The spirit of Utah pioneers

Jul 13 2012 - 1:36pm

Perhaps nothing demonstrates the "can-do" spirit better than the Pioneers; and in the West none better than the Mormon Pioneers beginning in 1847.

They could not, would not, and were not deterred from their goal of finding a better place to live, worship and thrive. They had been warned of hardships to be faced; the hundreds of miles of rugged plains, deserts and mountains. They would face snow storms, stifling heat, the threat of unfriendly Indians, even robbers and bandits. The trek could bring injury from accidents, illness, even death of family and fellow travelers and the resulting discouragement. To face and overcome these obstacles an abundance of faith was required; faith in leaders, purpose and self were essential. This faith was consolidated into what might be called a "can-do" spirit the source of which was belief in almighty God, a Heavenly Father which gave them an unwavering belief that not only could they achieve their goals but that they absolutely would not be denied no matter how challenging the task.

You would think it impossible that Utahns would have lost their pioneer spirit given that there are annual parades, celebrations, fireworks, and many other reminders of that heritage but it may have become perfunctory with much hoopla and little substance. As with any skill, spirit must be exercised to maintain its edge. When was the last time you sat and thought of just what pioneer spirit means, for that matter what American spirit means? The festivities of July 24th may help as a reminder that the pioneers suffered greatly in their trek across the West; it likely will take deeper thought to fully appreciate their circumstances.

Today we see the same kind of spirit in many of our wounded military, many with lost limbs and severe wounds, who use words such as "never say die," never give up," no I won't be defeated," and "yes I can!!" Their attitudes reflect a celebration of spirit that we all can appreciate.

One of the most remarkable examples of spirit was in October of 1941 when Winston Churchill spoke to students of Harrow School.

The speech he gave was inspirational to the young men who would become leaders of Great Britain. He spoke of the months of bombing the nation had endured at the hands of the powerful German Luftwaffe, how cities such as London, Glasgow, Liverpool and many others had suffered tremendous losses; thousands had died, tens of thousands were injured, thousands more were homeless, cities, factories, and ports were in ruin.

Churchill made a remarkable speech that the students and the nation would hear. His most inspiring words were these: "surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson; never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

At the time, Great Britain stood alone, its RAF pilots had repelled a superior German air force; America would not join in the fight for at least another month. The Brits relied on a can-do spirit to keep going.

Utah's venerable Senator Orrin Hatch tells us that it is time for Utah to lead in reference to his leadership position in the U.S. Senate, he's 100 percent right. It's also time for Utahns to lead the nation on a path that takes us toward a better future; a path that is fraught with temptations and danger that would have us drift further toward Washington dominance and corruption of our entrepreneurial spirit, of relying more and more on government assistance. We currently have more people unemployed and underemployed, on food stamps and on disability than ever before. The government is actively seeking to enroll more people in assistance programs, it should be noted that the work place has not gotten less safe.

We are not facing the same challenges that the pioneers faced or the enemy that the Brits faced but we do have a challenge that could be disastrous to the future of our country unless we get our priorities straight.

Winning this battle will require fortitude similar to that which was required in other challenges. If your pioneer spirit has lost its edge -- sharpen it; to learn more about American Spirit go to

Reynolds lives in Pleasant View. He is a retired businessman and member of the Kiwanis Club of North Ogden.


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