July 24 is Pioneer Day here in Utah. It's the commemoration of when Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, before it was the Salt Lake Valley. We have a great parade here, a rodeo, services and all kinds of celebrations to help us remember the holiday. More about the parade (since I'm a complete parade geek) later. For now, let me tell you about one of my favorite pioneers.
Meet William Carter, aka the dude with the funny beard.
He's one of my great grandfathers and his story is something like this. He was born in England in 1821. When he was 19 and working as a blacksmith, he was invited to attend a meeting by two Mormon missionaries. He listened to the sermon, believed their message of a true prophet, Joseph Smith, and that the gospel that Jesus Christ organized when He was on the earth was once again on the earth in its entirety. He was so convinced that they had truth that he wanted to be baptized immediately. The missionaries said, "Young man wait until you learn more about it." William's response was, "If I could wait another year, I would not be any more ready than I am now, for I know that you have the true church." Soon after he was baptized.
A few months later he left England, left his parents and all of his siblings but one sister to travel to the United States so that he could join up with other Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois. After three months of travel (and I complain about 24 hours of travel to get to Argentina), he and his travel mates arrived in Nauvoo. William's shoes had long since worn out, so he walked with bare feet. When he heard that the prophet Joseph Smith had come to greet the group William felt embarrassed that his feet were bare and found a fallen log to hide his feet under. When Joseph Smith approached William, he asked him, "Boy, what are you here for?" William said, "For the gospel's sake."
And for the sake of his belief in the gospel he had made so many sacrifices thus far. A few days after arriving, he began working with the other saints to build up Nauvoo.
Now to the really good part. In 1847, Brigham Young, the second prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized groups of Mormons to travel west. William was in one of those first groups and after months of travel arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. He was the first to plow the hard desert land and even devised a way to wet the land by diverting a creek so that the land would be soft enough to dig it up (sounds simple, but it was an innovation at the time).
Like so many others, William gave all he had because he believed in the message of the gospel. For the rest of his life he worked hard and lived on very little because of his faith. And God answered his faith with blessings. He trusted in God completely. As with so many other topics I feel strongly about, there's more I could say, but to keep myself from being long winded, I'll cut it off here: I'm grateful for the work William and other early members of the Mormon church did to establish the Salt Lake Valley and the church.
I hope your Pioneer Day was happy!