The spirit and the sacrifices of the pioneers who settled Utah should never be forgotten, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley told more than 10,000 Utahns gathered at this historic site Monday.
"Let us never forget the cost of our faith," the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said during a family home evening fireside held for members of the state's Centennial Wagon Train.The men, women and children who made their way to the historic Mormon fort in pioneer style, traveling 19 miles Monday along dusty trails in horse-drawn wagons, were joined by thousands more arriving in cars that filled miles of roadside fields.
Hundreds of Boy Scouts from Lindon hoisting flags nearly as big as they were tall also greeted President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, who led the last mile of the 75-wagon procession from the back seat of a buggy.
Sherel Kresge of Pleasant Grove, who waited to see the prophet of her church alongside her husband, Robert, and their three children, said she was deeply moved. "It brought tears to my eyes," Kresge said.
The stone walls of the fort built in 1847 couldn't hold all who came to hear President Hinckley's talk. The setting held special meaning for the LDS leader, whose grandfather, Ira N. Hinckley, was sent by Brigham Young to build the fort.
"I've wondered many times how he must have felt. Brigham Young moved on and left him here. And here he was, and the little group with him, in this lonely place," President Hinckley said.
His father spent much of his boyhood in the frontier outpost and shared stories of spying on stagecoaches with his grandchildren during a family visit to the fort.
"It was a very exciting place for a little boy," President Hinckley said of the fort, which protected the telegraph and mail stations at Cove Creek and provide a rest stop for travelers headed to and from southern Utah.
The LDS Church president also talked of the difficulties faced by his grandfather and other pioneers during their trek across the country to arrive in what is now Utah in 1847.
"Fifteen miles a day in the heat, and the dirt and the dust, with buffalo to contend with and rattlesnakes by the thousands, fording rivers, trying to get here." President Hinckley said.
Many, including his grandfather, buried family members who didn't survive the harsh conditions. "I don't know of anything else that compares to the coming of our people to the valleys and the mountains," he said.
Six thousand Mormon pioneers never made it. "What a price they have paid," President Hinckley said. "Every one of us ought to be very proud of those who have gone before us . . . God be thanked for the Mormon pioneers."
Riding "at a snail's pace" in the horse-drawn buggy gave him a sense of those trips, President Hinckley said, especially after spending the past few weeks traveling by plane around the world.
"I thought of the price that has been paid. How grateful I feel. How tremendously grateful I feel. How thankful I feel. And how much I want to live worthy of the inheritance that has been handed to us," he said.
Garth Finlinson of Oak City, who rode with the wagon train Monday, said he felt the spirit of the pioneers. The trip, he said, captured their experience except participants were given "sack lunches, and everyone has coolers."
Finlinson, who said according to family lore his grandfather helped haul the stones used to build the fort, said President Hinckley's talk "to me kind of brought it all together."
Steve Studdert, chairman of the Utah Statehood Centennial Commission, labeled Monday "a grand day for our state's centennial." Utah is celebrating its 100th year of statehood with the wagon train and other events.