Chapter 4: The Pioneer Heritage of Faith and Sacrifice

Don't you love how the manual is set up? Last week we talked about being optimistic and this week we are discussing the pioneers in Gordon B. Hinckley Chapter 4: The Pioneer Heritage of Faith and Sacrifice. The pioneers were one of the most optimistic people, and they faced mountains of tribulations. What great examples for us.


I love how President Hinckley mentions that the early pioneers were powered by faith. That was their driving force and can be ours as well. I come from a long line of early LDS pioneers. Some of my ancestors were in the Martin handcart company. Others were in the rescue party. I love reading their histories of courageous faith. The reason why some of my ancestors were in the Martin company was because the dad was a carpenter and was called to stay and help build all the handcarts throughout the season. They could finally travel to Utah when the last company left. It takes patient faith to wait and watch others go. It takes more faith not to doubt as you crossed the plains with multiple significant challenges. It took faith for those rescuers to respond knowing the dangers that lie ahead. And it took faith to continue to move and settle the new areas after they reached the Salt Lake Valley. I greatly admire these early saints. I also admire those around the world today. There are so many continuing to do so much good. We are all continuing this great work as we choose to be faithful each day. (Keep up the great work!)

Questions to Ponder

Some of these questions are from the manual, others are ones that I thought of- use them in your preparation, lesson, or to help you think of your own.

  • How was faith essential for the pioneers who desired to gather in the Salt Lake Valley?
  • How were the pioneers able to put their faith into action?
  • How can you make your faith a reality? (section 1)
  • How do you continually strengthen your faith? 
  • How can you put your faith into action in order to bring about the "great future" ahead?
  • Why was Zion such a powerful motivating force for the early pioneers?
  • What similar hopes (Zion) motivate you today?
  • What impresses you about President Hinckley's story of the rescue of the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers? (section 3)
  • How does Brigham Young's rescue call show his prophetic inspiration?
  • How do you think you would have responded to Brigham Young's call?
  • How have you responded to modern prophets' calls?
  • What can you learn from those who responded to Brigham Young's call?
  • What can you do today to rescue and lift those who are in need? How far do you need to go in order to help someone in need?
  • How does looking to the past help you "gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future"? (section 4)
  • How are you a pioneer?
  • What examples of modern day pioneers do you have?
  • Why is it good to honor the early pioneers? (section 5)
  • How can you properly show respect for those early pioneers?
  • In what way are all Church members blessed by the faith and sacrifices of the early pioneers?
  • How can the examples of the early pioneers help you as you face difficulties?
  • How will you go forward with faith and optimism?

Teacher Study

Here are some articles and other things to study as you continue to prepare for your lesson. They should NOT replace the manual but rather help answer questions and strengthen your own testimony so that it is easy to teach with confidence and answer questions that arise during your lesson. 

"Pioneers All" by President Thomas S. Monson

"Following the Pioneers" by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

"Pioneers of the Future: 'Be Not Afraid, Only Believe'" by President James E. Faust

"The Past Way of Facing the Future" by Elder L. Tom Perry

"A Priceless Heritage" by President James E. Faust

Pioneers in Every Land- Video clips of stories of pioneers around the world throughout different times. Great resource.

Mormon Pioneers- This is the online exhibit of the original Mormon pioneers- full of artwork, stories, and videos.

"The World Needs Pioneers Today" by President Thomas S. Monson

"Led by Spiritual Pioneers" by President Thomas S. Monson 

If you want to get a better picture of these early pioneers as well as learn more historical stories, I recommend reading "Fire of the Covenant" by Gerald N. Lund. He compiled several of the early pioneer stories with the addition of a few fictional ones to help convey the faith, courage, and sacrifice of these early pioneers. This book specifically focuses on the Martin and Willie handcart companies. Warning: You may cry, especially during those final chapters. 

Supporting Videos

Bring Back Those Who Are Lost (about 1 minute)- Clip from President Hinckley

President Uchtdorf Faith of Our Fathers (about 1 1/2 minutes)- President Uchtdorf discusses the phrase, "Faith of Their Fathers"

When We Were Strangers (about 3 minutes)- The story of the early pioneers needing help and how we need to help others today

Our Pioneer Legacy (about 1 1/2 minutes)- Clip from Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Pioneers (about 2 1/2 minutes)- Elder Oaks pays tribute to modern-day pioneers

Faith of Our Fathers: Pioneers Then and Now (about 4 1/2 minutes)- President Uchtdorf speaks about the pioneering spirit

Special Witness- Elder Rasband (about 5 minutes)- How can you build upon the legacy of your ancestors? How can you be a modern pioneer? (Plus 2 more pages of video options about Pioneers)

Scripture Study

These are the same scriptures mentioned at the end of the manual. I include them here because it is important to read from the scriptures as we prepare.

Matthew 25:40

Ether 12:6-9

D&C 64:33-34

D&C 81:5

D&C 97:8-9

D&C 98:1-3

Teaching Thoughts

These are my ideas. Every class is different and needs different things so I try to provide a few different ideas in hope that as you read through, you will find some inspiration of your own. 

  • Continue to encourage comments with chocolate themed reading assignments. Write your assignments on these chocolate wrappers and get the bonus of having a gift plan for the rest of the year. 
  • Use some of the pioneer artwork on with the Pioneer playlist to put together your own slideshow (PowerPoint is a great program to put one together). Play it before class starts or during a part of your lesson.
  • If you are a fan of group work, give each group leader a video clip from Pioneers in Every Land. You will have to coordinate your group leaders ahead of time so they can bring their device ready to go (download the video instead of relying on the internet connection). Have each group watch and discuss the videos. After the group time ask questions about modern day pioneers. 
  • I loved how President Hinckley continually tied in our relationship to the early pioneers. The pioneering effort isn't over and certainly didn't end when the early saints reached the Salt Lake Valley. Print out the above quote to handout to your class or put it up during your lesson.
  • Use the analogy of a good tree with good fruit. The early pioneers planted the seeds and now we are the fruit of their seeds (section 5). Are we good fruit, bad fruit, or bland fruit? How can you tell? How can you change? You can tie in the parable of the olive trees and grafting in of branches as well- we have to cut down our bad branches (bad habits) and graft in good branches (good habits) in order to produce good fruit.
  • If you were to write a letter to an early pioneer what would you say? Give your class a few minutes to write.
  • Bring a big map of the USA to use a visual. Mark on the map the path the early pioneers had to take- starting in New York and ending in Utah. You may want to mark the times they built towns they had to leave. You may also want to show how their journey didn't end in the Salt Lake Valley. Many were then called to settle different parts of the West including Arizona and Idaho and even parts of western Canada. Also point out that the Salt Lake Valley was 1,000 miles away from the nearest settlements to the east and 800 miles away from the nearest settlement to the west (section 1). This journeying exemplifies how much power their faith gave them- to leave their homes and temples time and time again. As you read some pioneer accounts, you can use the map to point out where it happened as well. You may want to mark the rescue path (Willie and Martin handcart companies) with a different color. This interactive map has more stories and a trail to follow.
  • Bring a globe to mark modern day pioneer stories and how the early pioneers are leaving an impact years later.
  • Use these free posters with a quote from "Come, Come Ye Saints" during your lesson to talk about the early pioneers' courage and the courage that is needed today. You can also use the other printables to encourage continuing this conversation at a Family Home Evening. 
  • Tie Chapter 3 back into Chapter 4 with the following quote found in section 2, "Was it difficult to leave their homes and step into the unknown of a new world? Of course it was. But they did it with optimism and enthusiasm." If there was a challenge issued with the last chapter, take this time to have some of the class report on how they did (If you can, talk to the other teacher to make sure there is a challenge issued for you to do this). How are we able to do difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible tasks? Real faith.
  • Find out if there is someone in your class that is related to those who were in the Martin and Willie handcart companies or who responded to the rescue efforts. Have that person relate the story in section 3 and their testimony of the faith of those people. You can also use these additional references to give more visuals and background- Mormon Handcart Historic Sites Timeline and Church History Museum Willie and Martin Remembered. The Red Headed Hostess also a list of additional stories and references.
  • Discover if you are related to pioneers using Family Search and the Church History Library. As long as you have your Family Search family tree filled you can easily find your pioneer connections.
  • Spend time discussing ways you can reach out and rescue those near you. Bring up or to show how everyone can find something they can do. When you use you can narrow your search by the time you have to give and your available location. Try to coordinate with your Presidency a service project that helps put this lesson into action.
  • This is a great lesson to tie in some of the April 2016 General Conference talks- just be sure it isn't already scheduled to be taught soon. You can show the video, When We Were Strangers and bring up several of the suggestions in the General Women's Sessions about helping refugees and others. 
  • The quote I mentioned in the video below is found on the Trail of Hope in Nauvoo. William Hyde (#5) says, "The thoughts of leaving my family at this critical time are indescribable...nevertheless we did not feel to murmur." You can find more quotes from the trail here.


See the topic "Pioneers" or use this Pioneers playlist.