“I Remembered the Pioneers,” Ensign, July 2007, 70–71
When I was 19 I was called up to the Swedish army. As an artillery signalist, I served in the Eighth Company’s staff and leading platoon.
At 4:00 one January morning, our officers ordered us to get dressed with full equipment and gather outside in 20 minutes. Tired and hungry from the previous day’s activities, I felt like I had barely closed my eyes, and here I was again preparing to confront a new test. I still remember how it felt, stepping from the warmth of the barracks into an indescribable cold.
A huge military bus arrived to pick us up, and we were told we were going to Stockholm for a big test to see if we were qualified to continue our training. Arriving in the city, we were divided into three groups, with different maps and separate destinations.
We walked the streets of Stockholm, fully equipped with weapons, ammunition, and other gear. At each checkpoint we were required to perform a physical test, such as hostage confrontation, street battle, running through tunnels and buildings, and first aid treatment. After every test we barely had time to rest before moving on to the next checkpoint.
The freezing asphalt made my feet numb, and my shoulders ached from the heavy equipment. But I kept going and tried not to complain. Our group experienced bitter weather and difficult trials, but we were still marching as brothers. Along the route, we encountered shocked civilians who laughed, pointed fingers, and shouted at us.
I was tired, cold, dirty, and in pain when we reached our final destination and the bus picked us up. During the trip back to the base, I reflected on the trials my platoon and I had endured and asked myself if this training was worth anything besides the medals awarded at the conclusion. I asked myself if anyone else besides us had gone through trials as we had that day.
Suddenly, I thought of the hardships and sacrifice of the pioneers of the early days of the Church. I recalled the stories of their hunger, cold, and pain; of being mocked; and of walking endless miles—the same things I had experienced that day. The big difference is that I had to endure this for only one day. The pioneers traveled in cold and snow, rain and heat, walking through mud and dust. They walked with little material security, having only faith that the Lord would protect them. The pioneers walked to find Zion because the Lord had a marvelous work for these members to perform.
Suddenly, without thinking, I started to sing “Come, Come, Ye Saints” (Hymns, no. 30), and right there on the bus I started to feel a difference within me. A great warmth and happiness flowed through my body. I was not active in the Church at that time and I had thought I would never come back, but suddenly a feeling came over me saying, “Come back to church.”
When I got to the base, I called my parents and told them I loved them and wanted to go back to church. The following Sunday was a huge test for me to see if I had the courage to return, because I had been away for so long. Going back wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. My family and the other members helped me feel welcome.
I began to prepare to serve a mission and two years later received a mission call to serve in the Cape Verde Praia Mission. When I arrived in Salt Lake City on my way to the Missionary Training Center, I saw the marvelous work performed by the pioneers in building a magnificent temple and planning a beautiful city. I said softly, “Thank you.”
Today, when I ask myself if that military test was worth anything, I answer that it was, in every way, because in that moment of great insight on a bus with a platoon of fellow soldiers, I realized how important the work of the Lord is. It was worth it because I came back to the Lord and am now doing His work and His will.