Grant Harper

Pioneers life philosophy

July 24th is a Pioneer Day. On that day, Utah celebrates the Mormon pioneers who settled the state, a process that formally started with the arrival of Brigham Young in the Salt Lake Valley. Some of my ancestors were among those who crossed the plains because of their deeply held religious beliefs. Others crossed the ocean in pursuit of religious freedom. It is absolutely clear to me that their beliefs were more important than their comfort. They were willing to adventure into the unknown to hold true to their ideals.

Archibald McPhail is one of the many great names in my family's history. Archibald made the attempt to cross the plains with his family by handcart, fleeing religious persecution. Handcarts were made for those who could not afford to purchase oxen to pull a wagon across the plains. Instead of expensive oxen, handcarts were pulled by the travelers themselves.

The journey was extremely difficult, especially when the weather turned cold. At one point, a fellow traveler refused to move any further. Refusing to leave her behind to freeze to death, Archibald attempted to carry her across the ice of a frozen river. Unfortunately, the ice broke under their combined weight. They made it to the other side, but the exposure caused Archibald to die a number of days later. He died doing what he believed in, united with others in their common desire to practice their faith freely. Archibald and all of the many pioneers in my family were willing to take steps into unknown territory even in the face of adversity.

About four years ago, I stopped attending and practicing Mormonism altogether. It was a difficult decision that required a great deal of thought over many painstaking years. Why would I abandon what my ancestors sacrificed so much to gain the privilege of practicing? Was this disavowal of their way of life an insult to the price they paid? Maybe, but staying in a religion I no longer believed simply to remain comfortable in a known community with known social norms is the opposite of what a pioneer would do.

In the end, my belief system does not align with that of the Mormon faith, and I refuse to show tacit support for a system that I do not believe represents the best that humanity can achieve. Given my family and friends and their deep connections to the Mormon faith, this stance has made my life more complex and challenging that it otherwise would have been. It has also made my life far more colorful and authentic.

While I know that the sacrifices my ancestors made for their beliefs were far more significant than my own, like my pioneer ancestors, I do not balk when faced with unknown territory. When I need to be a pioneer, I go exploring.

← Back to Posts