On Saturday, October 24, 2009, a group of nearly 500 gathered at Bluff, Utah, to commemorate the journey their Mormon ancestors had made 130 years before. In 1879, the then-president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, John Taylor, called a small group of Mormon settlers to leave the homes and land they had already settled in Parowan, Utah, and to travel across the state to southeastern Utah to settle a hard area. It is a testament to the faith of these Saints that they did not blink in the face of adversity, but heeded the call of their prophet.
It took this group of Saints six months to cross an area now known as Hole-in-the-Rock; a place so called because they literally had to cut into the rock to make a trail for their wagons down the seemingly sheer cliff. After this part of the journey they had to cross the Colorado River. Then they were met with land that their scouts told them would be impossible to cross. These Saints were not faint of heart, however. They arrived at their destination of Bluff in April 1880.
The Saints did not take long before they built up a community of about 40 homes and a fort. They were then requested by President Taylor to build communications with the local Native American tribes of Ute and Navajo. By their faith and heeding of the prophet’s call, this group managed to fulfill the Lord’s will.
On Saturday this group’s descendants gathered to dedicate a memorial to President Taylor and to their ancestors who sacrificed so much for what they knew to be right. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles attended the event to dedicate the memorial. Elder Perry spoke of President Taylor’s courage, of his ability to communicate, and
of his faith, reminding the group that these three characteristics had influenced their ancestors and could still influence us today.
When President Taylor became president of the Church, he was faced with the challenge of expanding and settling the state. He had to call people to make difficult journeys, to settle harsh areas, and to try and make peace and build strong relations with local Native American tribes. These challenges were just as hard for the people he called to face them as they were for President Taylor himself. The fort that this group of Saints’ descendants has built up will stand as a reminder of their courage.
As Elder Perry prepared to dedicate the statue of President Taylor at Bluff Fort, he said, “It is fitting today we place this statue of John Taylor here in this historic community. It will stand as a reminder to all who visit of the faith of those who sacrificed so much to bless us with a heritage to turn our thoughts to the past to give us the firm resolve to have the faith to face the future with a bright determination of hope and courage.”
The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is full of stories of people like those who left their comfortable homes (after travelling across the United States) to settle an entirely new area. Members of this Church are still full of the same faith today as were their forbearers before them. As Elder Perry eloquently said, “We have been blessed to have our roots firmly grounded by the sacrifice of noble pioneer heritage. Through their extraordinary efforts and inspired leadership, an empire has emerged out of a desert. Their strong traits of courage, industry, faith, and determination have given us a legacy which we can look upon with great pride. It is proper we build monuments to remind our and future generations of our special pioneer heritage. It is a heritage of inspired leadership that is directed by the hand of God through his holy prophets.”
Source: “Faith conquers ‘impossible trek,'” Shaun D. Stahle, LDS Church News, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009.