Their Women Were Incredible
A prominent non-Latter Day Saint historian named Wallace Stegner wrote of the Mormon pioneers, “That I do not accept the faith that possessed them does not mean I doubt their frequent devotion and heroism in its service. Especially their women. Their women were incredible.” Latter Day Saint women were incredible and certainly paved the way for more incredible Latter Day Saint women to impact the world today.
Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, though she didn’t travel west with any of the Mormon pioneer companies is absolutely a pioneer in her own rite. When the Relief Society of Nauvoo (as it was called then) was organized, Emma declared, “We are going to do something extraordinary.” She helped lead this organization that served as an outlet in which the women of the church could give temporal and spiritual aid under the direction of the priesthood. Imagine what that first meeting would have been like, the excitement of being a part of something extraordinary, feeling the love of Christ while serving each other, their neighbors and of course their families. She led efforts in helping the hungry, homeless and sick and played a great role in paving the way for the Relief Society today. Emma was an incredible woman.
When the Saints were forced out of Nauvoo and began their journey west, the women “. . . continued their benevolent work. . . . they were always ready with willing hands and tender sympathies to perform deeds of love and charity, and many were in need of such kindly acts for those were the days of toil, and of suffering, of scarcity and of hardship.” (Daughters in My Kingdom, The History and Work of Relief Society). Full books have been written about the trials these women faced from sickness to death and everything in between. Many pioneer women gave birth to babies on the treacherous journey and many of those babes were buried. They held tight to their faith, some didn’t make it to their destination, succumbing to death, but many did. The pioneer women were incredible.
While I have a deep appreciation for the Mormon pioneers, the women in particular, I have no ancestral connection to them and thus no real personal feelings toward them. I’d like to tell you about my own modern day family pioneers. In Detroit, Michigan 1957, my grandfather sat on the porch of his home with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. Two missionaries were walking by and stopped to talk to him. A year later, he along with my grandmother was baptized. A year and a half after that they traveled to Utah and went through the Salt Lake Temple for the first time with the family of one of the missionaries who baptized them. On the same day, they were sealed for eternity to their children; my mother was four years old. Grandpa Staub was a great man who held to his covenants and taught his family to do the same, but I want to focus on the influence of his wife. I always knew Grandma Staub had a testimony, I just knew. She raised her children in righteousness and continued to be a righteous influence in the lives of her grandchildren and many others whom she came in contact with. She served in many callings in her small branch in northern Michigan and even opened her home for meetings when a building wasn’t available. One of my most treasured possessions is the Children’s Songbook she used that my mom passed down to me. The inside front pocket is full of handwritten papers and notes she used for lessons in primary. I can feel the love radiating from those notes. She knew the church was true. I remember her reaching out to neighbors, many of whom were not members of the church. She had no hidden agenda, just pure Christ-like love. Late in her life, while I was grown and had children of my own she opened her home and heart again, this time to be a foster parent to a baby with down syndrome whose parents were ill equipped to care for him. She loved that little boy and cared for him, he had many special needs and by that alone I was impressed. However, I was even more impressed when I learned that she also had his parents into her home to teach them how to care for him. No judgment, just pure Christ-like love. Ruth Staub was an incredible woman.
On December 4th 1971, a young Latter Day Saint girl went on a date with a boy she met through her brother. In 1974, that boy was baptized and two years later he took that girl to the Washington D.C. Temple and they were sealed for eternity. That girl and boy are my mom and dad. My dad is the only member of the church in his family and is therefore a modern day pioneer, but my mom’s influence in the story cannot be overlooked. I know that before he had a testimony of the gospel, he could see the goodness in my mother. She is the reason he found the church, she was the pioneer who opened the way for him. My mother raised her children in righteousness. She taught us that we are children of God and Jesus Christ is our Savior. She paved the way for me to gain my own testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. That I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true and Joseph Smith was a prophet of God began with her being an influence in my life. Today, she serves in a small ward in Detroit and I know her influence is great. Many of the people in her ward are new members and she shows them by example what it means to be a good Latter Day Saint woman. She serves them, loves them and works hard to enrich their lives. Dawn Hardie is an incredible woman.
I am surrounded by women of the church today who are pioneers in their own families, in their children’s schools, in their neighborhoods. Women who love God, work hard in the church, serve others and show pure Christ-like love. Just as the pioneers of old, Stegner’s view of the people of the church holds true today; their women are incredible.