Amy Rees Anderson

Pioneer Day: Celebrating Courage

July 24th, 1847 marks the day when Mormon Pioneers, led by Brigham Young, entered the Salt Lake Valley in Utah for the first time and settled in the state.  The Pioneers came to Utah to get away from the mobs to the east that were persecuting them.  Their trip across the plains was one of the most brutal journeys. The crossed the plains with wagons and pulling their handcarts.   Many of the men, women, and children died on this exodus to the west and bodies were buried along the trails.  A fantastic movie was made about one of the handcart teams crossing the plains called “17 Miracles” (www.17miracles.com ) and I would highly recommend that everyone get the DVD and see this movie.  It is one of the most inspiring, heartwarming movies of overcoming adversity that I have ever seen.  I came away from seeing that movie realizing that I have nothing in my life that I can complain about after watching what these people went through in their journey, and I was so inspired at their courage and their strength and their positive attitude they maintained.  It truly is one of the best movies I have ever seen and I don’t say that lightly.  So see it!  It will change your life! And help you form an attitude of gratitude for sure.

One particularly touching story of the pioneers’ journey was relayed by Gordon B. Hinckley in the exerpt below:

“I should like to tell you of three eighteen-year-old boys. In 1856 more than a thousand of our people, some of them perhaps your forebears, found themselves in serious trouble while crossing the plains to this valley. Because of a series of unfortunate circumstances, they were late in getting started. They ran into snow and bitter cold in the highlands of Wyoming. Their situation was desperate, with deaths occurring every day.

President Young learned of their condition as the October general conference was about to begin. He immediately called for teams, wagons, drivers, and supplies to leave to rescue the bereft Saints. When the first rescue team reached the Martin Company, there were too few wagons to carry the suffering people. The rescuers had to insist that the carts keep moving.

When they reached the Sweetwater River on November 3, chunks of ice were floating in the freezing water. After all these people had been through, and in their weakened condition, that river seemed impossible to cross. It looked like stepping into death itself to move into the freezing stream. Men who once had been strong sat on the frozen ground and wept, as did the women and children. Many simply could not face that ordeal.

And now I quote from the record: “Three eighteen-year-old boys belonging to the relief party came to the rescue, and to the astonishment of all who saw, carried nearly every member of the ill-fated handcart company across the snowbound stream. The strain was so terrible, and the exposure so great, that in later years all the boys died from the effects of it. When President Brigham Young heard of this heroic act, he wept like a child, and later declared publicly, ‘that act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end.’”

What an amazing example of courage and fortitude these three 18 year old boys showed by carrying the pioneers across the freezing waters and sacrificing their own lives to save the lives of so many others.  That is just one of hundreds of stories that came from the journey of those pioneers, and hopefully it helps everyone understand why we take one day of each year to honor and celebrate these amazing pioneers!

To celebrate Pioneer Day in Utah we have parades, picnics, rodeos, concerts and fireworks.  It is a fantastic celebration here in the state and one that any out of state people should consider coming to town for in the future.  It is a great time to celebrate with your family.  I have never been able to take Pioneer Day off work in the past because my company serviced clients nationally that needed our  services that day so this year is my first year to be able to join in on the festivities and I am very excited about it!

Happy 24th of July everyone!  Today’s challenge is for all of us to be pioneers in our own lives by standing with courage for what is right and by serving others selflessly the way the pioneers did.

~Amy

1 Comment

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