What life was like for the Mormon pioneers after entering the Salt Lake Valley
“Very soon after the Saints were established here, they created the Deseret News, (and) that was as important as any other network or system or institution that was established here,” Olsen said. “If you’re building the kingdom of God, and the members of the kingdom of God are spread out in a variety of different places, you have to have ways of keeping in touch with everybody. And the newspaper was, in part, for that purpose. It was as a communications network for the kingdom of God.”
“(The pioneers) were isolated here in the community, so there were two functions of (the newspaper),” said Bob Folkman, a printer at the replicated Deseret News building at This Is the Place Heritage Park and president of the Sons of Utah Pioneers. “(The first was) local communications between the leaders, whether the government leaders or the church leaders — which were initially the same. And the other is just that there was no other reliable source of news in the community. There was some need to have a connection to what was going on in the world other than just word of mouth.”
While other pioneers traveled and settled areas in California and Oregon, the LDS pioneers were different in that their motivation was building the kingdom of God on the earth.
“When you’re with people you’re committed to by covenant you can’t discount the value of religion bringing this thing together,” Olsen said. “So, there was just this amazing commitment they had to one another, even though often they didn’t share the same language (or) the same background. But they did share the same religion, so that was the glue that held them together and encouraged them to collaborate and share and sacrifice and do all those things that actually enabled them to succeed here where other people would not have.”
In only 10 years, the pioneers, through hard work and determination, had built a growing city with homes, shops, churches, farms and schools, and an area where they thought the Saints could live free from persecution and interference.
But in May 1857, U.S. President James Buchanan, after believing reports from anti-Mormon politicians, ordered federal troops to march to Great Salt Lake City to put down a supposed Mormon insurrection. After months of delay, the troops marched through Great Salt Lake City on June 26, 1858.
One of the soldiers marching with the troops, John Rozsa — who later joined the LDS Church — wrote, “The city lies in a very nice place at the foot of a hill (and) is quite big and is built in good style. The houses are built of dobies and there was nice gardens around them but nevertheless they look just like a dead city. On arriving in the city we found only a few (men). The houses were locked and the windows nailed up, and all the people had fled south.”
The Saints had abandoned their city in case of problems with the soldiers. The few men left in the city when the troops marched through held torches and were prepared to burn the entire city to the ground if the troops did not abide by an agreement not to disturb the property.
The troops did abide by their agreement, and the Saints were able to return to the city they had founded almost 11 years earlier.
Ben Tullis is a Deseret News intern and a freelance writer and copy editor. He graduated from Utah Valley University in April 2014 with a bachelor's degree in English. He lives in Pleasant Grove with his wife and 2-year-old son.
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