The Saints finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. After the Saints arrived they explored the valley to the north and south to determine where the best place was to begin building their city. The first site designated for a building was for the Salt Lake Temple, though it wouldn’t be completed for several years. Brigham Young designated the place the temple should be built and decreed that the city would be laid out in squares from that point outwards.
During the next several weeks much building took place, as well as much exploring. It was the determination of Brigham Young that the Saints should know the land and the people well, and he intended for the Saints to settle not just the Salt Lake Valley, but everywhere they could in the entire Great Basin (an area between the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevadas, the Columbia River, and the Colorado River, about the size of Texas). Wilford Woodruff recorded, “He intended to have every hole and corner form the Bay of [San] Francisco to Hudson bay known to us and that our people would be connected with every tribe of Indians throughout America.” Brigham Young left the Salt Lake Valley soon after arriving, to attend to business elsewhere and to continue gathering the Saints. Before be left, Brigham Young called John Smith to serve as the stake president of the Salt Lake Stake. After John Smith arrived and called counselors, he also organized a high council, which council served in both a spiritual and civic capacity and was the only government until January 1849. For the Saints there was no separation of church and state because they considered all their activities to be part of building the kingdom of God.
Under John Young’s leadership, the fort in Salt Lake was expanded by two ten-acre blocks and an adobe wall was built surrounding the fort. There were 450 log cabins built, as were many roads and bridges. Many crops were planted in the “big field,” an area of 5,133 acres. Captain James Brown of the Mormon Battalion arrived from California with $5,000 in pay and a group was assigned to return to southern California to buy cows, mules, wheat, and a variety of seeds with part of that money.
The first winter in the valley was mild, but conditions were still poor. Mice, wolves, and foxes pestered the Saints, and during March and April, the heavy spring snow and rain which surprised the Saints caused living conditions to deteriorate even more. Said M. Isabella Horne, “It was no uncommon thing to see a woman holding an umbrella over her while attending to her household duties. The Fort presented quite a ludicrous appearance when the weather cleared up. In whatever direction one looked, bedding and clothing of all descriptions were hanging out to dry.”
Food had become very scarce and provisions of all kinds were short. Adding to their sufferings, all the Saints’ crops were damaged by frosts followed by a drought in May and June. This was followed by swarms of crickets attacking and devouring what was left of the crops. Despite the Saints’ best efforts, they could not get the crickets to leave. After much prayer on the Saints’ part, seagulls miraculously flew in from the Great Salt Lake and began consuming the crickets until there were none left, saving what was left of the Saints’ meager crops. The Saints were able to salvage enough of the crops to last them through the next year.
Since the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had been governing the Church, but in October 1847, Brigham Young was prompted that it was time to reorganize the First Presidency. It was three years from the death of Joseph Smith until the First Presidnecy was reorganized, which the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles voted on unanimously in December 1847, when Brigham Young was called and sustained as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, calling Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards as his counselors.
Upon President Brigham Young’s return to the valley, he encouraged the further development of the valley through other Mormon settlements. He also had a philosophy that the land should not be monopolized, but should be used most productively for the good of all the Saints. Therefore, farm lands were distributed fairly to all the settlers. President Young forabde the private ownership of water and timber, or indeed any natural resources which were important and vital to the whole community. For the most part the Saints cooperated with this system, and eventually private business enterprises developed to help regulate the resources.
The first currency used was gold coins which were minted from the thousands of dollars worth of gold dust which members of the Mormon Battalion brought back from California. Later on paper currency was also made based on the Church’s gold supply.
On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the Mexican War, and signing over to the United States all of the territory comprising the present states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. As soon as Church leaders realized their land had become territory of the United States, they began planning to apply for statehood. In early 1849 the first civic government was formed with Brigham Young as governor, Willard Richards as secretary of state, Heber C. Kimball as chief justice, Newel K. Whitney and John Taylor as associate justices, and Daniel H. Wells as attorney general. The Saints named their territory not Utah, but the State of Deseret. (“Deseret” is a term from the Book of Mormon which means “honeybee.” Brigham Young envisioned the Saints building a land which would be a “hive of activity.”)
The harshness of the winters following the Saints’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley caused some of the Saints to talk about leaving. President Heber C. Kimball said to them, “Never mind, boys, in less than one year there will be plenty of clothes and everything that we shall want sold at less than St. Louis prices.” President Young, never one to show much sympathy for those who were complaining, said, “God has appointed this place for the gathering of His Saints, and you will do better right here than you will by going to the gold mines. . . . We have been kicked out of the frying-pan into the fire, out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and here we are and here we will stay. . . . As the Saints gather here and get strong enough to possess the land, God will temper the climate, and we shall build a city and a temple ot the Most High God in this place. We will extend our settlements to the east and west, to the north and to the south, and we will build towns and cities by the hundreds, and thousands of the Saints will gather in from the nations of the earth. . . . As for gold and silver, and the rich minerals of the earth, there is no other country that equals this; but let them alone; let others seek them, and we will cultivate the soil.”
Both these men’s words came true within a year. The next year the elements were tempered, there was a bounteous harvest, and fourteen hundred Saints immigrated to the valley. In addition, 10,000–15,000 people passed through Salt Lake City to seek gold in the West, and merchant companies which had prepared to haul goods to California to sell to the gold rushers found out other companies had sent goods by ship which had already arrived in California. Thus, they sold their goods to the Saints at devalued prices rather than lose everything in California. As more immigrants passed through, the Saints were provided work mending their wagons, working as teamsters, laundresses, and millers. The Saints also established ferries on several rivers for groups headed to California. They truly began to propser in the desert and make it blossom as a rose.
Exploration and colonization continued to branch out from the Salt Lake Valley in all directions. Colonies had sprung up in Utah Valley, the Oquirrh mnountain range, the Cedar and Tooele Valleys, what became Davis and Weber counties, Sanpete Valley, and Juab Valley. The cities of Brownsville (now Ogden), Provo, Lehi, Alpine, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Springville, Spanish Fork, Salem, Santaquin, Payson, Manti, and St. George were formed, among others.
Growth was also still arriving from the East and abroad. In 1849, the Church established the Perpetual Emigrating Fund (PEF). The goal was to have enough contributions to start a fund to outfit the poor Saints who had gathered to Iowa and enable to them to travel West. This fund eventually extended to the Saints in Europe as well, enabling them to have the funds to gather to Zion. Upon arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, they could then work their debt off or pay it back in cash, thus making the fund perpetual and allowing it to benefit all the Saints.
Since the First Presidency had been reorganized, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were free to once again spread the gospel of Jesus Christ as His special witnesses. This they did, serving missions both on the American continent and abroad. Saints began to gather from all corners of the globe. As more people came, and with the help of the Lord through his prophets, seers, and revelators, Salt Lake began to flourish and the Saints were relieved from their persecutions and their sufferings.