So, for everyone who doesn’t live in Utah, you’re probably really confused. The 4th of July was 20 days ago! And yes, I know when America’s birthday is xD I celebrated it too. But here in my state, we get to shoot of fiery balls of color 2 times a year!
But, today actually isn’t even the day that Utah became a state, and today’s official holiday name is Pioneer Day. Pioneer Day commemorates the entrance of Brigham Young, and the (you guessed it) pioneers into the Utah Valley.
If you don’t know, the pioneers traveled on foot, pulling everything they owned in handcarts across the country in winter. Many, many of them lost family members on the trip here to what they called Zion. You see, these pioneers were Mormon (as am I) , and believed that Utah was their promise land.
Two years ago, I went on something called trek with my church. We all dressed up as pioneers, and went to pull handcarts for three days of the summer to learn about the experiences of the pioneers. The specific site that I went to were a few very special places that the pioneers actually went. (Sweetwater River, Martin’s Cove, etc)
We got to learn stories about families crossing the same land we did and the extreme struggles they went through because they had such strong faith. Learning about these families who lost so many children brought all of us to tears on so many occasions, and the moment we realized why they did it was an extreme emotional and spiritual high.
The places where we camped were where the Willie Handcart Company and the Martin Company crossed. The Willie Handcart Company had to cross the Sweetwater River in extreme conditions, they were walking in snow storms with no shelter. Both companies were surviving on mere ounces of flour and water, so near to death each day.
My mom told me one story that has stuck with me, about a woman who had 11 children. She lost both her husband and many children, including the youngest. Being left with nothing else, she used nothing but a small spoon to dig the grave of her baby.
In another story I read, a younger girl, Elizabeth Cheney’s parents were pleading for her to just come home. They offered to give her any sum of money if she would denounce the church. This is the response she gave in her journal:
“I have not the most distant idea [of returning] . . . our cause is just and must be onward . . . I did not embrace this work hastily: I came into it understandingly. I weighed the subject, I counted the cost, I knew the consequence of every step I took.
If I could be among the numberless throng that John saw whose robes were washed white in the blood of the lamb[,] I must[,] like them, come up through much tribulation and instead of thinking it hard that I have these difficulties to pass through, I count it all joy that I am counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
On the day these pioneers finally reached the Utah valley after everything they had suffered must have been truly great. We celebrate their bravery and faith each year, hoping to be more like them. If it weren’t for them, many of us wouldn’t be here today.
I hope y’all enjoyed this! There are many more pioneer stories all over the internet if you are interested in learning more 🙂 Happy Pioneer Day, everyone. I’m going to go watch some fireworks now!
-Aspen AKA The Author