At the mouth of Emigration Canyon, on the spot where President Brigham Young first viewed the Salt Lake Valley, President Gordon B. Hinckley June 29 rededicated a monument and state park honoring the Pioneers.
The Tabernacle Choir performed two selections for the rededication and reopening of This Is the Place State Park. It was one of five choirs of varying religious faiths and cultures on the program. The others were Combined Methodist Choirs, Utah Polynesian Choir, Greek Orthodox Choir, and Umoja Baptist Gospel Choir. They represented denominations and cultures present in Utah when statehood was granted 100 years ago.A choir of school children from the state's 29 counties, Native American dancers, Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, Centennial chairman Stephen M. Studdett and Ted Stewart, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources participated in the festivities, which attracted a crowd estimated at 15,000 by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.
This Is the Place Monument, the centerpiece of the celebration, was dedicated in 1947 – the centennial of the Pioneer's arrival in the valley – by President George Albert Smith. It has undergone extensive refurbishment.
Also rededicated and reopened was Old Deseret Village, a "living-history" facility designed to recapture the feel and setting of pioneer Utah. A dozen new buildings have been added to the village, augmenting the 14 existing structures there, with more to come.
Accompanying President Hinckley was his wife, Marjorie. President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances; and President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Ruth; attended the rededication with their
wives, as did several other General Authorities.
"This is a strikingly beautiful monument which stands behind us," President Hinckley remarked prior to giving the dedicatory prayer. "It honors great events in the history of our beloved state."
He noted that it honors Catholic Fathers Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante who explored the valley in 1776. He said it also honors "the trappers who made this their hunting ground, the explorers who passed this way, the great Chief Washakie representing the Native Americans, and the Donner-Reed party of 1846, who moved through this area to their place of terrible suffering and their rendezvous with death."
President Hinckley noted that the "Hosanna group" is featured on the west side of the monument with a statue of Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow "who came ahead to enter this valley on July 21, 1847, to be followed by an exploring group the next day, and then, most notably, the arrival of Brigham Young, who, on July 24, 1847, declared, `This is the right place.' Crowning the central shaft are the figures of President Young, Heber C. Kimball and Wilford Woodruff."
Except for the Native Americans, most of those who came in the early days departed, President Hinckley observed, "but the Mormon Pioneers came to stay. They broke the hard, sunbaked soil. They developed modern irrigation practices. They platted a city, built homes, schools, public buildings, places for cultural expression, the great Tabernacle and the magnificent temple. They established this city and literally hundreds of other communities up and down what is now Utah, as well as the first Anglo-Saxon settlements in California, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming."
People of many persuasions and interests joined the LDS settlers, and today's residents "constitute the great choir of various voices singing one song of progress and neighborliness," President Hinckley said.
"This park's newly created pioneer community with the uniquely beautiful buildings reminds us of these early beginnings," he said. "Today, as we look over this magnificent
Salt LakeT city, as we travel up and down this state, we recall the words of Isaiah: `The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall . . . blossom as the rose.' (Isa. 35:1.)"
In the dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley applied to the current generation the words of Jehovah to a new generation in ancient Israel: "And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat." (Josh. 24:13.)
"As we dedicate this place of history, we pray that all who visit here will be led to ponder the significance of what it represents, and may there be experienced a sense of gratitude and respect for the unique and wonderful heritage we enjoy," the prophet prayed.
The Tabernacle Choir performed "Amazing Grace" featuring soloist Rita Bankhead Greyson, a fifth-generation great-granddaughter of Green Flake, an African American who was on the lead wagon with Brigham Young when the Pioneers entered the valley in 1847.
The choir also sang "Come, Come, Ye Saints," the well-known hymn composed by William Clayton on the Iowa plains during the Saints' trek west. They sang the famous Spencer Cornwall arrangement of the hymn.
Thousands availed themselves of free admission to the park during the weekend and toured the village's new facilities. They included the Heber East Ward School, where visitors became pupils learning a lesson in the "Deseret Alphabet." Youngsters took part in jump rope and ring toss games. Other visitors could purchase handmade wares and enjoy refreshment at the new replica of the Huntsman Hotel.
Several prominent Utahns, who donated money to the This Is the Place State Park, attended an appreciation dinner June 28 in the park's bowery. Participating in the dinner were President and Sister Hinckley; President and Sister Monson; President and Sister Faust; and Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife, Barbara.
Brother Studdert thanked President Hinckley and all members of the Church for their contribution to the park – the restoration of This Is The Place monument.
"The monument was about ready to fall down," he said. "The monument has now been restored and improved and enhanced. We thank you for the kindness of this gift."