A Post-Pioneer Day Manifesto

Sunday was Pioneer Day, which got me to thinking about our cult of pioneer worship and how, even though we give lip service to the idea that any convert is a “pioneer,” of sorts, I get the impression that many people who don’t have pioneer ancestors (in the traditional sense of the word) don’t feel much of a connection to the holiday.

I propose, therefore, that January 24th (six months after Pioneer Day) be celebrated as Converts’ Day.

– On Converts’ Day, we ask all converts to bring something that represents a source of joy and beauty they had in their life before their conversion. (We hope that converts can add diversity and new ideas to our organization, not just blindly assimilate into the preexisting culture.)

– On Converts’ Day, all the converts march in a parade. People who aren’t converts may also march, but they have to dress in the costume of a convert ancestor. (This means that if your parents converted in the ’70s, it’s time to break out the bell bottoms. Also, the parade can be moved indoors to accomodate regions where January is not parade season.)

– On Converts’ Day, we cook food that we’ve never cooked before and then we eat food that we’ve never eaten before. (It’s hard to be pushed out of your comfort zone, and we should be considerate of people who are way out of theirs when they come to worship with us.)

– On Converts’ Day, we don’t pretend that good people always have faith and confidence and only bad people have doubts or fears. We light candles to remember those who have left the Church, for whatever reason, to remind us that their souls are still of worth and that our unkindness should never be the cause of a brother or sister’s departure.

How will you celebrate Converts’ Day?


  1. I LOVE this! If only such a day (and the attitudes it would require) would fly in LDS culture….

  2. Great idea, Katya!

    So on Converts’ Day, can we pay lip service to the idea that every member is a convert? 😉

  3. Heh, Ziff, you made me laugh out loud. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

    Pioneer day certainly wasn’t so much as mentioned in our ward. I should probably take some responsibility for that, but I should also add that we think favourably of pioneer stuff. Our youth camps for instance often include some pioneer activities and they generally go down well.

    As for converts, that would be pretty much our entire congregation!

    We have one family, and my wife, who are second generation but other than them the only second generation folk are in youth and primary.

    As for diversity, we generally aim to help people to adjust to membership. We still have members who nod their heads and say amen loudly when they agree with something said from the pulpit for instance. We also have members who believe in grace without works and so on.

    I like the idea but I think we’d need to temper it for areas with lots of converts. The idea for instance that there could be a day when you don’t think of those who used to come to church but are no longer with us is more likely to succeed here than the reverse would.

    In some ways one of the biggest stalls to church activity and involvement is the ongoing sadness that accompanies high levels of churn in membership, precisely because people don’t settle in to being ‘mormon’ and are therefore blown about by every wind of doctrine that comes their way.

  4. Brilliant. I have never cared for Pioneer day – my whole family converted when I was 12. They way people talk about Pioneers makes me feel like they think my experience is strange and less important than theirs. People always say that since I’ve converted, I’ve adopted the pioneer heritage… but I haven’t. I have my own, totally awesome heritage that I am proud of.

  5. People always say that since I’ve converted, I’ve adopted the pioneer heritage… but I haven’t. I have my own, totally awesome heritage that I am proud of.

    I love this 🙂

    I have a lot of pioneer heritage but I never felt particularly “proud” of it. I think I might have been that person, faced with a walk across the country, that said, “Eh, I’ll hold down the fort here. Text me if you come up with any new commandments out there.”

    Love this idea, though! All you ward activity chair’s, get planning!

  6. My parents are converts (go back in history, and we were probably hanging out with the mobs in Missouri, so just about as far away from being “the pioneers” as possible), and we were all raised to believe the only way to go was conversion, whether you were born/raised in the church, or not. Without conversion, we don’t have a thing.

    One of the talks Sunday was from a lady who is a recent convert (last year), and she did a really excellent job of using the pioneer’s struggles as an analogy for her own investigation of and baptism into the church. Very cool.

  7. Wow. This is such an interesting idea.
    I come from a family that crossed the plains and had bloody feet and whatnot, but I do agree that converts probably don’t identify with this heritage and I hate the idea of people feeling left out.

    As a lesbian in the church, it’s easy to feel like I don’t belong. It’s good to know that people are reaching out and creating fun events for those who may not feel completely comfortable with the mormon culture. 🙂

    Also, thanks for that bit about those who have left the church. Of course their souls are still of worth.
    We all have our moments of faith and confidence as well as doubt and fears. And in the end, we are all God’s children.

    For more info about being gay and Mormon, read my Sunday posts.

    Take a look at my Writing Blog

  8. Of course their souls are still of worth.

    I hope I didn’t imply that this was somehow a radical idea, just that we tend to value people more in some circumstances than in others. I like the idea of a holiday which celebrates all aspects of a journey of faith.

  9. I have a lot of pioneer heritage but I never felt particularly “proud” of it.

    I feel very much the same way. I once listened to a new convert gush about how much she loved the pioneers even though she didn’t have pioneer ancestors and I thought “You can have mine!”

  10. Hoorah for this idea. I’ve got good ol’ handcart pioneers on both sides of the family (from the same company, even,) and while I like to know where I come from, the whole “pioneer worship” thing has always smelled to me of dust and guilt. I love accurate depictions of how life used to be, from caves to Rome to the Medieval Age, to the wild west, to now — it’s interesting, and a worthwhile look at human development in general — but I don’t particularly like being beat over the head with old-timey hardship as a morality narrative or all-purpose gratitude-/guilt-stick.

    I am grateful to my pioneer ancestors, and their efforts and sacrifices deserve appropriate reverence, as do those of anyone who really gives their lives and selves to a good cause they believe in. But I got seriously annoyed when a new/used/trade bookstore around the corner changed its name from “Chapters,” which was brilliant for the type of store it was, to “Pioneer Bookstore.” Because why, everything has to be pioneery around here? Sigh…

  11. Meh. I’m not really in favor of another church faux-holiday. Growing up in the mid-west as a member, pioneer day basically didn’t exist. I honestly don’t even remember hearing about it until I moved to the east coast and met a bunch of lds members relocated from Utah and Arizona.

    So, I say let people from areas that were founded by such pioneers continue to celebrate it as they like – with the parades they grew up with, the activities, etc. And leave the general membership of the church, like me, alone. As someone without a pioneer connection – ancestral or emotional – I get enough pioneer honoring and admiring in church history lessons. And I do honor and admire them, I just don’t want to deal with some fake holiday about it. And I don’t want to add on another one either – even if it also deals with a group I honor and admire, namely converts.


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