I joined the Church in February of 1962, as a teenager living in San Antonio, Texas, where my father was stationed at the time. (He was in the Army, studying hospital administration at Fort Sam Houston, in a Baylor extension program.) My parents and my younger brother joined at the same time. My parents were both from Knob Noster, Missouri, near Warrensburg, in Johnson County, about fifty miles east of Independence. Many of my ancestors were living in the area when the Saints were in Independence and probably took part in the persecutions. If I understood my mother correctly, I am related, collaterally, to Governor Boggs. As a result, genetically my heritage has something to do with the Saints move west to Utah, but it isn’t the kind of relation to the Utah pioneers that would qualify me to join the Sons of the Utah Pioneers.
In spite of that, I enjoy celebrating the 24th of July. I don’t see it as a celebration of Utah so much as a celebration of my heritage as a Latter-day Saint. Though our celebration of the 24th isn’t particularly religious, it has a significance not unlike the significance of the Passover for Jews: we each commemorate God’s salvation of his people from death and bondage, and we commemorate that event as an event in itself and as a type of our indidvidual and communal lives. Thus, though I understand why it might be strange for Korean, French, and Paraguayan saints to dress up in pioneer clothing for a parade, I don’t think it ought to be strange for those saints to commemorate the 24th of July.
On the 24th we remember God’s promise to save and his power to do so. And we recognize that, however imperfect the Church is at present, divine power to save culminates in the establishment of God’s Kingdom. I thank those pioneers who came to Utah for doing so in the face of hardship and, often, death. I thank God for saving them and for promising salvation to us.