Grandma’s hands show us our potential to become better than we are, and give us inspiration to rise to that potential.
This week we celebrate Pioneer Day in Utah, commemorating the entry of the first wagon train of pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. On 24 July 1847, Brigham Young looked over the valley for the first time and declared, “This is the right place.” Each year on this day Latter-day Saints around the world remember and celebrate the sturdy and heroic generations of the nineteenth century pioneer era of Church history. We have much to learn from these pioneers, who worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build the communities of the Mountain West. All of my family lines were in the Utah Territory in the 1800’s, and I love to tell my kids the stories of our pioneer ancestors. Five of my children have names drawn from these family members and their stories.
In discussing the Utah pioneers there is a tendency to grant them a sort of nobility status, which I think is understandable and defensible considering the endurance of their accomplishments. But it should be made clear that whatever titles of nobility they may deserve are strictly not hereditary, and must be individually re-earned by each generation. In other words, I am not a great man because of who my ancestors were, but I may prove myself to be a great man by my own character and by my own contributions to the betterment of society. Also, each generation’s nobility is available by the same means to everyone in that generation, regardless of who they descend from.
Lately I have been thinking about my great-great grandmother, Lucinda Araminta Stewart (1865-1941), who was known to her friends as “Luna.” I feel a kinship with her because she was also a healthcare professional, although her life was dramatically different from mine. Her story is a tragedy and a triumph, almost like a phoenix rising from the ashes, except that she could never seem to rise very far above them.