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Sabbath Revival: “Pioneer Day Fatigue”

By Catherine Pavia

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Today’s revival post, “Pioneer Day Fatigue,” was written by Emily M. on July 23, 2007. Reading it took me back to where I was during the sesquicentennial of the pioneer’s 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley: I was working as an editor/writer for the Liahona, and, like Emily, I was thoroughly tired of being immersed in pioneers, both the 1847 versions and the modern-day versions. Yet I look back now and remember all of those stories that I edited over and over again for each different round of the magazine’s editing process. They became a part of me and of my association with the word “pioneer.” This post by Emily will join those stories in my psyche because Emily uses a talk by Tessa Meyer Santiago to reframe the pioneer emphasis on journey rather than destination and on spiritual journey rather than physical: “Ten years ago the Church celebrated the sesquicentennial of the 1847 arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. I missed all the hoopla, the documentaries and nationwide news coverage”“I was on a mission in Ecuador. I got echoes of the festivities through letters and weeks-old copies of the Church news. Also it seemed like every month’s Ensign that year had something about the pioneers in it. But I felt disconnected from it all. A few months passed, and so did the Church’s pioneer emphasis. I entered my most challenging time as a missionary: a difficult companionship situation, an area I had hoped to avoid serving in, and the general fatigue that set in after months of full-time service. We were working hard, but very few people progressed, and I felt frustrated and guilty. If I knew how to be a better missionary, maybe I’d be able to baptize more people. If I had more faith. If I were more obedient. I couldn’t see clearly the good things I actually did; instead I felt depressed over my lack of quantifiable results. During this time, my mother sent me this talk,“Under Covenant Toward the Promised Land: Section 136 as a Latter-Day Type,” given by Tessa Meyer Santiago at a BYU devotional during that pioneer summer, July 1997. Santiago speaks about covenant journeying to the promised land, and how the pioneer accounts are “types from the beginnings of our religious and cultural heritage that tell us as a people how to act if we will reenact the literal journey in our spiritual lives.” This resonated with me, as I was in the middle of an important spiritual journey, and I wanted to break out of my depression and journey well. Santiago teaches: Saints under covenant must be devoted to the concept of journeying, not destination. The ultimate covenant under which the Saints journeyed is simply expressed in D&C 136:4: “And this shall be our covenant–that we will walk in all the ordinances of the Lord. Note the covenant is not that they will walk in the Lord’s ordinances until they reach Zion. There is no mention of destination when we walk in the way of the Lord’s ordinances. I needed those words! I needed to see my mission right then as a covenant journey, not a goal-oriented destination. I read them over again, and pondered them. They helped me begin to find joy in missionary life, in that daily journey, instead of frustration that I did not live up to the perfect missionary I had imagined myself to be. That first section of her talk was my favorite, the one that strengthened me the most during my own mission journey. But as I read it over again, I think this talk is for anyone who gets pioneer fatigue, or has ever wondered why we celebrate this Pioneer Day every year. So what do I find in this pioneer journey that helps me identify with the early Saints? I find something that can help all of us in enduring to the end. I realize that my awe and reverence and sometimes disbelief–these people were too much, too unbelievable–is perhaps a result of my reluctance to admit that I, too, am capable of such devotion, such sacrifice, and such commitment to the kingdom of God. . . .”
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About Catherine Pavia

(Prose Board) has worked as a cherry sorter, file girl, piano teacher, writer, editor, and college professor. She currently works full-time as the art director, events planner, chauffeur, and referee for her four children. She spends a good deal of her time running—be it down the supermarket aisle after an escaped child, around the living room in a heated game of flag football, or on early-morning runs/therapy sessions with her neighborhood friends. She earned her BA and MA in English from BYU and her PhD in English from UMass Amherst.

2 thoughts on “Sabbath Revival: “Pioneer Day Fatigue””

  1. Thanks for this. I find the same type of view helpful with motherhood. I think I tend to get most frustrated when I start to focus on destination rather than journey too. Just today I told my husband it would (probably) be a whole lot easier to sacrifice my life in one fell swoop than it is to do the day in and day out stuff of raising children. (Yah–it was a day spent praying for patience and charity with my darlings. 🙂 )

  2. I just started reading "Letters to a Young Mormon" by Adam Miller. The first letter on agency is poignant and elegant in its description of each person as a pioneer on their life's journey. "Life has never before been lived in your body. Everything must be done again, as if for the first time. You are an aboriginal Adam, a primal Eve. You are a Mormon." Thanks for this post.


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