Local Mormons celebrate church history

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — This weekend, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will mark the 169th anniversary of the Mormon pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley.

Participants in a Pioneer Days celebration march through Taylor Park in Farmington on July 26, 2014..

The local stakes — a group of several church congregations — will have several celebrations Saturday to celebrate Pioneer Day. The large Pioneer Day celebration in the area has traditionally been held in Kirtland. This year, the Kirtland stake will have celebrations leading up to Saturday. Those celebrations include sports tournaments, a parade and a family dance.

The first of the local Pioneer Day events will be a barbecue dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the old chapel grounds on County Road 6100 in Kirtland, followed by a performance of "To Those Who Came Before Me" at the Brooks/Isham Performing Arts Center, 540 County Road 6100.

The Kirtland stake will then have various events throughout the day Saturday, starting with a 5k run and 2-mile walk at 7 a.m. at the old chapel. A parade will follow from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m. starting at Kirtland Middle School. The rest of the events will follow including a co-ed softball tournament at 1 p.m., and horseshoe tournament from 6 to 8 p.m. and free swimming at the Kirtland pool from 1 to 4 p.m. The celebrations will end with a family dance from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Kirtland Stake Center, 10 County Road 6523.

While the Kirtland celebration, which has taken place for about a century, has traditionally been the large local Pioneer Day celebration, the other local stakes will also have events. The Farmington stake will host a celebration from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Taylor Park, 400 W. Comanche St., and the Bloomfield stake — which includes Aztec — will have celebrations starting with a 5k run and walk at 6:30 a.m. at Hammond Park, located off of Sullivan Road in Bloomfield. The majority of the events will be in the afternoon and include water carnival games at 3 p.m. and conclude with a dance at 7:30 p.m.

The Bloomfield celebration will include a short simulation of the pioneer trek to Salt Lake City. Participants will have the chance to pull handcarts, and there will be short skits commemorating the journey, according to Delbert Sexton, a high councilor for the Bloomfield stake.

"The Mormons were persecuted so badly back in Missouri," Sexton said.

He said the persecution led the members of the church to leave Missouri in the middle of the winter and start a journey west.

Seth Bingham, a spokesman for the Farmington stake, said the Pioneer Day celebrations allow the members of the church to interact in a way that they are not able to interact during normal church services. He said people think about the pioneer journey and compare their family heritage and genealogy.

“The pioneer experience was a hard and a challenging experience,” Bingham said.

While the pioneer lifestyle was challenging, he said he doesn’t know if the pioneers of the mid-1800s would trade for a modern lifestyle. He said their lifestyle was much simpler and at the end of a day’s journey, they would have a social celebration.

“Maybe in our world today, we need to take time to do the same,” he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.