SUNDAY, JULY 24: Enjoy that courageous spirit of adventure with Mormons today as they celebrate Pioneer Day. In the mid-19th century, Mormons were persecuted in Nauvoo, Ill., until they were forced to flee the eastern U.S. Tens of thousands of men, women and children trekked across the plains and, after a harsh winter marked by disease and hunger, the survivors reached Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 24 of 1847. (Wikipedia has details.)
Salt Lake City remains the center of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, and the founding of their “homeland” is marked each July 24 with pioneer songs, dances and other themed activities. (The Salt Lake Tribune reports on this year’s events.) Some devout adherents even walk portions of the Mormon Trail on Pioneer Day to get a taste of the journey made more than 150 years ago. Most of Salt Lake City’s businesses are closed on Pioneer Day. (Utah.edu has more.)
Since the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been killed a few years earlier, it was Brigham Young who led the pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Following a journey of 1,300 miles, the early Mormons arrived weary at their destination. (Follow a virtual trail, and read pioneer accounts, at LDS.org.) Still, it didn’t take long for them to look back and give thanks: In 1849, Mormon pioneers celebrated July 24 with a thanksgiving feast.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.