Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Fours of July

Happy Pioneer Day!

I love July. (Other than the heat.)

First, there's my birthday.

Followed quickly by America's birthday on the 4th.

Then there's the 14th. Bastille Day! That's when the French celebrate their independence.

And then there's the 24th, when the Mormons celebrate, in a sense, their independence. Brigham Young, looking down on the Salt Lake Valley, said, "This is the place."

It was, indeed, the place where most of the promise of "Come, Come ye Saints" was fulfilled.

("We'll find the place/that God for us prepared/far away/in the West. Where none shall come/to hurt or make afraid/with the Saints/we'll be blessed.")

Okay, so there were the "Mormon War" skirmishes with Johnston's army.

And then several decades of persecution because of polygamy.

Not to mention the barren desert, fear of Indian attacks, and lack of supplies. And malnutrition, exhausting labor, and insufficient health care.

Still, the fact remains that the LDS church got a foothold in Utah which stuck. The early Saints were never driven from their homes by mobs, as had happened in previous settlements.

(Instead, a poor woman who had voluntarily immigrated from England to Kirtland, and then been driven from homes in Kirtland, Jackson County, Far West, and Nauvoo by mobs--a woman who had then lived out of a covered wagon on the plains or a ramshackle shelter at Winter Quarters for almost two years--a woman who had finally settled in Salt Lake City, spent ten years creating a quasi-comfortable home, evacuated ten years later during the Mormon War, and returned, relieved, to find her house still standing--a woman who, after all this migratory suffering, had blissfully concluded that, finally, she might never need to move again--such a woman trembled in terror, not from threat of mobs, but from fear that Brigham Young would stand up in General Conference and announce from the pulpit, without warning, that he was calling her family to settle the remote colony of St. George.)

As I was saying: religious freedom (to follow Brigham Young), political independence (to ignore the de jure governor of Deseret Territory and follow the de facto ruler, Brigham Young), and security! (Except for the insecurity about being called to move and start all over in Yet Another Unsettled Area--by Brigham Young.)

I do not mean to pick on the prophet unduly. He was bossy, but he was not Warren Jeffs.

I honor the patriots who fought for American independence. I respect the citizens who demanded freedom in France. (I have such enormous respect for them, I cower under my desk while they pass, feeling unworthy to attract the attention of the mobocrats who might drag me off to the guillotine.) And I revere the pioneers!

So, join me in four cheers for the Fours of July!

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