July is kind of a special month for me. It’s the home of my favorite holiday, Independence Day, and a month when I spend a lot of time thinking about my ancestors. In the LDS church, July 24 is Pioneer Day, when we celebrate the Mormon pioneers first entering the Salt Lake valley. In many ways, we see this coming to Utah as a last fresh start, a place to finally be able to freely practice our faith and a fulfillment of God’s promises to us. Pioneer day is a chance to remember our forefathers and foremothers who gave up so much to follow their faith and who gave us a legacy of fidelity, strength and courage.
As the church expands and we gain new converts who don’t have this genetic heritage (but who we maintain share this spiritual heritage), we also have an opportunity to recognize that they are pioneers as well.
Because of my unique situation – as the daughter of a convert and a lifelong Mormon with a long family history in the church – I get the best of both: a genetic heritage of strong faith within Mormonism and a chance to be a pioneer in my own right. However, the “lack” of traditional Mormon pioneers on my dad’s side doesn’t rob me from a legacy of faith. I have amazing ancestors who were incredibly faithful – ministers and “ordinary” members of various congregations who loved Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
I’m also blessed with another heritage, one of patriotism. I have family members who fought in the American Revolution, Civil War and both World Wars. My dad spent several years in the Navy. There is a long history of voting, advocacy on civic matters and causes and supporting and advancing freedom. Liberty is part of my DNA.
With these two holidays and two corresponding heritages, July always leaves me incredibly thankful for the inheritance I’ve been given and the abundance I have been blessed with. It’s also a really critical reminder to me that there is an expectation to “not drop the ball” and to preserve the family legacy.
As this month wraps up, I’ll soon be swept up again in life, but I carry with me the stories and strength of my foreparents. July is a chance to bring those stories forward so I can remember them and allow them to buoy me up for the rest of the year.
I walk within their footsteps and stand upon their shoulders – men and women who weren’t afraid of taking chances, fighting for dreams and chasing the wild frontiers. Their message echoes clearly to me: Be a patriot; be a pioneer; never give up; trust in God; don’t drop the ball. And so, as I do every year, I take their stories and I hold them in my heart and try to add to the legacy I received, hoping that in doing so I will pass on their strength to my children and also strengthen my ancestors who are waiting for me in the spirit world and who, though I cannot see them, are with me every day.