This Monday, July 24, marks Pioneer Day, which celebrates the fortitude and resilience of the pioneers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in their pursuit of religious freedom in a new homeland in the American West.

The pioneers’ steadfast determination and courage to hold to their convictions led to the establishment of instrumental settlements past the Rockies in Utah and eventually in northern Arizona. 

Since 1877, northern Arizona has greatly benefited from the meaningful contributions of members of the church who settled in and around the region.

The arrival of Latter-day Saints, and the creation of settlements in Snowflake, Winslow, Taylor, Tuba City and other places, helped lay the foundation for the 48th state. 

While these pioneers were not the first to explore Arizona, they were the first American settlers to develop the desert, making the land habitable and giving rise to what the great state of Arizona is today.

Their pursuit for religious freedom, which helped lead to the expansion and overall success of America, represents the continued need to preserve the liberties enshrined in the Constitution. We live in a time where our nation’s premier institutions and leaders are distorting fundamental truths and forcing faithful Americans to deny biblical teachings in favor of a different kind of state-sanctioned “morality.”

Arizonans who put their faith in God and his wisdom know what’s best for their families and communities. The government has no place replacing God’s commands and truth with its own dictates. 

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As our culture deteriorates and our way of life continues to be attacked, all Arizonans can learn from the persevering spirit of the pioneers and their unyielding dedication to their faith and their families. 

Pioneer Day celebrates the strength of the original Latter-day Saint pioneers and the hope they had for a homeland where they could live, build and prosper while living in accordance with their faith. 

While I am not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am a man of faith who believes, above all, that this country needs to turn back to God and realign our priorities in accordance with his Word.

The Latter-day Saint community has contributed significantly to the larger community of northern Arizona, and I will continue to use my position in Congress to fight for the liberties and family-centered values the pioneers were determined to live out.

I’ve recently introduced a bill that, if passed, would transfer federal land to Navajo and Apache counties in order to expand a cemetery that holds significance to the families of some of the original pioneers in Heber-Overgaard and Alpine. The surrounding communities are home to many of the descendants of those laid to rest in the cemetery, and it’s crucial that these families are able to pay respects to their loved ones.

While this transfer is a small move, it shifts power away from the federal government and back to the people the government is intended to serve.

I look forward to celebrating Pioneer Day in Snowflake and Taylor this coming weekend, and I am grateful to represent Latter-day Saint communities in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.

Eli Crane represents Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, which comprises most of northern Arizona. He is a retired Navy SEAL and former entrepreneur.