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Modern Day Pioneers

Relief Society lessons and Visiting Teaching messages can be dreadful to me when they are centered on pioneers, family history, legacy of faith, or parental influences.

You see, I’m a convert. There are no pioneers in my family who immigrated from Europe to join the saints and cross the plains to Zion. There are no righteous priesthood holders in my family who are worthy to serve with the power of God. And what’s worse––unlike any of the Relief Society sisters who has been born of goodly parents––there’s an abuse cycle that’s been passed down for generations in my bloodline, I’m ashamed to talk about the kind of examples my parents left behind.

So yeah, Relief Society lessons and Visiting Teaching messages on pioneers, family history, legacy of faith, or parental influences are painful to me. They make me feel so tiny and so inferior, I want to curl up into a ball and hide in a corner of the room.

I used to wish I’d been born of goodly parents, too. But now I understand something great about those children who didn't have the privilege of belonging to a family with pioneer ancestry––they’re the modern pioneers themselves!

You see, despite their difficult upbringing––some may even experience abuses, neglect, and persecution by their very own parents––they persevered. Theirs is not just a story about survival or overcoming, it’s about “when life threw them lemons, they made grape juice out of them and let the world wonder how they did it.”

I’ve found this quote, by President Carlfred Broderick, about children being born into abusive situations extremely powerful:

“When asked about children being born into abusive situations, my experience in various Church callings and in my profession as a family therapist has convinced me that God actively intervenes in some destructive lineages, assigning a valiant spirit to break the chain of destructiveness in such families.

“Although these children might suffer innocently as victims of violence, neglect, and exploitation, through the grace of God, some find the strength to ‘metabolize’ the poison within themselves, refusing to pass it on to future generations.

“Before them were generations of destructive pain; after them the line flows clear and pure. Their children and children's children will call them blessed.’” (“I have a question," Ensign, Aug. 1986, p. 38)

I know that despite the disadvantage of not having a pioneer linage, converts can be the modern pioneers in their families by creating a legacy of faith. Through their examples of true conversion, their descendants will someday be able to claim a pioneer lineage, and proudly testify: “I’ve been born of goodly parents...”

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Allison is a mother to three teenage boys. She's currently working on her memoir. You can find her at: Allison Merrill.

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