“Those pioneers who broke the sunbaked soil of the Mountain West valleys came for one reason only—’to find,’ as Brigham Young is reported to have said, ‘a place where the devil can’t come and dig us out.’ They found it, and against almost overwhelming adversities they subdued it. They cultivated and beautified it for themselves.”
-Gordon B. Hinckley
-Gordon B. Hinckley
Utah is known for a lot of things: red rock and National Forests, the highest wedding and birth announcements sold per capita, a predominately Mormon culture, and Jimmer, of all things. Come this weekend, however, our hearts turn to our fathers and we remember the sacrifices and efforts of the first settlers in Utah: the Pioneers.
On July 24th, 1847, Brigham Young looked upon the Salt Lake Valley and declared, "This is the right place." With this declaration, the early Mormon Saints went forth "beautifying" the land, as President Hinckley said. They built temples and homes, practicing their faith with relentless devotion. This year, 164 years later, our state owes so much to these original settlers. Utah hosts some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the country, along with other universally known landmarks. The pioneers put Utah on the map, so to speak, but also established this state as one of religion and refuge.
In celebration, a few books that highlight some of Utah's best features:
Utah by Fred Hirschmann
This book is of the coffee table variety, with large, glossy photographs and a sturdy hardcover. The photographs therin feature some of Utah's most breathtaking views, from the "sandstone cliffs of Zion Canyon to the wildflower meadows of the Uinta Mountains." Utah's natural landscape is one of its most noteworthy attributes and draws visitors from all over the world. With the outdoors playing such a large role in Utah's culture, this book perfectly captures the grandeur (and at times, desolation) within our state.
Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860: A Woman's Life on the Mormon Frontier by Mary Ann Hafen
Pioneer stories are well beloved and well used within the Church. Some stories are so frequently told they feel like more of a legend than an a true account. This book features Mary Ann Hafen's stories of crossing the plains as only a young girl, freshly uprooted from her life in Switzerland. For all of the "storytelling" that surrounds pioneer stories, this book takes on a refreshing tone of authenticity and femininity, written by Mary Ann herself. The writing has a "matter-of-fact record of poverty, incredibly hard work, and loss of loved ones, but also of pleasures great and small. It is a unique document of a little-known way of life." The perfect alternative for watching "Legacy," again.
Find Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860 at the BYU Bookstore
Utah (featuring the Art of Eric Dowdel) by William Kurtis
The highlights of this book are the paintings of Eric Dowdel, all of which capture the heart and soul of Utah. Dowdle, a folk artist, based his paintings on some of Utah's most memorable scenes and places. Accompanied by a historical and imaginative narrative, as well as a note from Dowdel for each of the paintings, this books makes an excellent collection for anyone who loves art or Utah, or ideally both.