blessed, and at the same time be a just God who is no respecter of persons.