Today is Pioneer Day!
On July 24, 1847, (172 years ago today), the first group of Pioneers finally emerged from the last canyon, and entered the Salt Lake Valley. Wilford Woodruff expressed their feelings when he wrote, “We came in full view of the great valley or basin” of “the Salt Lake and land of promise, held in reserve by the hand of God for a resting place for the Saints.”
Brigham and Wilford admired the length and breadth of the Salt Lake Valley. Wilford commented on the heavy vegetation, the large lake with its islands, and the streams and rivers that flowed from the mountains toward it.
He thought about the “hard journey from Winter Quarters,” a trip of more than a thousand miles. After all that – after all the pain and strain and sickness – they were finally at their destination.
“Our hearts were surely made glad,” Wilford wrote. Wilford recorded how they looked out on the beautiful valley, with its surrounding mountains, and pictured the day that “the House of God” would rise and “the standard be unfurled for the nations to gather there.” (Wagons West, pg 144)
Utah didn’t become a state until 1896 so it is amazing to me to think about how the Pioneers fled their country in order to find religious freedom. What’s interesting about this is that the Pilgrims had done the same thing… and yet the Pioneers had to flee the very country that the Pilgrims had established because their God-given (and government endorsed) freedoms were not being honored.
Life on the trail was full of challenges. Their animals got hurt and sick. There were muddy roads and rocky roads and steep roads. At times there wasn’t any pasture or safe water for their animals. They had to cross rivers, stand guard at night against wild animals and invaders (and lose sleep because of it). People died from starvation, sickness, and accidents. Babies were born on the trail. (I can’t even imagine giving birth in those kinds of conditions.) Their wagons broke down and needed to be fixed. They ran low on provisions. They had to deal with unfavorable weather. At times there was contention and misunderstandings (they were human after all… and not in ideal circumstances).
But yet, they pushed forward. They gave up everything so that they could worship God in the way that they desired and had received a witness and testimony of. What incredible faith that must have taken.
Today, we finished up our trek across the plains. Crossed some rivers, fixed our wagon, got a little frustrated with each other (that was on my list to re-enact and I didn’t even have to mention it! It just happened naturally. Haha), set up camp, dealt with mountain fever, stood guard at camp overnight, and then made it to the Salt Lake Valley.