On the 24th of July, my family and others celebrated the 175th anniversary of “Pioneer Day,” the day that pioneers seeking religious freedom arrived in Salt Lake City after walking across the Plains from Illinois. 

Bishop Scott Openshaw

My great-great-grandfather, Samuel Openshaw, came from England in 1856 at the age of 23 and made the trek pulling a handcart with his parents and other family members. He kept a journal that allows me and my family to read about his adventures, trials and joys. Samuel came to a new country and walked for miles to start a new life and build a home and legacy for his descendants. He didn’t know what the future held, but he had a conviction and assurance that things would work out for him. I am grateful for his faith and hope that I can have similar convictions and drive. 

As I contemplate the pioneer heritage that I have inherited, I think about the pioneers in our lives, past and present. 

A pioneer is one who is the first to explore or settle, or one who is the first to develop or apply knowledge or activity. Who are the pioneers in your life? Are your parents the first in their family to get a college degree? Were your grandparents immigrants to this country? Did someone you know stand up for something that they believed in—and lead the way for change?

My father took our family to a foreign country when we were young and formative. We learned a new language, a new culture, and gained new friends. Little did I know that the experience of living in South America would shape my future and give me opportunities to connect with many people. I am thankful for my dad being a pioneer for me and my sisters.

What are some ways that we can honor pioneers from our lives? Well, we can learn about them and see how their experiences can teach us lessons for our lives. We can use these lessons to become better people. We can share those same lessons with others so that the pioneers in our lives can have a greater influence than just ourselves.

Are you a pioneer? In what ways can you be a pioneer in your life and for those around you? Are there habits that you are wanting to break that will help future generations? Could you forgive someone who has wronged you and begin a healing process that can mend hearts? Will you consider taking a path that others haven’t had the courage to take?

We all have someone in our lives who has been a pioneer—one who has blazed a new trail and influenced others around them through their efforts. We should honor them and learn from them. We too can be pioneers for future generations. We can strengthen the faith and hope of others because of the paths we create. May we take the time to honor past pioneers and become pioneers in our own way.

Bishop Scott Openshaw has led the congregation of Morgan Hill 2nd Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since August 2021. He works as a Senior Manager in Human Factors for Intuitive Surgical and lives in Morgan Hill with his wife and daughter. Bishop Openshaw is a part of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County and can be reached at [email protected].

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