By Dave Zuchowski
CNHI News Service
I ended my five-day visit to Utah’s Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area at a place where the Utah chapter of Mormon history began - near the mouth of Emigration Canyon high up on the east bench of the Wasatch Mountains overlooking the Salt Lake Valley.
After a 1,500-mile long trek that started in Nauvoo, Ill., on Feb. 4, 1846, the first company of Mormon pioneers passed through Emigration Canyon in search of religious freedom on July 24, 1847.
In their company, Brigham Young, their leader stricken with Rocky Mountain spotted fever and seated in the back of a wagon, is said to have taken one look at the expansive valley below and exclaimed to his driver "It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on."
Members of the church believe that Young had a vision shortly after they left Illinois, hoping to escape religious persecution. In the vision, he saw the place where the Latter-day Saints would settle, "make the desert blossom like a rose" and where they would build their State of Deseret."
Over the next several years, tens of thousands of Mormons made the same pass through Emigration Canyon seeking a better life. Today, the site is a 450-acre living history park that remembers the trials and tribulations of the Mormon pioneers as well as previous explorers and indigenous native people.
It wasn’t until 1915, that a monument in the form of a simple wooden cross marked the spot where Young made his famous declaration that gave birth to the thriving urban area known as Salt Lake City. Six years later, a more permanent white stone obelisk that still stands to this day marked the spot.
During the Centenary of the Mormon entry into the valley a newer monument, 60-feet tall with the statues of Brigham Young and two of his counselors at the top, was unveiled in 1947. Brigham Young’s grandson, Mahonri, designed the memorial, one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. at the time.