First Christmas in Utah
Brigham Young and the first Latter-day Saint pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. By December of 1847 there were more than 1800 saints who had gathered to the Valley, most having arrived in late September and early October. President Young had returned to Winter Quarters and John Smith, the uncle of the Prophet Joseph was the presiding priesthood officer.
Not certain of their safety the saints constructed a large fort and everyone moved in and shared the cramped space. The conditions were terrible, cold, drafty, and filthy. Mice were an awful problem as more than one pioneer described walking across the room of her cabin and having a mouse drop out of the thatched roof upon her. A cat was as valuable as a cow it has been said. Notwithstanding the risk, some saints abandoned the fort the following spring in search of better living.
Food was scarce to non-existent. The saints scrounged for whatever was edible and lived on the verge of starvation. Fortunately it was an open winter; meaning that temperatures were moderate compared to future years, and most snow that fell soon melted.
And then came Christmas 1847. There are accounts of singing, dancing, and much celebration. One young girl, Elizabeth Huffaker left this account.
“I remember our first Christmas in the valley. We all worked as usual. The men gathered sagebrush and some even plowed for though it had snowed, the ground was still soft, and the plows were used nearly the entire day. Christmas came on Saturday. We celebrated the day on the Sabbath, when we all gathered around the flag pole in the center of the fort, and there held meeting. And it was a great meeting. We sang praise to God, we all joined in the opening prayer, and the speaking that day has always been remembered. There were words of thanksgiving and cheer. Not an unkind word was uttered. The people were hopeful, and buoyant because of their faith in the great work that they were undertaking. After the meeting, we all shook hands with each other. Some wept with joy, the children played in the enclosure, and around the sagebrush fire that night, we gathered and sang:
‘Come, come, ye Saints,
No toil nor labor fear,
But with joy, wend your way.’
….In the sense of perfect peace and good will, I never had a happier Christmas in all my life.”
These people, driven, hunted, and hated, had nothing, but, in their eyes, when they had Christ and each other, they had everything.
For more stories by Glenn Rawson visit, www.glennrawson.com or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Glenn-Rawson-Stories/ or www.historyofthesaints.org