“Church Members Celebrate Pioneer Heritage,” Ensign, Oct. 2000, 76–78
Church Members Celebrate Pioneer Heritage
Throughout the world, members celebrated their pioneer heritage in July.
Salt Lake City, Utah
In Salt Lake City, President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, represented the Church in the annual Days of ’47 parade that honors the pioneers who entered the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847.
“Today is a day to honor all the pioneers for their courage and sacrifice—both those who arrived in this valley and those who perished before the journey’s end,” said President Monson, speaking at a luncheon following the parade. “This causes us to pause and ask ourselves the questions: Would we have made it? Would we have been able to make the trek and endure the hardship and sacrifice? I think we would. Those tear-stained places across the trail to the West will not have been in vain if we do follow their example and become pioneers ourselves.”
Elsewhere in Salt Lake City, at This Is the Place Heritage Park at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated a new Joseph F. Smith Memorial Grove.
Elder Ballard, a descendant of Joseph F. Smith, said the grove honors the boy pioneer who grew to be the sixth President of the Church and his valiant mother, Mary Fielding Smith. The grove includes lilac bushes that descend from a bush from Hyrum Smith’s home in Kirtland, Ohio; oak trees that descend from acorns of trees that grew in Nauvoo 150 years ago; and a reconstructed Mary Fielding Smith cabin.
In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Ballard asked that the grove be “a place of peace and solace where love will exude one to another, where people of all persuasions may feel comfortable to come and sit together and talk about things that are eternal, precious, and important for this life and the life to come.”
In Snowflake, Arizona, President James E. Faust dedicated a monument to the pioneers of the town during their Pioneer Day celebration on 21 July.
The town’s population of approximately 4,500 swelled to nearly 25,000 for the event.
The monument, sculpted by Justin Fairbanks, includes Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with companions Ira Hinckley (President Hinckley’s grandfather), Jesse N. Smith (first stake president of northeastern Arizona), and the William Jordan Flake family. The town was named Snow-Flake in honor of two of the town’s founders depicted in the monument.
In dedicating the monument, President Faust acknowledged the many great men and women who pioneered homesteads in the wilderness. He then commented, “Where we came from is not as important as what we are, but what we are often reflects where we came from.
“As we look into your faces and the faces of the children and young people, we see a people of believing blood. The messages of devotion and sacrifice are as valid today as when Snowflake was settled.”
President Faust also visited the site of the recently announced temple for Snowflake.
In July Scandinavian Latter-day Saints did more than celebrate Pioneer Day. They also commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Church in Scandinavia.
The first missionaries landed in Copenhagen harbor to begin their labors on 14 June 1850. Their arrival signaled the beginning of an important era for the Church and the eventual conversion of thousands of Europeans who heeded the call of the Church to go to Utah and build Zion.
Scandinavian members celebrated the anniversary with firesides, dances, reunions, and the unveiling of statues that honor the early emigrants.
In Denmark, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was invited by the Danish Rebild Association to be the principal American speaker at its annual Fourth of July festivities. Danes have gathered since 1912 in the largest observance anywhere outside the United States of the American Independence Day. More than 15,000 attended this year in celebration of the great bonds of friendship that exist between Denmark and the United States.
Elder Nelson presented to the people of Denmark a statue called The Family, which represents a Danish pioneer family preparing to make the journey to the Salt Lake Valley. The work, commissioned and financed by a private, nonprofit foundation, Descendants and Friends of Denmark, was sculpted by Dennis Smith of Alpine, Utah. Brother Smith is of Danish ancestry, and his great-grandmother Christine Beck, who immigrated to Utah as a 16-year-old girl, was the inspiration for the family statue. A second statue by Brother Smith, Kristina, was unveiled in the Copenhagen harbor area a few days later.
In Iceland, Church members and Lutherans participated together in a meeting on 2 July that honored the country’s conversion to Christianity 1,000 years ago. On 4 July Iceland’s first LDS chapel was dedicated in Reykjavik by Elder W. Rolfe Kerr of the Seventy, President of the Europe North Area.
Additionally, descendants of Icelandic Latter-day Saints traveled from the United States to join Church members in Iceland for the unveiling of a sculpture at “Mormon Pond,” where the first Icelandic converts were baptized in 1851. The sculpture, titled Messenger, is by Gary Price. On 3 July Iceland’s president, Ólatur Ragnar Grímsson, opened a permanent exhibit, at the Icelandic Emigration Center, which honors the 410 Icelandic converts who immigrated to Utah in the 1850s.