Plymouth, Mass., may be 2,400 miles from Salt Lake City, but the "Mayflower" will still be docking in the land-locked Beehive capital this weekend.
Some 200 delegates from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants will hold their annual Board of Assistants meeting for the first time ever in Utah through Sunday, Sept. 13.The Mayflower Society members will visit various tourist attractions in the valley, as well as hear from LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley - a member of Utah's Mayflower Society - during a keynote address Saturday night.
The group will be hosted by the Utah Society of Mayflower Descendants at the Wyndham Hotel.
"We consider this both an honor and opportunity to have members visit our beautiful state," said Paul B. Platt, spokesman of the Utah Mayflower Society.
He said the annual meeting travels from state-to-state each year and Utah was apparently competing against California for the right to hold the Board of Assistants meeting this year.
Platt also acknowledged that Salt Lake City seems a natural place for the gathering because of the Mormon Pioneers' quest for religious freedom, a parallel to passengers on the Mayflower.
Also, he said many early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were New Englanders, so there's another cultural tie-in.
President Hinckley himself is a 10th generation descendant from Stephen Hopkins, who sailed on the Mayflower. Platt confirmed President Hinckley is a current member of the Utah Society of Mayflower Descendants.
Society members visiting this weekend will take a guided tour of the LDS Family History Library and Family Search Center, have dinner at This is the Place State Park, visit the Bingham Kennecott Copper Mine, attend a Mormon Tabernacle Choir Broadcast Sunday morning and also tour a final segment of the Mormon Pioneer Trail.
Directing delegate activities will be Reverend Richard Maxwell, Gov-er-nor General of Plymouth, Mass. Russ Nichols is the Utah group's governor.
There are some 160 members of the Utah Mayflower Society, as well as more than 24,000 in North America. The General Society is a federation of 52 state societies, including all 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia and Canada. The Utah Mayflower group started in 1948 and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
In 1620, the small sailing vessel Mayflower set out across uncharted Atlantic Ocean waters from Plymouth, England, for the new world. Blown off course, it finally dropped anchor off Provincetown on Cape Cod.
Most of the 102 passengers were of English origin, Pilgrims seeking a new home free from religious persecutions. The group created their own form of self-government - the Mayflower Compact - before going ashore.
The General Society of Mayflower descendants was formed in 1897 to remember these God-fearing and dauntless Pilgrims - the first settlers of New England.
To join the society, members must be over age 18 and be descended from a passenger of the Mayflower on the voyage that terminated in December of 1620. Members are required to document their Mayflower lineage through references to primary record sources.
More information on membership requirements for the Utah group are available by contacting Lynne Turner, historian of the Utah Society, 969-2278.