Pioneer Day is celebrated in Utah on July 24th every year commemorating the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. This year I am 47 years old and I have been joking that these are my days of 47.
In the traditional sense I do have a rich pioneer heritage, and I’ll talk about this a little later. But I also know that today, in 2018, there continues to be pioneering with many individuals and families who join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in many parts of the world where the restored gospel is new and not as well established.
I served as a full-time missionary for the Church in the Bordeaux, France mission. One of the families we baptized was from Congo (then called Zaire). Etienne Kapinga Mwamba had been high up in the Zaire military when there was a coup and the government was overthrown. All of a sudden, he was a wanted man. He was able to escape with his wife and two young daughters. He was seeking political asylum in France when we knocked on his door. If he would have been sent back to Congo, he would have been executed. Despite being high up in the military and having a comfortable life in Congo, he now lived in meager circumstances and could not legally obtain employment. He was in a bad spot. I think this may have created an opportunity in his life where he was receptive to the Spirit and gave him time to study the Book of Mormon and find out it was true. As we taught them, he and his family embraced the gospel. Other missionaries in France also had success with refugees and immigrants from other countries. The humble seem to be more receptive to the gospel. Brother Mwamba was the first member of the Church in his family, and as such, was a pioneer in introducing the gospel to many of his friends and family.
A few years later, after Jen and I were married, my employer at the time assigned me to work in Almere, Netherlands just outside of Amsterdam. The missionaries there also found success with immigrants and those from other countries. While living there we had the opportunity to teach a young lady named Lenka in our home who was from the Czech Republic. She was in Holland working as a nanny. We were able to see her eventually join the Church. She later went back to her own country, where she introduced the restored gospel to her mother, and then her mother also joined the Church.
I was recently speaking with a returned missionary from Holland. He told me that his mission president is now a general authority serving in Africa. He said that much of the Church leadership in Africa first found the restored gospel in Europe. This really struck me. I never thought of my missionary service as a pioneering mission, or as preaching to those who would be pioneers, but in many cases across Europe, that is what has happened. They found the gospel, and now are back in their home country, and they are the leadership and strong members of the Church in wards and branches sharing the restored gospel with their friends and family, and the Church is growing rapidly.
The Lord is accomplishing His work. We can’t always see what is happening, but we are all a part of pioneering in some respects. I now see many missionaries being called all over the world speaking Chinese. I can’t help wonder if the Lord is preparing China for the gospel by finding its future leaders and stalwart families today in other parts of the world.
Last year my wife, my daughter Maggie and I were all able to go to the open house of the newly built LDS Paris temple. My mission president is now serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Neil L. Andersen. He and Sister Andersen gave us and a few other missionaries who served under him, a private tour of the temple. It was a very special experience as we went from room to room in the temple and Elder Andersen would teach us about the importance of each room or tell us a story of miracles he had seen as a missionary, as a mission president, as a general authority, and now as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, all leading up to having this temple built. An accompanying French Area Seventy, Elder Matthieu Bennasar, thanked us missionaries and compared our work that we did as building the foundation of the temple. Again, I never thought of my mission as being a pioneer, or as me building a foundation of a temple, but in retrospect 25 years later, I can see the Lord’s hand in our missionary work. Elder Andersen shared a scripture with us: Doctrine and Covenants 64:3, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” He repeated. “Be not weary in well-doing.”
As I’ve thought about that, it seems that quite often we don’t recognize the small things that we are doing are accomplishing great things. It sometimes is not for 25 years or longer, until we can look back and see what has been accomplished.
What lessons can we learn from our pioneer heritage? As for my ancestors, I have pioneers on both sides of my family. I love reading journals of my ancestors and hearing stories about them. One thing that is interesting to me is that I actually know people who knew people who crossed the plains. I was close to my grandmother who was born in 1918. She would tell me stories of her grandmother and grandfather who both crossed the plains when they were young. As I have learned about my ancestors I have learned some lessons.
Lesson # 1. Keep a journal. You may think most of your day-to-day life is boring and not worth mentioning, but one thing the Book of Mormon teaches us is how important keeping records is. Most of us need improving in this area including me. Record your testimony. Record what life is like. Record your blessings and miracles.
I really enjoy reading about what life was like on my great-great grandfather’s farm. Hearing things about his beehives, about how he’d bring in a bucket of warm milk each morning, how they’d churn butter, what the meals were like that my great-great grandmother would fix, and how as bishop, members would bring produce to his home for tithing. He would then sell the produce so he could turn in the money for tithing. I’m sure this all seemed like boring everyday occurrences, but it’s a great glimpse for me into life on their farm.
Going way back on the Bringhurst side, the earliest mention of a Bringhurst by name was Robert de Bringhurst dated in 1260. Bringhurst is actually a township in England in Northhamptonshire. So as was the custom back then, those who left a town such as Bringhurst were called “of Bringhurst”. In other words, if I were born in Port Angeles, and then I left, I would have been called Jason of Port Angeles. Eventually the “of” or “de” was dropped. The hard thing about this is that these people may or may not have been related. So before the emigrating of my Bringhurst line, I can’t be 100% sure that they are my people. But I’ve picked a few who are related.
While in England, I was fortunate enough to go to the small village of Bringhurst. There is a small church there and maybe 30 homes. I spoke to the curator at the church and he said that there are actually no records in the church that indicate anyone named Bringhurst ever lived there as far as he knew.
In the 1600’s John Bringhurst was a printer & publisher in London. He was a member of the Religious Society of Friends. He was a Quaker. Quakers focused on a direct relationship with Jesus and reading the Bible. This didn’t go over well with many other religions of the time.
He became the main publisher in the area for the Society of Friends. In 1683 John Bringhurst printed a Quaker book that included his testimony. It got him into trouble with the law and he was arrested. He continued to be persecuted because of his faith and eventually fled the country and lived the remainder of his life in Amsterdam, Holland where his four children were raised.
Lesson # 2. I learned from John Bringhurst that sometimes you need to stand up for what you believe even when society thinks otherwise. He could have kept his business and stopped publishing Quaker material, but his faith was strong and he wanted religious freedom. John Bringhurst Jr. was born in Amsterdam and moved with his mother and family to Philadelphia after his father John Sr. died.
He apprenticed as a cooper, which was the skill of making the wooden barrels with metal bands around them for storing and shipping dry and wet goods. As a side note, I have had the thought that you really shouldn’t name your kids the same name that you have! It makes it very confusing for people like me trying to figure out which John Bringhurst they are talking about. So as I mentioned, John Bringhurst was a popular name among these Bringhursts, and another John Bringhurst in 1768 was also member of Society of Friends. There are records that he was associated with Benjamin Franklin. He was a carriage builder. This John Bringhurst was actually contracted by General George Washington to build him a chariot. (or a carriage). The receipt still exist and according to the record, the carriage or chariot as it is described, cost 210 pounds in gold and George Washington was given 27 pounds in gold for a trade in.
George Bringhurst, son of John, was a patriot in The Revolutionary War and in 1776 served as 2nd lieutenant. He later followed his father by becoming a carriage and coach builder. This was a family trade for many generations. I can’t help wondering if I get my love of cars from the carriage-builder Bringhursts.
Seven generations after John Bringhurst who left England because of religious persecution, Samuel Bringhurst was born in Philadelphia in 1812. He was a wagon and carriage builder. Samuel, his wife, and their three children moved to Nauvoo, IL after joining the Church in 1845. His younger brother William Bringhurst and his wife also moved to Nauvoo after joining the Church and their oldest child was born in Nauvoo.
I don’t have any records of this, but I would guess that Samuel and William, knowing how to build wagons, were busy in Nauvoo building wagons and hand carts for the emigration west to Salt Lake City. No doubt their skills were needed in Nauvoo.
They passed through Winter Quarters. I don’t know much about their time there, but William lost their young baby Charles, and he is buried at Winter Quarters where his name is on the plaque by the temple with many others who died there.
Our daughter Julienne recently returned from serving a full time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Omaha, Nebraska where Winter Quarters was located. She got to see first hand what the winters might have been like. Winter Quarters for a short time became the headquarters for the Church after leaving Nauvoo, IL before heading west to Salt Lake City, Utah. By Christmas 1846, church members had built a large stockade and about 700 homes ranging from solid, two-story structures to simple dugouts in the bluffs. It’s estimated that 800-1,000 saints died during the winter of 1846–47 in Winter Quarters and Iowa and it is estimated that 4600 Latter-day Saints died in total on the trek to Utah. Source : https://www.lds.org/ensign/1998/07/i-have-a-question/i-have-a-question?lang=eng
As a side note, if you are LDS and are curious what relatives you have that were pioneers, you can go to a Relative Finder website that BYU put together and just log in with your regular LDS.org login. FamilySearch also has a section where you can discover pioneer ancestors. It shows their age at departure, where the departed from, and how many days they traveled with their wagon or handcart company.
Lesson # 3 – You are needed in the Church. “Lift where you stand” as President Uchtdorf taught. These two Bringhurst brothers came to Salt Lake with their families in the John Taylor company. It is recorded that they suffered many hardships and starvation on their journey to Salt Lake as well as while they were trying to tame and settle the land.
Willam (not my direct ancestor, but Samuel’s brother) was called as the president of the Las Vegas mission and was directed by Brigham Young to build a fort in Las Vegas. He spent two years there in what seems to have been very hard circumstances. After two years he was allowed to return and settle in Springville, Utah where he served as a bishop. He was also one of the six founding trustees for the Brigham Young Academy
Samuel went to St. George and helped settle that area. He was later called as bishop in Toquerville and lived the rest of his life there. My line of Bringhursts stayed in this area for a long time. Toquerville is where my father Gary was born.
I like to hear about these two brothers because I’m interested in what it might have been like to be called by Brigham Young to go settle a territory or area. I imagine it would have been extremely hard especially in the conditions that must have existed in St. George or Las Vegas at the time. After leaving Nauvoo, coming to Salt Lake, seeing the new Zion being built, and then being asked to leave would have been challenging. I’m sure it required tremendous faith. It reminds me of Nephi who said, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)
Now a little about some ancestors on my mother’s side. Willard Charles Burgon came to Utah when he was 17 on the steamship Manhattan from Liverpool, England with 221 saints. It was a 14-day journey on the ocean. They landed in New York, then they traveled from New York to Salt Lake City, arriving July 4th 1872. His father James and mother Matilda had joined the church around 1850 in Winchester, England. He was named after Willard Richards and his brother Heber was named after Heber C. Kimball. Willard Richards and Heber C. Kimball had apparently stayed in the Burgon home while they were visiting in England.
Willard worked with his brother George saving money to pay for their parents and family members to come to Salt Lake City. His first job was working to help build the Z.C.M.I. in Salt Lake City. He learned brick-laying and granite stone cutting. He then became an excellent stone cutter and worked on the Salt Lake Temple block. He would point with pride at the moon and star stones on the temple which he had laid.
Lesson # 4. Our love for the gospel can influence our children and future generations. I learned at a young age to love the temple. I have always had a fascination and love for the Salt Lake Temple. I love staring at that beautiful holy building that is a testimony of the faith and hard work of the pioneers. Every time I look up at the moon and stars high upon the temple walls, I picture my great-great grandfather working to build the temple, and carefully carving and chiseling them out. I have often wondered with all of these great craftsman genes, how I ended up not being able to build anything with my hands.
In 1876, at the Salt Lake Endowment House, Willard C. Burgon married Emma Crouch, also an emigrant from England. While he was working on the temple block, she was working in the home of President Brigham Young, which home is known as the “Beehive House” on State Street and South Temple. We named our Emma after her. Willard purchased several acres of land and settled in Union, Utah. Union is now basically the Midvale/Murray area, but back then there was a fort there called Fort Union.
He was a brick mason and built many homes and schools throughout the valley. He was a justice of the peace and a temple worker. He served two missions in England and returned there in his older years in 1908 and was able to gather names for temple work. He was able to do temple work for ancestors dating back to the 1600’s.
Willard was baptized at age 8, so he was pretty much brought up in the church. His wife Emma had also been raised in the gospel.
I want to share the conversion of Emma Crouch’s father, William Crouch, who was born in England in 1821. I quote him, “My parents were honest, industrious, devout and God-fearing. My father was a farm laborer, very poor, for his wages seldom exceeded a half dollar a day. I was taken from school at nine years of age and by my father, taught nothing but hard work. “My mother, though in poverty and hardship, was a woman of intelligence and refinement, and I WAS HER BOY. So that I learned my prayers, my letters, and general behaviors at my mother’s knee.”
He spent seven years in the British Army during a time of peace and said he never fired upon an enemy. He left the army in 1850. His wife-to-be, Caroline Baker, saved her money and purchased his discharge. He said they had loved each other from their early youth.
One day he was talking to a young women who was staying with them while she looked for work. He relates this story, and I quote: “Saturday we were sitting at the table talking and I said, “We have just removed from a distant part of London, and we don’t know where to go to worship tomorrow. I should like to hear some eloquent minister.” The maiden answered, “You had better go and hear the Latter-day Saints”. O dear! Oh dear! This went like a dagger to my heart! I felt mad! Real mad for I had never heard anything but what was bad of them, and I expressed myself accordingly. I noticed the poor girl’s feelings were hurt and, being of a gentlemanly turn of mind, I apologized and said if she had anything to say in favor of these people, I would listen, and would not again say anything offensive. And, good girl that she was, she bore a humble and faithful testimony to the truth of the gospel of salvation by Jesus Christ as revealed anew from heaven, for the benefit of the world, through the Prophet Joseph Smith. But I was terribly disturbed in mind. I thought it all a delusion; I was such a staunch Methodist. And was in very bad condition of mind for about three days. I felt like taking a broom of destruction and sweeping all the Mormons from the face of the earth. In my foolish rage I stopped short, and asked myself the question, “Is it the Holy Ghost that I have been praying for all these years that is prompting in me all this bitterness and hate against a people I know nothing about? Common sense says, “No, verily no!” Then I began to pray, and the light of truth began to dawn upon me. I went and heard them, but I didn’t like them.The young woman ( found work and departed) but left behind some tracts and the Book of Mormon. I prayed and read, and read and prayed, but my prejudice and conceit was hard to overcome. Little more than two weeks from the time we first heard the gospel, we were both convinced of its truth and baptized. I have held on to the truth and been greatly blessed by it ever since. And our belief in the truth has been graciously turned to knowledge by the revelation of the Spirit of truth from the Lord.
He goes on to say that they emigrated to Salt Lake in 1873, “and we were generously assisted by a loan from the P.E. Fund.” Now when I first read that, I didn’t know what he was speaking about. It wasn’t until President Hinckley introduced the Perpetual Education Fund and explained that he got the idea from the Perpetual Emigration Fund, that I put P.E. Fund together with Perpetual Emigration Fund. I had never heard about it beforehand. It was common enough among the saints that William Crouch put it in his journal as the P.E. Fund with no explanation. He ends his journal saying, “Now children – you have our example before you. Please honor it and improve upon it.”
Another conversion story is a little more well known. Wilford Woodruff was preaching in Staffordshire England on Sun March 1, 1840. During the meeting he heard the Spirit tell him, “This is the last meeting that you will hold for many days.” He left the next day for Herefordshire. Wilford Woodruff had inquired of the Lord where to go and had been directed to come to Herefordshire. Ishmael Phillips was living in this area and was a member of the United Brethren. This was a religious group that had broken away from the church of England. Wilford Woodruff said, “I learned why the Lord had sent me there. … I found a company of men and women, some six hundred, who had banded together under the name of United Brethren, and were laboring for the ancient order of things. They wanted the Gospel as taught by the prophets and apostles, as I did in my youth. ”He quickly baptized 599 of the 600 members of the United Brethren. Many of them only heard one sermon before asking for baptism. Ishmael was one of those. During his 8 months there, Wilford Woodruff brought in 2,000 converts. I would say they had been prepared for his coming. This was the true gospel for which they had been searching.
Although most of those baptized quickly immigrated to Zion, Ishmael and Mary remained in England for another 23 years because the were too poor to emigrate. In fact, they were so poor that every Monday morning they would go to the pawn shop to pawn their Sunday clothes. Saturday, after he received his pay, they would go to the pawn shop and redeem their clothes to wear to church. On Monday morning they would be back at the pawn shop. They were also able to come to Zion because of the Perpetual Emigration Fund. After coming to Utah, Ishmael served as the first Bishop of the Fort Union Ward. He also served a Mission to Mexico and helped open the Juarez Mission.
Lesson # 5 – I need to honor these ancestors who recognized truth and took hold and grasped the iron rod and improve where I can as I raise the next generation.
Willard Charles Burgon Sr. a great stone mason and brick mason, had a son, Willard Charles Burgon Jr. who was the father of my grandmother Maggie Burgon Alldredge.
Side note. For family history’s sake, don’t name your child the exact same name that you have right down to the middle name. That makes it really harder to keep stories straight! I do think that’s just fine to name your children after ancestors, just not the exact first, middle, and last name.. We actually named our daughters Emma and Maggie after ancestors. But you’ll note different middle and last names. 🙂
So, Willard Charles Burgon Jr., my grandmother’s father, who went by Charles, owned the Burgon Market on 7200 South and 900 East, in Union, Utah. Now I’ve heard this story from many sources so I believe it to be accurate. At his funeral, many people told my grandmother and others there, that if it wasn’t for her dad, Charles Burgon, giving their family food during the great depression, they would have starved. When they went through the store and cleaned it out many years later, they found a box full of IOUs of people he had given food to during the depression without receiving payment, and apparently many of the IOUs were never re-paid.
Lesson # 6 – I’ve learned to be generous. The generosity of my great-grandfather has had a lasting impact on me through the years. I love hearing about this because I know that he was a charitable man. He was bishop for many years in Union as was his father. He cared about his neighbors. His example of charity has spanned generations. As Mormon said in Moroni 7:47 “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.”
Lesson # 7 – Serving makes you happy. My grandmother, Maggie Alldredge served as Relief Society President three times. She was always at the church for funerals and other service projects. Her front room was often filled with relief society sisters quilting. I would play with my Hot Wheel cars underneath the quilts. We would run loaves of bread all around to other sisters in the ward. I would try to find something to do while they would visit. I knew my grandmother very well and we were very close. She helped raise me while my single mother worked to support us. However, my children never had the privilege in this life to meet my grandmother, so to them she is an ancestor and as such, I want them to hear stories of her. I will end with a few lessons she taught me. I was her boy and I learned these things at her knee.
I often heard her tell me of how the Lord blessed her because she paid tithing. She told me of how one night she prepared a meager meal for the family, cleaned up, and went to bed knowing there was no other food in the cupboard for the next day. She prayed that the Lord might bless them with something. The next morning she woke up and there was a sack of potatoes on the porch. She said that something like that always happened.
Lesson # 8. I learned that tithing brought real blessings. The Lord never let them go without because she always paid her tithing. I walked into my grandmother’s bedroom many times to find her kneeling at the side of her bed in prayer. I would always try to get close to her without her hearing because she would be quietly praying out loud and I wanted to hear what she was saying. She would usually be praying for her children.
Lesson # 9. I learned that prayer was important to my grandmother.
I can remember a set of cassette tapes my grandmother had of the Book of Mormon. They were in story form with actors playing the voices. We would listen to the sounds of Nephi building a ship or Abinadi crying repentance to King Noah. I didn’t like reading the scriptures when I was very young, but I really enjoyed these tapes and I got to know the stories in the Book of Mormon very well.
I would often see my grandmother reading and marking her scriptures with a little red pencil. She made many notes in the margins.
Lesson # 10. I learned that my grandmother believed in The Book of Mormon. I now have a love for the Book of Mormon because of the seeds of faith my grandma nurtured in me at a young age.
The hardest part putting together some thoughts on pioneer heritage is narrowing it down. I’m blessed to have had so many ancestors to look to as great examples. My wife has many more remarkable ancestors that are now added to my wonderful family history who our children can look to as examples. We all have great ancestors to look to. Many of them came from the humblest circumstances with a common desire to follow Jesus Christ. They were god-fearing people. They desired to be good people. They were kind to others. They endured hardships of life. They had great sorrow and tremendous joy. They had testimonies of the scriptures. As Pioneer Day, the 24th of July, is a fitting day to take some time in our own lives and remember those who have passed on to the other side. Honor their good works. Learn more about them. Get on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, or other family history sites and read some of the stories. Add some of your stories to these sites or your journal so other relatives can enjoy them.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley would say, the gospel is to make bad men good and good men better. Let’s try to improve upon the legacy of our ancestors and become better people.
Whether laying the foundation for the temple in France, or the foundation the pioneers laid in establishing Salt Lake City in the desert, or the foundation of building up a stake of Zion in Port Angeles, WA, we are all modern-day pioneers laying the foundation for a great work. Ultimately we are preparing for the return of our Savior Jesus Christ. I know He was resurrected. He lives and loves each of us. He directs the work of His Church in these latter-days.