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Sons of Utah Pioneers turn 'Eyes Westward' at annual convention

By Michael McKinlay

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 31 2011 7:59 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The Sons of Utah Pioneers held its national convention in Utah this past weekend, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert thanked the group for the service it has provided in the community during the past year.

“I’m impressed of the influence of good you have in the community,” Herbert told those attending the 2011 convention.

Herbert was later awarded the Today’s Pioneer Award for his service to the Utah community.

“We (Utah) shine in service,” Herbert said. “We give service to those in need.”

Herbert said recent surveys have ranked Utah No. 1 in service in the country.

The governor ended his speech by proclaiming, “All of us are pioneers and all have different pathways to get there.”

"Eyes Westward" was the theme of the convention, which featured chapters from all over the country from Provo to Philadelphia.

The convention featured descendants of the Joseph Smith Jr. and Brigham Young families, who shared stories and hardships their family lineages have faced.

Saturday morning also featured music and storytelling from Mormon Tabernacle Choir singer Elaine Carr Brewster. She provided samples of pioneer instruments, such as an early accordion, as well as modern instruments including the harp.

Through her great-great-grandmother’s journal, Brewster told how music expressed “the buoyancy between normalcy and hardships and what kept the pioneers motivated.”

On Friday, guests had the opportunity to tour Antelope Island, Emigration Canyon and early Mormon encampments.

The closing ceremonies also featured Reid Nielson, director of the Church History Department, who stressed the importance of leading by example.

“It is our responsibility to reach out to our neighbors of other faiths,” Nielson said.

“We should be the quickest to open our hands to friendship.”

Nielson also spotlighted the themes that were represented earlier in the week of bridging the gap between Brigham Young’s posterity and the descendants of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Nielson and Herbert said the theme of modern-day pioneering not only relates to the Sons of Utah Pioneers but also to Utah’s history and legacy.

“Utah is built on a solid foundation from our pioneer ancestry,” said Herbert, a sixth-generation Utahn.

For some of the convention participants, the weekend was all about remembering their posterity through workshops and programs.

“We want to honor our pioneer heritage and continue the legacy,” said Preston Hunt, a Holladay chapter delegate.

The next national convention will be in August 2012 in Provo.

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