Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pioneer Day: July 24th, 1847

July 24th is a Mormon and Utah Holiday Commemorating the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers to Utah.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith in New York and Pennsylvania.  However, due to religious intolerance and persecution, Joseph Smith and the earliest Church members were forced from one community to another.

The LDS Church centered early on in Kirtland, Ohio. but financial pressure from within and persecution from without forced the Saints to Independence, Missouri.  However, the LDS Church didn't endure long in Missouri after Missouri Governor, Lilburn Boggs, signed an extermination order forcing Mormons to flee to Illinois.  

Unfortunately, mob mentality followed the Saints to Illinois. The LDS Saints had built a beautiful city called Nauvoo on the banks of the Mississippi River.  However, after only a few short years of peace and prosperity the LDS Church was again forced to abandon their city, their homes and their temple. In the dead of winter, thousands of Latter-Day Saints packed up wagons and vacated Nauvoo at mob gunpoint crossing the Mississippi River that had completely frozen over the night before.

Not long before leaving Nauvoo, Joseph and Hyrum Smith were assassinated after having been arrested on false charges and placed in State protection.  A mob with faces painted black were allowed to attack an undefended jail in Carthage, Illinois where Church leadership was being held.

After repeated failed petitioned to the state and federal authorities for protection, tens of thousands of members of Church of Jesus Christ were forced to flee the United States of America for Mexican territory where they settled in Salt Lake City and founded communities all along the Rocky Mountains from the Canadian to Mexican borders.

Visitors to Utah today all say that Salt Lake City and surrounding communities are among the cleanest and most beautiful in the world. However when Brigham Young and the Mormon Pioneers first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1947, journals record  that the valley was completely desolate and there was not even a single tree to be seen standing in the whole valley.  But through back-breaking work the Saints have made their mountain, dessert home blossom as the rose. 

Can you imagine a people like the Latter-day Saints being forced to flee the United States of America for Mexican Territory because of religious persecution?

Even in Mexican Territory, the Mormons were not out of reach of the US government that had conspired to destroy them.  In response to false accusations, the American government sent Johnston's Army to occupy and maintain a continual military presence in Utah Territory. However, the LDS Saints could no longer be driven from the safety of the Rocky Mountains.  

Despite the many injustices at the hands of the US and State Governments in failing to protect the LDS Saints and arresting Joseph Smith and allowing him to be assassinated after resolving to defend themselves by forming a constitutional city militia, you will not find a more patriotic and committed people to the US Constitution. Joseph Smith taught and received revelation from God that the US Constitution is an inspired document akin to sacred scripture.  There isn't another Christian religion on Earth that preserves Constitutional government as one of its central beliefs.

Pioneer Day commemorates the great sacrifice and faith of the Early LDS Saints.  On and around this date, LDS members may dress up in Pioneer clothing, participate in a handcart trek reenactment, or hold a simple pancake breakfast.  During this time LDS remember and reflect upon our pioneer heritage.  Mormon Saints retell our pioneer stories and recommit ourselves to our traditional Pioneer and family values.  We express thanks to God for our current peace and prosperity which is a product of the great legacy left to us by our Pioneer ancestors. 

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