The legacy of Joseph Smith can be seen today in the "millennial cities" early pioneering members built, said a noted historian speaking at an event to honor Utah's pioneers July 25.
Pioneering of every kind required immense hope, said Richard L. Bushman, emeritus professor of history at Columbia University.
"The Utah pioneers needed an extra measure of faith in a brighter day to draw them to a land of limited promise," he said.
Speaking at the Days of '47 Sunrise Service held in the Assembly on Temple Square, Brother Bushman addressed the topic, " 'The Dawning of a Brighter Day': Joseph Smith and America's Future." The address — which kicked off Utah's Pioneer Day celebrations — coincided with the 200th anniversary year of Joseph Smith's birth.
"The Mormons in Utah thought of themselves as fulfilling Joseph's millennial vision," he said.
During the event, sponsored by the Pioneer Chapter of the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, the Mormon Battalion led the Pledge of Allegiance and Days of '47 officials recognized youth essay contest winners for their pioneering spirit. Patriotic and pioneering anthems for the program — including "The God Who Gave Us Life," "Away to America," "Come, Come, Ye Saints," "Hymn for Our Time," and "Homeland" — were provided by combined choirs: the Payson Civic Chorale, the Spanish Fork Community Choir and the Choral Arts Society of Utah.
The Days of '47 Royalty, and numerous religious, state, city and civic leaders were in attendance, including the Rev. George H. Niederauer, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, who led the congregation in prayer.
During his address, Brother Bushman said Latter-day Saint pioneers did not think small. It was their "large thinking" — the belief that something better had to lie at the end of the long trail — that amounted to their success.
"Millennial thought was as useful to the pioneers as a wagon," he said.
Joseph Smith's grand thinking, he continued, prepared his followers to be pioneers and to build millennial cities.
His blueprint of an "open city" reached its peak in Nauvoo, where a "religious toleration ordinance" was passed, Brother Bushman said. That act, he said, was "remarkable for its time and place."
"Joseph opened the city to all," he said. "He had immense confidence in the capacity of people to work together."
In essence, he said, Joseph made a blueprint for model cities that would bless the whole world.
Through cooperation and collaboration with people all faiths, Brother Bushman said, people today can also construct "cities of Zion."
"When we do," he said, "a brighter day will surely dawn."
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