“It is a remarkable history that connects our countries,” Iceland’s president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, told a Spanish Fork, Utah, audience in 2005. The group had gathered to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the arrival of the first Icelanders to immigrate to Utah. The early Icelandic immigrants—379 of them by 1914—were accused of betraying their motherland by leaving just when they were needed in the movement toward independence and modernization. Their abandonment of the state-sponsored religion also led to bad feelings. Nevertheless, the immigrants and their descendants retained close ties to their homeland. Missions, letters, visits, and family reunions—all have aided relations between Utah and Iceland. Additionally, in 1897 the Utah Icelanders initiated an annual celebration of their Icelandic heritage and culture. In 2000 they funded the creation of a monument near the site of the first baptisms in Iceland. Five years later, they dedicated a monument in Spanish Fork that listed the names of all known early Icelandic converts who immigrated to Utah.
Because Utah Icelanders have cherished their homeland all these years, President Grímsson acknowledged that goodwill has replaced the “icy feelings of the past.” He affirmed, “We are one family in spirit, in faith, in heritage and in vision.”