Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
In the 1800s, hundreds of pioneers crossed the Great Plains, seeking refuge in the unsettled American West. They walked through rain, wind, dust and sun. They faced buffalo stampedes, rattlesnakes and wolves. Many buried loved ones along the trail. The final leg of their trek may have been the most daunting: "Hills piled on hills, and mountains on mountains, in every direction". But they pressed on, eventually reaching the land of their dreams.
In October 1856, as the first few companies of pioneers settled in their new home, word came of fellow travelers still stranded on the plains. They had left late in the season, and now they were trapped in early winter snows, frozen and out of food. Pioneer leader Brigham Young heard of their ordeal and rallied the settlers to come to their rescue. "Go and bring in those people now on the plains," he said.
They didn't have much, but they loaded wagons with what blankets, food and clothing they had, and within days they were back on the plains, bringing relief to those stranded in the deepening snow. Hundreds were saved from their desperate conditions by the rescuers.
In many ways, circumstances haven't changed since the time of the pioneers. People still struggle — not in snowbanks but in grim and difficult circumstances. Many are hungry because they lack food; others are hungry because they lack hope. Many have been driven from homelands overrun by conflict and seek refuge in unfamiliar places.
They too are pioneers, and they often face "hills piled on hills, and mountains on mountains in every direction" of their lives.
And who are their rescuers? Perhaps we can be. We may be in the midst of our own arduous trek, but there is always someone with needs greater than ours, and there is always something we can do to help. We can share from our cupboards, and we can share from our hearts. Sometimes the needs are practical: help learning a new language, practicing for a job interview or reading a bus schedule.
But what most people need is a friend — and if being a rescuer means being a friend, we can all be rescuers. We can find those in need and "bring them in."