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Personal Pioneer Stories from LDS Daily Readers

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You sent us some of your most cherished memories of the pioneers in your life! Here were just some of our favorites.

Submitted by Shane Castillo Manning of Pioneer Girls

I’m working on a book for my daughter about my great-great-grandmother, Emma Higbee, who was 11 years old when she traveled with the Heber C. Kimball 2nd Company from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley in 1848.

Emma was baptized by her father, Isaac Higbee, in the Mississippi River in Nauvoo on her 8th birthday. It was a cold November day and they had to break the ice on the river to perform the ordinance, but Emma wouldn’t wait another day.

Almost three years later they left Winter Quarters and walked for nearly four months to the valley. At one point along the way, Emma ran ahead of the wagon train and became lost. She tried to find her way back but only became more confused. Having been taught by her father the power of prayer, she eventually took her problem to the Lord. Upon finishing her prayer, she rose from her knees and nearby found her family cow, which she knew had a calf back at the wagon and would not stray far. Emma waited for the cow to return to the wagon train and followed it back. Only a few minutes into their walk she heard her father calling to her and was reunited with her family.

Submitted by Darla Phelps-Damron

I grew up in a very dysfunctional family in a very small Texas town.  In 1985, I was 19 years old when my older brother, who was taking the missionary discussions, introduced me to the Church. He gave me a picture with the Jordan River Temple and the Articles of Faith on it. I thought it was the most beautiful building I had ever seen.  It looked like a castle and I thought to myself that I wanted to be married there someday. I had never heard about Mormons (1985). However, I took three missionary discussions from full-time missionaries, Elder and Sister Stout, and then stopped due to peer pressure. A year later Elder and Sister Stout came to visit my Mom, who had joined the church with one of my brothers.  They told me that they would love to teach me again whenever I was ready. I told them that I was ready. I was baptized a year later.

Since then the brother that introduced the church to me was baptized with me and my youngest brother joined several years later.  In 1990 I served a mission in Porto Alegre, Brazil which later split into north and south. I then served in the Porto Alegre North Mission. When I returned in January I was sealed to my Mom and her husband in the Dallas, TX temple. Later that year I got married and sealed in the Jordan River Temple. We had two beautiful little boys who are now 19 and 21 years old and live in CA. with their Dad. Their Dad and I were divorced after four years. My youngest was only 5 months old. My mother left the church and asked for her name to be taken off of the records of the church because she listened to my sister who is a Baptist. Four years later I met the most incredible man (Father of three children) and remarried. We have two children ages 12 and 14. He is currently serving as the first counselor in the Bishopric. After attending the Pathway program, my 21 year old son has decided to serve a full time mission and is now in the process of filling out his mission papers. I am currently serving as the Patriarch’s Scribe.

I never finished college so I am now registered to attend the BYU-Iadho Pathway Program this fall with my husband who also never finished college. I have decided that anytime to receive my degree is better than no time.  I also know that had it not been for the gospel of Jesus Christ, I would not have had the incredible life I have had. By the third missionary discussion in 1985 (the year I graduated from high school) I knew the Church was true. I had a testimony of tithing by watching my Mother pay tithing when she was a member of the church before I joined the church.  I never felt I could relate to the LDS Pioneers until one day I heard a talk about how I, as a convert, am a pioneer for my family.  The brother that was baptized with me has since been excommunicated and is dying of colon cancer. However, he has never stopped believing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only true church on this earth. Although I am human and I have made mistakes, my testimony of the true gospel has never wavered.  I continue to being the pioneer that I am. I look forward to watching my children grow in the gospel, serve missions, and be sealed in the temple. So, in short, this is my story, sparing many details. My name is Darla Damron. I am a Mormon and I am an LDS Latter-day Pioneer.

Submitted by Dana Floyd

In Hebrews 11:1 the apostle Paul wrote; Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

It was this faith that undoubtedly inspired Maren Mikkelsen (my third great-grandmother) to accept with her whole heart the message of the restoration.

She was born in 1796 in Albaek, Denmark.  By the age of forty-seven she had lost two husbands and one son to the grave.  It must have been the hope of eternal life, and the prospect of temple marriage that led to her conversion.  The records we have do not indicate her original baptism date, but her daughter; Johanne Marie Jensen was baptized in 1855.

We know that she traveled with the Wiley Handcart Company 1.  She was the first of our family to give her life for the cause of Zion.  At the age of sixty-one, she embarked on this perilous journey, the extremes of which proved more than her years could endure.  Her third husband, Ole Mikkelsen laid her in a grave near the Sweetwater River in Wyoming, on the 27th of September, 1856.  He bid her farewell for this lifetime, and continued on to the valley with her two remaining daughters; each of them suffering the privations of those ill-fated pioneer companies.

Maren’s youngest daughter, Johanne Marie Jensen accepted the gospel, was baptized in her native Denmark, and together with her family made her way by ship to Liverpool, England; New Orleans, Louisiana; Florence, Nebraska; and by handcart to Salt Lake City.

Interestingly, at least to me, while she traveled with the Wiley Handcart Company, her future brother-in-law, Henry Augustus Squires and his family made their way along the trail in the Martin Company.

The privations endured by these emigrating pioneers is well documented.  I have had the privilege of pulling a handcart along portions of that trail of tears, and have camped at the site where the beleaguered saints of the Wiley Company were rescued.  My feelings have been most tender as I’ve considered all that was suffered by those whose trials brought them a sure knowledge of God.  The Lord, though the prophet Joseph Smith declared;

Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion. Keep my commandments in all things.  And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.  (Doctrine and Covenants 14:6-7).

Three months following her arrival in Salt Lake City, Johanne became the second wife of John Paternoster Squires; the first of his three plural wives.  During the next ten years she brought five children into the world, losing her life with the birth of the last.

In her short life she endured with faith, virtue and patience all that the Lord required at her hand; and with the noble and great ones of every generation, has become an heir of eternal mansions.

Submitted by Diana Darrell Smith

I know many from my ancestors whom survived the 5th handcart company and I know of others. What I have learned is determination, desire, humility, strength, beating adversity, loving the gospel, following the prophet, family, scriptures, prayer…but most of all that we are experiencing tests and if we look forward and upward we will be whom our Heavenly Father needs us to be. I am grateful for my pioneer ancestors.

Pioneer Day isn’t over yet. Share your pioneer story in the comments below!

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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