Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pioneer Day

In Utah we celebrate each year, our Mormon Pioneers entrance into the Valley of Salt Lake on The 24th of July 1847. 

I love this holiday for many reasons but I will only mention a few here.

Family Activities

My brother once told me that his favorite holiday was Thanksgiving, because family is together and there are few pressures or expectations for the day.  No Gifts given or received just a time to be together and appreciate all we have been blessed with and lots of our favorite foods to enjoy

I second that 100 percent and add Pioneer day to the days when we count our blessings and have BBQ’s and good food is shared with family and friends.

There are parades with floats, old cars, horses, wagons, hand carts and so many fun things to watch and enjoy.   There are rodeos, baseball games, and of course fireworks by the thousands. 

Pioneer Heritage – A time to Honor my Ancestors

I am so thankful for so many pioneer ancestors in my family and in Cathy’s family.  We are both blessed with a rich heritage of people who sacrificed everything to come to America and to be Mormon Pioneers in Utah, Idaho and surrounding areas.  

The trip from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake Valley took months filled with the most difficult experiences. En route, Jim Bridger, scout and frontiersman, met Brigham Young in Wyoming and advised him not to stop in the Salt Lake Valley because nothing could be raised there. It is said that Bridger offered a thousand dollars for the first ear of corn grown in the valley. But Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers pressed on. The ox teams made straight for the Salt Lake Valley. Their prophetic leader pitched camp on the east bench of the valley and said, in words later to gain fame, "This is the place." The aspirations, dreams, and plans of the prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to bring the Saints to Utah matured through faith, prayer, sacrifice, and hard work.

Sixteen years after the first pioneers arrived in this valley, My Great Grandmother Agnes Murray, at the age of 5, left Scotland with her parents to come to Zion.  Her grandparents were at the pier to see them off.  Her Mother was only 32 years old when she said good-bye to her parents for the last time.

During the voyage across the Atlantic ocean, on the 12th of June 1863, her mother gave birth to her sister Mary.  Her Mother was sick during the ocean voyage and all during the time they were crossing the plains, never leaving her bed.  Her father and other women would take care of the 4 children.  Her father always had to do the cooking.  The children would gather wood and buffalo chips for the fires and they cooked and made bread to bake in skillets over the open fire.  They were given a supply of provisions every week from the supply wagons.

Her father had his fiddle with him and at night they would often sing and play.  One of their favorite hymns was “Come Come Ye Saints”.  Often they would dance their hearts full of rejoicing, because they were coming to Zion.

When they reached Echo Canyon her mother died.  The captain of the company called a halt for the day.  He gave them the top boards from one of the provision wagons to make a casket.  They held a funeral service and buried her.  When her brother Jim, who was 8 years old, looked into the grave, he cried, “Don’t put my Mama in the hole, don’t put my Mama in that hole.”

When they arrived in Salt Lake in October 1863 her father said all he had was four motherless children and not a dollar in his pocket.
From this little family, guided by the faith of a mother, came a legacy of thousands of active Latter Day Saints.
My Great Grandfather, James Henry Denning was born in January 1853.  His parents had joined the church in 1850 and on Feb. 15, 1853, they went on board the ship called "International" to sail from Liverpool, England. My Great Grandfather was only three weeks old. The ship laid in the Irish Channel until the 28th of Feb., before sailing, it was waiting for favorable weather conditions.
There were 425 Saints, under the direction of Christopher Arthur, aboard. Baby James Henry took terribly ill on this hard two-month voyage, he was thought to be dead, so they strapped his body to a board (as was the custom) and raised the board to shove him overboard. One of the Saints shouted, "Wait, I believe I saw the baby breathe!" They pulled the board back and unwrapped the baby and HE 'WAS BREATHING. He lived to fill a noble and wonderfully useful life; loved and respected by everyone.
There are literally thousands and thousands of stories like this from which we can gain strength and inspiration.  However, when I study my own genealogy, they become my family… my Great Grandmother, my Great grandfather.  People who know and love me and made sacrifices to make my life better, people whose faith in the Lord Jesus Christ allowed them to do accomplish extraordinary things so I could be here today.

My wife Cathy and I are now serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Philippines.  The Church was introduced to the Philippines during World War II.  Many of the members we have met here are first or second generation Mormons.  This makes them pioneers of the Gospel in this beautiful land.   What a privilege it is to serve here and help them with Self-Reliance training.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing those great stories. I remember Grandma telling me those stories. I also am grateful for my pioneer heritage.