Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world and in the greater Chattanooga area will celebrate Pioneer Day, marking the founding of Utah with the arrival of Brigham Young and the first group of Latter-day Saints to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.
Before the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, nearly 70,000 Latter-day Saints went west, fleeing persecution. The journey was hard. The early Saints crossed the Mississippi River and the Great Rocky Mountains. Some 650 or more children died along the way, as did hundreds of men and women.
Brigham Young, known as the great colonizer of the American West, and second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supervised the Westward migration. He “founded 400 settlements, established a system of land distribution later ratified by Congress, served as the first territorial governor of Utah for two terms, as first superintendent of Indian Affairs of Utah Territory, and as Church President for 30 years” (churchofjesuscchrist.org). Brigham Young was a prophet. He “built beyond himself,” historian Leonard J. Arrington wrote. But, of his accomplishments, Brigham Young said, “I do not care what men say about me. I want my character to stand fair in the eyes of my Heavenly Father” (quoted in Arrington, American Moses).
A statue of Brigham Young stands in the rotunda of the nation’s capitol in Washington, DC. Last year, President Donald J. Trump issued a Presidential Message on Pioneer Day in memory of “the extraordinary pioneers who uprooted their lives and undertook an incredible leap of faith into the unknown. Their stories and accomplishments are lasting reminders of the importance of religious freedom and the enduring strength and spirit of the American people,” President Trump said.
On Saturday, July 20, 2019, President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated a Pioneer Children’s Memorial at This is the Place Heritage Park to honor the lives of more than 650 known children who died during the 1,300 mile journey from Iowa to Utah – “the little children, who in their faith and trust tried to come here,” as President Ballard said, “but did not make it.”
This is the Place Heritage Park tells something of the emigration history. The early pioneers “left their homes and, in some cases, their families, in search of a place of refuge, where they could worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences and build a future without persecution,” President Ballard said. “There was little in the way of provisions and materials that they could carry with them. But each wagon and handcart was filled with faith. Faith in God. Faith that God knew where they were going and faith that he would see them through.”
“We are all bound together, the 19th to the 21st century pioneers in our great journey to follow God’s teachings, which work miracles in our lives,” President Ballard continued. We must never forget the connection between past and present.
In Utah, Pioneer Day is an official State holiday. In locations worldwide, including Chattanooga, Church members hold activities every year to celebrate Pioneer Day. Please contact The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nearest you to join this celebration of faith.
Or, view the 2019 Pioneer Day Concert hosted on July 20, by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. World-renowned vocalist Sissel, from Norway, known for her arias throughout the Oscar-winning film, Titanic,was the featured guest artist. View the concert at https://www.thetabernaclechoir.org/pioneerday/.