It’s Pioneer Day in Utah, a day we pause to remember our ancestors who arrived in this valley on this day in 1847. I’ve spent considerable time learning about the lives of my pioneer ancestors and their struggles and sacrifices. Things they did then have been life-changing for me here and now.
It’s a bit sobering when I think that what I am doing here and now may have that same effect on those who follow me. When I consider this (and I do almost every day), I think about comments made in a BYU devotional address by President Gordon B. Hinckley on 30 November 1999. His words ring in my mind and heart:
Keep the Chain Unbroken
Recently, at the dedication of the Columbus Temple in Ohio, I had an interesting experience. My wife and daughter were with me. A granddaughter and her husband and children drove up from St. Louis.
As I sat in the celestial room, I thought of my great-grandfather, the first in my family to join the Church. I had recently visited his place of burial in Canada just to the north of the New York boundary line. He accepted the gospel when the first missionaries came there from Kirtland. His children were too young for baptism. He died at the young age of 38. Tradition has it that he was the victim of a smallpox epidemic that raged through that part of the country. I do not know of anything of significance that he did in the Church other than he kept the faith.
Then there was my grandfather, who was baptized in Nauvoo and who subsequently crossed the plains in the migration of our people. His young wife and his brother-in-law both died on the same day. He made rough coffins and buried them and picked up his infant child and carried her to this valley.
At the request of Brigham Young he built Cove Fort, was the first president of the stake in Fillmore, and did a thousand other things to move this work forward.
Then came my father. He came here to the BY Academy as a very young man and was taught by President Karl G. Maeser. He went east to school, and then he taught here in the business department until the Brethren asked him to move to Salt Lake City and take over responsibilities there. He became president of the largest stake in the Church with more than 15,000 members.
These three good men represent the three generations of my forebears who have been faithful in the Church. Reflecting on the lives of these three men while I was seated in the temple, I looked down at my daughter, at her daughter, who is my grandchild, and at her children, my great-grandchildren. I suddenly realized that I stood right in the middle of these seven generations—three before me and three after me.
In that sacred and hallowed house there passed through my mind a sense of the tremendous obligation that was mine to pass on all that I had received as an inheritance from my forebears to the generations who have now come after me.
I thought of an experience I had long, long ago. In the summer we lived on a farm. We had a little old tractor. There was a dead tree I wished to pull. I fastened one end of a chain to the tractor and the other end to the tree. As the tractor began to move, the tree shook a little, and then the chain broke.
I looked at that broken link and wondered how it could have given way. I went to the hardware store and bought a repair link. I put it together again, but it was an awkward and ugly connection. The chain was never, never the same.
As I sat in the celestial room of the temple pondering these things, I said to myself, “Never permit yourself to become a weak link in the chain of your generations.” It is so important that we pass on without a blemish our inheritance of body and brain and, if you please, faith and virtue untarnished to the generations who will come after us.
You young men and you young women, most of you will marry and have children. Your children will have children, as will the children who come after them. Life is a great chain of generations that we in the Church believe must be linked together.
I fear there will be some broken links. Do not let yourself become such, I pray.
Stay close to the Church. Stay close all of your lives. It really does not matter where you serve, what office you fill. There is no small or unimportant duty in this Church and in the kingdom of God.