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Pioneer Day in Utah

Updated on July 23, 2017
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Ruth, a.k.a. Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian and has had amazing travel experiences.

Our family recently
Our family recently | Source

The Early Days in the LDS Church

In 1837, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was having money trouble. Some of the leaders and members were upset and wondered how they could go on. In the middle of those difficult trials, the Prophet Joseph Smith was inspired to call Heber C. Kimball and others on a mission to Great Britain, the first mission outside of North America.

Pivotal Event

This turned out to be a tremendous blessing for the Church, making it a pivotal event in Church history, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He said,“I think it’s almost impossible to overstate the significance of that first mission” “You could say those British immigrants of the 1840s and 1850s … and later the Scandinavian Saints who joined them … probably saved the Church numerically.”

Opening the work in England introduced the concept of a global Church. Five years later, Orson Hyde traveled to Jerusalem. Within 15 years, missionaries were being called to places like India and Turkey according to Elder Holland. Even Charles Dickens who was a famous British novelist wrote that those that joined the church were “the pick and flower of England.” Many of those from Europe and Scandinavia ended up being the early leaders in the church.

My Pioneer Ancestors

According to, our families records show 18 verified pioneers in our family that literally crossed the plains to Utah. Some of them died on the way. They gave up everything they had known to follow the prophets and settle here.

A few years ago, we took my father to Scotland to see where his 2nd great grandfather was born. It is a beautiful country with rolling hills and lots of grazing sheep. My grandfather, Hugh Anderson, ended up raising sheep in Sanpete County, Utah about two hours drive South from here. That is where I was born.


His great Grandfather, Archibald Anderson, Sr. was born in Scotland the same year Joseph Smith was born. He married Agnes Adamson, and as they started to raise their family it became necessary according to their Minister, for them to have their babies baptized by sprinkling. For some time Archibald complied with this doctrine and then, finally, he rebelled against it. He told the Minister that nowhere in the scripture could he find where it was necessary for young children to be sprinkled and he would let the dews of Heaven baptize his children before he would let the Minister sprinkle any more of his children. About this time the Mormon Elders came around and the doctrine they were preaching seemed to be just what my third great grandpa was searching for. He and his family joined the Mormon Church and most of his family immigrated to American, crossed the plains and settled in Utah.

My Danish Ancestors

My mother’s side of the family is from Denmark. Neils Heber Christensen was a Luteran. They were discouraged that they had to pay the church for any services the family needed, such as baptism and confirmation. About this time the Mormon missionary ended up in Denmark in 1850. Apostle Erastus Snow and his companions converted almost fifty thousand Scandinavians to the gospel of Jesus Christ. More than half of the converts came to Utah in the next thirty years. Christiane Jeppedatter joined the church first and then when she married Niels, he listened to the missionaries and joined the church too.


Niels, Christiane and three daughters left their homeland, pulled a handcart across the plains with the 7th handcart company, lost a two-years old daughter along the way and made a life for his family in the wasteland of Moroni, in Sanpete County, Utah. Like Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, Niels Heber Anderson received little formal education. During the long winter nights at the sheep camp as a shepherd, he taught himself to read and write. He was only 5 feet 2 inches tall. That’s probably where I got my height.

After settling down and having six children, he was called on a mission in Carthage, Missouri. He spent two years away from his family. While he was gone, he had an impression that something was wrong at home. He prayed that that the Lord might send someone to his home in Utah to rebuke the power of Satan. That night in the city of Moroni, Utah, where his family lived, a loyal friend, George Jolley awakened from sleep and received a very strong impression that he should go to the Anderson home. He arose from his bed, dressed and found one of the twins very ill with pneumonia By the authority of the priesthood, he rebuked the disease and left a blessing on the home and family. Niels did not have to leave his mission to take care of his family, but continued until the end.


Our Own Mission

When I first met my husband, I asked where he was from and he said “Tonga”. I truly had no idea where that was. Little did I know I would spend 13 years of my life there. It was Elder Kolipoki who encouraged my husband to return to Tonga to help his people. Our mission was the greatest time of our life. Seeing our missionaries continue on in the work makes us very happy, as our humble Pisope Mo’unga does.

We have tried to follow the true Shepherd all the days of our married lives. It hasn’t always been easy, and sometimes we wanted to give up. I am so grateful for the examples of the brave pioneers in my family and Isi’s family who have continued to follow the teachings of Christ. Luisa and Vili were such great examples to me. I marvel at all they did without very much.

I just want to end by asking you to think why you came to Utah. I hope that we will all be good pioneers to our own children and families and continue to follow the Shepherd, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and his teachings through His Prophet today.

© 2017 Elayne


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