Moses: Leader of the First Pioneers

Pioneer Day is coming up soon! For Latter-Day Saints, that generally means watching the Days of ’47 parade, singing hymns like “Come, Come, Ye Saints”, and otherwise celebrating the families who traveled across the plains and into Utah in the 19th century.

But what about ancient Israel? They, too, took a journey through a barren wilderness to escape persecution and find Zion in a new land. They, too, had to rise up to challenges they didn’t know they could face. You may feel that you have even less in common with the Saints in the days of the Exodus than we do with the Mormon pioneers, but you might be surprised.

For instance, do you feel unqualified to fulfill the responsibilities that have been given to you? Do you hate or worry about the fact that people look to you as a leader? Then you and Moses, the great prophet of the Old Testament who led Israel in the great Exodus, would have plenty to talk about together.

Our parents, church leaders, and even God often give us assignments. Sometimes the jobs are small enough or our talents great enough for us to feel comfortable. But other times, we may be guilty of saying things like: “Why are you putting me in charge of this? I don’t know what I’m doing. I won’t be able to do a good job.”

Would you believe that Moses said some pretty similar things? When he was first called as a prophet, Moses basically said, “Who am I to lead these people? I can’t even speak well. They won’t believe me.” Then when Pharaoh doubled the Hebrews’ workload, Moses told God, “You haven’t helped my people—they’re worse off than before! Why did you even send me?”

Even though Moses is known for leading the children of Israel through the Red Sea and through the wilderness, he had to grow into his role. Watching him change from reluctant shepherd to confident head of the children of Israel may be able to help us in our personal roads to leadership.

Perhaps the biggest key of Moses’ success was that he obeyed, but didn’t do anything alone. From the very beginning, Moses asked—begged, really—for some help. God was unhappy with Moses’ attempts to make excuses, but He still gave Aaron to Moses as a spokesman.

Another instance of help occurred after the children of Israel had entered the wilderness. Joshua and his men were fighting a battle, and they only prevailed when Moses’ arms were in the air. Before long, Aaron and Hur each came to stand by Moses and held up one of his arms until the battle had ended.

Soon after that, Moses had to begin judging the children of Israel. His father-in-law, Jethro, gave him some inspired counsel about how to organize that process. He told Moses that the burden was too heavy for him to carry alone, and suggested that he appoint a system of lower judges to report to him.

Sometimes we think of our assignments with an all-or-nothing mindset. We either assume that we have to do things by ourselves or assume that we can’t do them at all. Moses’ life is proof that God never meant for either extreme to happen. Moses always obeyed, so God always gave him help.

God will offer us what we need, too. Whether it’s in the form of a partner, extra strength, or even just some comfort and good advice, help will come. However, it will most likely come a little at a time. We will need to move forward in obedience, even if we aren’t sure how we’ll make it to the end of the path or task. That’s what it means to be a pioneer. Only when we show our pioneer courage and can’t do any more alone will God step in.

Of course, the ultimate help of Moses and the ancient pioneers was the Lord Himself. It was He who gave Moses the power necessary to do everything. The same will be true in our lives. As we obey the same God who led the children of Israel through the Red Sea, and the Mormons across North America, He will lead us through our personal missions in life.


What Moses Did What We Can Do
Asked God for instructions (Exodus 3:13) Ask God for instructions and listen for answers
Followed the Lord’s instructions (7:6) Obey God even when things get hard
Used Aaron as his God-given spokesman (4:30) Take advantage of the help God gives us
Listened to and prayed for the Hebrews (5:20-22) Listen to and pray for the people we serve
Followed Jethro’s counsel (18:19-24) Counsel with good people and take their advice
Told the children of Israel not to fear (20:20) Have faith and encourage others to do the same

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