Unfurling of truth's banner on 'Zion's Hill' commemorated by hundreds at annual hike

With historic Ensign Peak as a backdrop, President Gordon B. Hinckley on July 26 recounted the occasion when Brigham Young and several other men stood on that summit and symbolically raised "an ensign to the nations."

That action by President Young and his companions signaled the gathering to Zion of saints from many parts of the world, as foretold in scripture.President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke at the second annual Historic Ensign Peak Commemoration Program and Family Hike. Sponsored by the Ensign Peak Foundation, a civic group, the event is held to raise funds to preserve, beautify and protect the peak.

A project scheduled for completion in 1996, Utah's centennial year, calls for a nature park, trail system and information stations for the peak.

Speaking to a crowd estimated at 1,428 - significantly more than the 300 or so who attended last year - President Hinckley noted that it was 146 years to the day since President Young and his party ascended to the summit. Remarkably, July 26 in 1847 was on a Monday, as it was this year.

"They arrived in the valley on a Saturday," he recounted. "They worshipped on the Sabbath, and Brigham Young spoke to them. They had no place in which to meet. I guess they sat on their wagon tongues and leaned against the wheels of their wagons while he spoke. On that occasion he told them they should not work on the Sabbath day; that if they did so, they would lose five times as much as they would gain. I wish that message were published a little more loudly in this community."

President Hinckley said that the next day, Brigham Young and the other men climbed the peak, where they surveyed the entire Salt Lake Valley.

"We know that much with certainty," he said. "We don't know with very much certainty what they did here."

Quoting Isa. 5:26 and 11:12 - references to the Lord lifting up "an ensign to the nations" and the people coming swiftly - President Hinckley said: "I'm confident that was on the minds of these men when they stood here and when Brigham Young said this would be a good place to establish an ensign that was an ensign to the nations. I don't know whether it was a flag. I don't know whether it was a yellow bandanna handkerchief, which the best record seems to indicate, or what it was. But I'm confident that on their minds was this tremendous matter of establishing an ensign to the nations. I marvel at their foresight. I marvel at their courage. I marvel at, somehow, the prophetic instinct that they had within them."

Citing words he said on a previous occasion, President Hinckley commented: " `How foolish!' someone might have said had he heard these men that July morning of 1847. They did not look like statesmen with great dreams. They did not look like rulers poring over maps and planning an empire. They were exiles driven from their fair city on the Mississippi into this desert region of the West. But they were possessed of a vision drawn from the scriptures and words of revelation. I marvel at the foresight of that little group. It was both audacious and bold."

President Hinckley commended the Ensign Peak Foundation, which he called "these civic-spirited men and women who are doing so much to bring about what should have been brought about a very long time ago."

He expressed amazement that in 1993, the status of the peak is still in limbo, although tremendous efforts have been made in the past, including the erection of a monument atop the peak in 1934.

After President Hinckley's address, hundreds of those attending the program hiked to the top of the peak. Following a "Cavalry Charge" bugle call, the spectators began the 20-minute ascent.

In a brief program atop the peak, Elder Loren C. Dunn, a member of the Seventy, president of the Utah Central Area and executive director of the Church Historial Department, responded to questions from the crowd.

In introductory comments, Elder Dunn said that the block in Salt Lake City where the City and County Building now stands was designated at first as the center of the city, but the Salt Lake Temple block in fact became the center. He added: "We have historical evidence to point out that Brigham Young came here [to Ensign PeakT and got a reading of the valley, looked over the entire valley. He told various people later that before he entered the valley, he had seen the city of Salt Lake in a vision, and where the temple was to be located, and it was pointed out to him by an angel standing on a `conical hill.' The inference is that Brigham Young probably came here to get his bearings and to find out how the city would be laid out and where the temple would be located."

Ensign Peak is under the administration of the Salt Lake City parks division. Taking part in the event as hike marshal was Nancy Pace of the Salt Lake City Council, and Rep. Frank R. Pignanelli of the Utah State Legislature offered the benediction atop the peak.

One of the hikers was 83-year-old Luella Boyd. She was among several family history missionaries who braved the trail to the peak. Sister Boyd is a member of the Basin Ward, Worland Wyoming Stake.

Her presence was made known to Elder Dunn, and he in turn introduced her to the crowd. "You're from Wyoming; you didn't come here by handcart?" he asked, drawing laughter from the audience. "Thank you for your great service, and thank you for your perseverance. You're an inspiration to all of us."

"Well," she replied, "I asked the Lord for help, and He always gives it when I ask. So I got it," she replied.

After Elder Dunn spoke, the audience atop the peak sang "High on the Mountain Top." (Hymns, No. 5.) Ronald Walker of the Ensign Peak Foundation, who conducted the program on the peak, explained: "Many of you have sung this hymn many times. But . . . recognize that when Joel Hills Johnson wrote these stanzas they were referring to Ensign Peak . . . . "

In a note on the printed program, Brother Walker wrote that Brother Johnson, a bishop of the Mill Creek Ward in Salt Lake City, penned the words while he was convalescing from illness during the winter of 1852-53. He wrote a sheaf of poems, many of which dealt with what he called "Zion's Sacred Hill," or Ensign Peak. His six-stanza poem, "Deseret," became his most famous. It was set to music by Ebenezer Beesley.

Master of ceremonies for the program prior to the hike was Pres. Mark A Benson of the Salt Lake Ensign Stake. He is a son of President Ezra Taft Benson, and in remarks to the audience, he noted that he is a great-great-grandson of Ezra T. Benson, an apostle who was with Brigham Young in the original party of men who ascended the peak.

Displayed at the speakers stand was the original plaque from the monument erected in 1934. It had been stolen at least 30 years ago. But it was found in a chicken coop in West Jordan, Utah. As a result of publicity about last year's hike, it was returned to the Ensign Peak Foundation. (See Church News, Oct. 17, 1992.)

Chairman J Malan Heslop said it has not been determined whether the plaque will be restored to the monument or simply preserved as a historic artifact.

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