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Do you celebrate Pioneer Day? Are you even familiar with it? Pioneer Day is July 24, and is celebrated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as “Mormons’). It is the day when they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah in 1847 and Brigham Young famously said, “This is the place.”
This religious group had suffered religious persecution and was driven from state to state, until Governor Boggs of Missouri gave the “Extermination Order” that resulted in the expulsion of the group from his state, the death of their prophet, and led to them ultimately leave the current boundaries of the United States, traveling over 1300 miles to get to Utah.
Since their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, July 24 has been celebrated by Utahans and other communities in Arizona and Idaho that had been originally settled by this pioneer group.
This is my heritage, and I have many pioneer ancestors. We read our children stories about their family members and others who took wagons or handcarts and crossed the plains in pursuit of religious freedom. Occasionally, local church units will do reenactments with teenagers. A couple of years ago, and I was the “Ma” of a family of 8 teens. We pulled a handcart about 20 miles, slept on the ground… let’s just sayI’m not cut out to be a pioneer! (And WHAT is my husband doing in this picture?)
If you would like to learn more about these pioneers, or are looking for another way to celebrate, here are some really fantastic movies and resources about these dedicated people from their perspective.
Pioneers in a handcart company make the decision to cross the plains later than they would like and suffer extreme hardship. They also experience many miracles. This the the story of a man who put his own welfare aside and helped the group. Directed by the incomparable T.C. Christensen.
A man who is labled a “good for nothing” by his mother, has a difficult time finding his own way in the world. He ends up joining this church rescues the handcart company in “17 Miracles” from sure starvation and freezing blizzards. He discovers gifts he never knew he had and changes and saves lives. Also by the amazing T.C. Christensen.
A rich man sacrifices everything in order to follow his convictions. This one is less than 20 minutes long if you don’t want a full length movie.
This is a bit after the pioneer exodus, but shares the story of a man who returns to New York and his experience with the locals. A great story about turning persecutors into friends.
More pioneer stories and information can be found in this huge database. And if you are curious about Joseph Smith and what started the whole movement, you can watch this, or read more about him here.