Near the foot of the peak where President Brigham Young and eight others raised an "ensign to the nations," his modern-day successor, President Gordon B. Hinckley, dedicated a newly completed park and improved trail to the summit on July 26.
The Ensign Peak Historic Site and Nature Park was dedicated 149 years to the day after President Young and his exploring party ascended the "conical-shaped mountain" he had seen in vision and named it Ensign Peak. From there, they surveyed the Salt Lake Valley and began to lay out the new city. (See related article, pages 8-9.)Nearly 1,000 people attended the program, at which the Ensign Peak Foundation presented the new facility to the people of Salt Lake City. Since 1989, the foundation has worked to raise the more than $460,000 for the park. Efforts to promote public awareness have included an annual July 26 program and hike to the top, beginning in 1992.
Besides President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, attending the dedication were President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances; President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Ruth; and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, Barbara. Elder Ballard is chairman of the Church committee to organize next year's Pioneer Sesquicentennial.
The committee has supported the Ensign Peak project as part of the sesquicentennial. In fact, the Church next year will construct a memorial garden on land it owns near the peak to complement the park. (Please see April 27, 1996, Church News.)
Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt presented a pioneer tribute with reference to the state's centennial occurring this year. City Councilman Tom Godfrey accepted the park on behalf of the people of Salt Lake City.
A "Pioneer Band" directed by Robert C. Bowden of the Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony and consisting of several symphony members, provided spirited music.
A chorus of 215 young people from Carbon County, Utah, each holding a flag of one of the nations of the world, sang two selections. Then they carried the flags in a procession to the top of the peak.
At the conclusion of the dedication, as hundreds of helium balloons were released, the flags appeared on the peak while the audience below and the chorus on the peak sang "High on the Mountain Top" (Hymns, No. 5). The familiar hymn by Joel Hills Johnson and Ebenezer Beesley was inspired by Ensign Peak. The singing was directed by Bill Beesley, great-grandson of Ebenezer Beesley. Bernard A. Johnson, 90, grandson of Joel Hills Johnson, was present with his son, Bernard M. Johnson.
President Hinckley, in a humorous reference to the fanfare by the Pioneer Band introducing his address, said, "Maybe we could try that in general conference."
Expressing gratitude to the foundation and the city for what has been done with the peak, President Hinckley noted: "There have been scores of proposals over the years concerning Ensign Peak." They included, he said, a proposal to build a road to the top and put a building there, and another to erect a concrete cross on the peak.
"There have been a number of proposals to put advertising on the face of the peak with neon lighting. How that would have looked! . . . I'm glad none of that has ever happened."
In contrast to past proposals, the newly completed project honors the "millennial vision" of President Young and the other leaders "drawn from the words of Isaiah that an ensign would be established in the mountains, and the people should flow unto it," President Hinckley said.
"Now I'm glad to see that things are as they should be, in my judgment, with reference to the peak: a nature park, a place to which people may go leisurely, learning as they climb, and when they reach the summit, of pondering and thinking and reflecting as they look across this great valley, which has become a metropolis in the mountains."
In his dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley said: "Through the efforts of many good people, the monument on Ensign Peak has been refurbished and its surroundings beautified. Leading to it is a plaza from which a trail goes where the visitor may make his or her leisurely ascent, learning from appropriate plaques placed along the way. We pray that through the years to come, many thousands of people of all faiths and all denominations, people of this nation and of other nations, may come here to reflect on the history and the efforts of those who pioneered this area. May this be a place of pondering, a place of remembrance, a place of thoughtful gratitude, a place of purposeful resolution."
During the program, three tableaus were presented. One honored the American Indian residents in the area who predated the pioneers. It featured Shoshone Nation drummers and dancers. Another portrayed Brigham Young's encounter with mountain man Jim Bridger, who gave him a discouraging assessment about the fertility of the area the Saints eventually settled.
In the third tableau, President Young and the eight men who climbed the peak with him on July 26, 1847, were portrayed, each by a descendant. The eight were Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Ezra T. Benson, Willard Richards, Albert Carrington, William Clayton and Lorenzo D. Young.
Reading from pioneer journals, Richard Lambert, a descendant of both Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff, said:
" `We left our horses about two-thirds of the way up, and after a rocky climb we succeeded in gaining the summit. Wilford Woodruff, the first to reach the top, assisted Brigham Young in the hike. Still wearing the travel-worn clothing from our 1,300-mile journey across the plains our small group now stood on the peak Brigham Young had seen in vision before we left Nauvoo. Using a spy glass we surveyed the valley, stretched out 1,000 feet below us. On the west glistened a large lake. Streams flowing from the eastern canyons, looking like ribbons of willows, emptied into a river which Brigham Young named the Jordan River. We could see sturdy timber in the surrounding mountains with which to build our homes and barns. From this vantage point on top of the peak we began to lay plans for the future city.
Brigham declared:We will build a temple down there at the base of this peak, and the stream below will be known as City Creek, because we will build a city right where it runs.' Gazing at the valley below, Brigham proclaimed: `This is the place where we will plant the soles of our feet. Here in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, we have found the place where Joseph Smith prophesied we would prosper and find peace.'
George A. Smith added,On this peak is a good place to raise an ensign.' Brigham's reply was,
It would indeed, an ensign to the world. We will call it Ensign Peak.' Prompted by President Young's words, Heber C. Kimball took off his yellow bandanna, then said to Willard Richards,Willard, may I use your walking stick a moment?' Willard obliged. Heber tied his bandanna to the end of the stick, lifted it to the sky and shouted, `An ensign to all the world!' All present responded enthusiastically. It was a moment of deep commitment.' "
A ribbon cutting at Ensign Peak Park Plaza, shown to the audience on a large television screen, was conducted by female descendants of the nine original hikers. They ranged in age from 6 to 89.