More than 300 hikers ascended the dome-shaped hill July 26 where Brigham Young and seven other Church leaders figuratively raised "an ensign to the nations" on the same date in 1847 in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
It was the third year for the annual "Ensign Peak Family Hike," an activity held to raise funds to help establish trails and commemorative markers and to preserve and beautify the peak.The name Ensign Peak is taken from prophecies such as Isa. 5:26, "And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly."
The gathering of Church converts to the Rocky Mountains and the subsequent spread of the gospel throughout the world is widely regarded as a fulfillment of that prophecy. It also fulfills Isa. 2:2-3, which pertains to the "mountain of the Lord's house," that is, the latter-day temple, being "established in the tops of the mountains," and all nations flowing unto it.
Prior to the hike, Elder Robert L. Backman, emeritus General Authority and vice chairman of the Church's Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee, gave the main speech at a program in a park near the Salt Lake Ensign Stake Center at the foot of Ensign Peak.
Also addressing the crowd was Mayor Deedee Corradini of Salt Lake City, which owns the peak, and Pres. Paul A. Hanks of the Salt Lake Stake who was master of ceremonies. He and two other stake presidents, who were also in attendance, serve as advisers to the Ensign Peak Foundation Board. The stake presidents are Mark A. Benson of the Salt Lake Ensign Stake and W. Herbert Klopfer of the Salt Lake Eagle Gate Stake.
A band composed of three trumpeters and two trombonists from the Mormon Youth Symphony gave a brief, open-air concert.
Elder Backman quoted an account from Elder George A. Smith, an apostle who was with Brigham Young's party as they ascended the peak two days after their arrival in Salt Lake Valley: " `The question is frequently asked, "How did you ever find this place?" I answer, we were led to it by the inspiration of God. After the death of Joseph Smith, when it seemed as if every trouble and calamity had come upon the Saints, Brigham Young, who was president of the Twelve . . . sought the Lord to know what they should do, where they should lead the people for safety, and while they were fasting and praying daily on this subject, President Young had a vision of Joseph Smith, who showed him the mountain that we now call Ensign Peak, immediately north of Salt Lake City. And there was an ensign fell upon that peak, and Joseph said, "Build under the point where the colors fall and you will prosper and have peace." The pioneers had no pilot or guide, none among them had ever been in the country or knew anything about it. However, they traveled under the direction of President Young until they reached this valley. When they entered it President Young pointed to that peak, and said he, "I want to go there." He went up to that point and said, "This is Ensign Peak." ' "
Elder Backman said the Church leaders laid out the city from the vantage point of the peak and that President Young saw the place where the temple was to be built and pointed it out.
"When you hike this peak tonight, I hope you will remember as you look out over this verdant valley and see the trees, see the communities stretching from here to the point of the mountain, that was not what Brigham Young saw, or the other men with him. They saw almost a barren land. . . . I'm so impressed with the vision that these men had. These great leaders were not stopped by any force from doing that which they knew the Lord wanted them to do."
He said Ensign Peak has had a spotted history over the years. "We have not kept very good track of it. I heard President Gordon B. Hinckley say not long ago, `We've neglected that peak too long,' when we presented to him the idea of joining with the foundation in developing this peak as part of our sesquicentennial celebration."
The aim, he said is to have the park area, trails and signs in place before the Pioneer Sesquicentennial is observed in 1997.
Elder Backman traced the history of the peak saying a monument was erected in 1934 by the young people of Ensign Stake and their leaders. He said it was 18.47 feet tall, signifying the year 1847 when the Pioneers came. He added that the stones came from Church historic sites along the pioneer trail. A plaque, he said, that told of the significance of Ensign Peak was stolen years ago, but was recently found and is now in the possession of the foundation.
Referring to the pioneer legacy, Elder Backman said, "We who are the recipients of that heritage . . . need to be reminded as we look at this peak behind us tonight that it really is an ensign to the nations, an ensign of the work of the Lord, but also the industry and the faith and the fortitude of a great people who would not be stopped by any opposition that would be put in their path."
Mayor Corradini said that when she was approached by the foundation and told of the significance of the peak, she was in favor of a public-private partnership to preserve, improve and beautify it.
"I encourage you to participate, to bring in those you know to help us make this happen," she said. "We'll do our part, but we need you to do yours. Let's do something that not only helps us remember our past but that our history is really also our future."
Pres. Hanks said the project is intended to keep the area in as close to a natural setting as possible.
Led by Salt Lake City Councilman Sam Souval as hike marshal, the group ascended the peak – about a 20-minute hike – and gazed at the city vista and sunset.
In a brief ceremony at the top, the United States and Utah State flags were posted. In what has become a tradition for the annual event, the hikers sang the hymn "High On the Mountain Top," (Hymns, No. 5) the composition of which was inspired by the symbolic significance of Ensign Peak.