Once a month they arrive, carrying casseroles, salads and desserts to share a meal together. The Arizona Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers gathers in the cultural hall at the old Mesa 2nd Ward building, one of the oldest buildings in town, but what they share goes further than just a meal.
They use a pioneer term for their regular meeting—it’s a gathering, and to Matt Wharton, president of the Arizona Chapter, they are inspirational. Annual national meetings are called encampments.
The chapter begins their gathering with prayer as well as the Pledge of Allegiance. First, they eat; then, they visit. Matt relishes in the sense of community he feels sharing a meal together and how it fosters a sense of home as well as a spirit of community.
“We meet on the second Thursday at 6pm of every month, except July and August,” Matt explains. “There’s always a musical performance by a local musician and we always have an informational or inspirational devotional. It varies greatly on the subject matter. It’s generally not churchy or spiritually-oriented, but certainly there are those elements.”
Recent presentations at the local Arizona Chapter gatherings include histories of local settlements, the Mormon Battalion, mission reports, and service projects such as people teaching English in China. Sometimes the musical performance is the actual presentation with a variety of pieces connecting stories together from the past through song.
Matt describes the presenters at recent gatherings as people who “are in touch with their families, their family trees, their pioneer heritage, and who are connected to each other, and ways they have served in their community.”
The chapter will immediately consider anyone interested in presenting, either musically or historically. Dues for belonging to the local chapter are $15 for the year. A subscription to an award winning quarterly periodical titled Pioneer comes with a $60 national membership. According to Matt, it’s worth being a part of the national society just for this impressive publication.
At a recent national encampment, Elder Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke of various kinds of pioneers and challenged the audience to be “bridge-building pioneers,” by building bridges of compassion, understanding, friendliness and good neighborliness. Rather than crossing plains, deserts, cities, and towns he encouraged listeners to cross divides such as parking lots, school playgrounds, and cultural halls. His challenge was to “look for those who still need a helping hand. Who need a friendly smile. Who sometimes need some help.”
In a world where we easily connect via technology, let’s not underestimate the rich connection found in face-to-face interactions such as those that occur when sharing a meal or a story. Matt Wharton thoroughly enjoys being involved in the organization and hopes to welcome more people to the Tuesday event.
For more information, contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-650-8499. https://www.sup1847.com