Las Vegas plaque honors pioneers

"Gentlemen, I have a rule. When it gets over 100 degrees, I take my coat off," said President James E. Faust as he began his remarks at the dedication of a special plaque at the Las Vegas Mormon Fort June 21.

President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, conveyed the importance of the pioneer exodus and why it led to the creation of what became the first non-Indian settlement of Las Vegas.Accompanied by his wife, Ruth, President Faust spoke to a crowd of more than 700. This included members of the Church, leaders of various religious organizations, U.S. senators and representatives, government and judicial leaders, dignitaries from numerous organizations and media representatives.

The plaque, embedded in red rock indigenous to the area and paid for with private donations, associates the Church with the establishment of Las Vegas. It was dedicated as part of this year's sesquicentennial celebration.

President Faust called it a pleasure and honor to participate in another of the sesquicentennial events that are taking place around the world. He noted that the pioneer exodus was the mightiest trek recorded in history since the flight from Egypt.

"Las Vegas," he continued, "is part of that history."

In 1855, Brigham Young sent a party of 30 men on a mission to the area, which had traditionally served as a resting place for travelers from the Salt Lake Valley to California. Known for its water springs, Las Vegas was a natural choice for explorers, merchants and others to seek respite. Upon arriving, the missionaries built a bowery and began to build an adobe brick fort.

Although the mission was vacated by the missionaries in 1857, the fort continued to serve as a focal point for settlement in the area. Today its remnants are a state landmark.

"While in the early days the fort marked the Church's presence in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Temple symbolizes the rise of the Church in present-day Nevada," said President Faust. As of Dec. 31, 1996, there were 12,507 Church members living in Nevada - about 8 percent of the state's population.

Although President Faust's arrival was delayed more than one hour due to airline difficulties, the enthusiastic crowd, which waited in the hot Nevada sun, greeted him with exuberance and heartfelt appreciation for his attendance.

President Faust was also the guest of honor at a luncheon at the LDS Institute near the campus of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas later that day. He also addressed a youth fireside June 22.

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