“This is the Right Place”

By Governor Gary R. Herbert


On July 19, 1847, Orson Pratt and John Brown tied their horses and climbed on foot to the crest of what is known today as Big Mountain. As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner describes it in his book, The Gathering of Zion, the two men surveyed the scene before them:

 “Straight ahead, jutting up like a front gunsight into the notch of a ravine … [was a] broad plain, treeless, shimmering pale gold and paler amethyst” and another mountain range on the far side.”

Thus, Pratt and Brown became the first of the Mormon pioneers to see the Salt Lake Valley and the Oquirrh Mountains. Five days later, riding in Wilford Woodruff’s carriage, Brigham Young overlooked that same valley from the mouth of Emigration Canyon and famously declared: “It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on.”

Interestingly, that quote first surfaced in Woodruff’s journal, 33 years after the fact. There’s also some speculation about the precise location where Brigham Young uttered those words. But whenever or wherever they were said, I think everyone agrees they were well-said. And Brigham’s words proved to be as timeless as they were timely.

Utah certainly was the right place then – and it continues to be to this day. In Utah, “Life Elevated” is more than a mere slogan. It speaks to our high expectations, work ethic and standard of living.  It reflects the pride we have in our past and the optimism we share for our future.

Our state consistently ranks at or near the top in quality of life surveys. We have the “Greatest Snow on Earth” in our Wasatch Mountains and the “Greatest Earth on Show” in our stunning red rock canyons and five national parks. Utah’s greatest resource, though, is its people. We are known throughout the nation for our hospitality, industry, integrity and ingenuity.

Even so, we must remember that the high ground we occupy as a state and as a people is, in no small measure, due to the legacy bequeathed us from those who have gone before and shown us the way. To paraphrase 17th-century scientist Isaac Newton, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. We celebrate Pioneer Day to honor those early pioneers, as well as those who came later and built on their legacy – people like:

  • Episcopal Bishop Daniel Tuttle, who founded schools and the state’s first public hospital;
  • Martha Hughes Cannon, who in 1896 became Utah’s first woman state senator after besting her husband in the election;
  • Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of the electronic television; and
  • University of Utah professor Mario Capecchi, a Nobel Prize laureate for medicine, to name a few.

In forging ahead in faith to build a future, these pioneers created a glorious past – and we are the inheritors of their proud legacy. This coming week, as we celebrate the “The Days of ’47,” let us honor these remarkable pioneers and reflect on what we can do to follow in their footsteps and entrust their – and our – heritage to future generations.