"Today is the Twenty-Fourth of July.
Today is the Twenty-Fourth of July.
This means nothing to most of you, I know.
When and where I grew up "The Twenty-Fourth of July" was not a name for a day of the year, it was the name of a holiday, like "The Fourth ofJuly" and "Cinco de Mayo".
On this day, in 1847, Brigham Young looked out from Pioneer Canyon into the desolate and utterly unoccupied Salt Lake Valley, and said "This is the place".
The day before that day, my great-to-the-fourth-grandfather, Millen Dan Atwood*, entered the valley, with the precursor scouting party, that traveled a day ahead of the main party, for the entire bone-achingly long walk of fifteen hundred miles. (That walk is celebrated in a song that every young Mormon Utahn knows. The operative repeated chorus goes "... and walked, and walked, and walked... and walked... AND WALKED.".
That first wagon and handcart party, and the ones that followed after, full of people who had been driven out of and burned out of two cities,cities that they had built with their own hands, walked into that desolate middle of nowhere, cradled between the Wasatch and the Oquirrh, on the shores of a dead sea of poisonous water, on the edge ofa plain of poisoned soil, where not even weeds will grow even today,and there, they built a third city, a city "far away, in the West", a city "at the tops of the mountains", a city that THIS time they would keep, come pestilence, armed invasion, derision, or high water.
(That they made an "exodus" to a land "promised to them in a vision", and ended up in a city close to a "dead sea", is not something they did not notice. The main river there is named "Jordan" for a reason.)
Well, the pestilence came, in the form of wave of crickets, in literally Biblical proportions. The crops, the day, and everyone's lives, were saved by the seagulls, in a way that is more than a little bit disgusting to describe. Which is why this ugly uncouth noisy disgusting trash-eating bird is still honored, if not exactly respected, in Utah.The saints survived, and grew.
Armed invasion came, in the form of the United States Army, stretched at the end of it's logistical limit. A few carefully placed "diversions" of supply wagons, and an overnight labor of stuffing every building in the city with straw, andthe next morning, Young gave the Army a choice. "You can go set up your little fort, and otherwise leave us alone. Or we put our city to the torch, disappear into the Wasatch Mountains, and leave you starve to death here." The army took the wise approach, and went and built Ft Douglas, the only US western fort to point it's main guns *at* the city it was "defending". The saints survived, and grew.
Derision came, in the form of Territorial Governor Alfred Cummings, and in the form the brand new Republican Party's 1856 national platform: "To Abolish the Twin Relics of Barbarism, Slavery and Polygamy" (which is why it's bitterly ironic that today, most US Mormons are Republicans,and most US blacks are Democrats), and in the form the Federal Morrill Act, (which the SCOTUS upheld in 1879, in a tortured and unconstitutional on it's face decision, which still stands, which makes monstrosities like Dredd Scott, Roe v Wade, and Bush v Gore seem like reasonable readings of the text, in comparison). The saints survived,and grew.
High Water came, in 1983, when a cyclical climatic pattern doubled the size of the Great Salt Lake, at the same time a wet winter and a spring warm snap triggered six months of melt in three days, causing all the canyon rivers to overflow, and the sides of thefoothills to literally peel off, and slide down into the valley. People were able to canoe down State Street. (People being the fools they are, have in the two decades since, built McMansions right on the lakesflood plain, and right in the path of the slides.) The saints continue to survive, and continue to grow.
The only thing that can really threaten the growth of the saints is, as it really always was, tha tthey forget D&C121. Something that I see more and more happening.
But anyway, the Latter-Day Saints, the descendants of my ancestors, are still there. With the temple, made of granite, topped with a golden statue of the angel of the Rev 14:6, "And I saw another angel fly inthe midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue,and people,". And there they will continue to remain, come more pestilence, more derision, and more high water, for another thousand years and more.
Today is the Twenty-Fourth of July.
*Editors note: Millen Dan Atwood was our great, great uncle, not grandfather. Our direct ancestor, Minor Grant Atwood made his appearance in the valley a few years later. He has the distinction of pulling a handcart back EAST to help bring back to Utah more converts.