Pioneer Heritage Gardens Dedicated in Manti, Utah
By Sam Penrod, KSL
Just below Temple Hill in Manti, Utah, USA, visitors to the small community in central Utah will find a new garden honoring the pioneers who settled the Sanpete Valley in 1849.
The Pioneer Heritage Gardens, built by the Central Utah Pioneer Association, a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, sits just below the Manti Utah Temple. The project was dedicated on Saturday, June 2, more than 30 years after it was envisioned.
Two ceremonies were held in conjunction with the dedicatory events—one on Saturday morning in the Pioneer Heritage Gardens, and another that afternoon at the Snow College Activities Center in Ephraim, Utah, at which a portion of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed.
Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy offered the dedicatory prayer at the Saturday afternoon event. Utah’s Lieutenant Governor, Greg Bell, was among those who offered remarks.
“This Pioneer Heritage Garden has captured, I think, the essence of what makes these little Utah communities great,” Elder Jensen said. “It addresses the issues of industry, and cooperation, and education, and especially faith. Anyone stopping here will be prompted to reflect and dig a little bit deeper in his or her own life.”
In offering the prayer to dedicate the gardens, Elder Jensen expressed gratitude for the “faith and perseverance” of the pioneers and for their charity, for the rich heritage that succeeding generations have enjoyed, and for “the roads they built, the canals and ditches they dug, the trees and shrubs they planted, the towns and cities they founded, [and] the homes, schools and churches they erected.”
He added that succeeding generations have had their lives immeasurably enriched because of the faith and sacrifice of those pioneers.
More than 2,700 people attended the dedication service.
Before Elder Jensen offered remarks and the dedicatory prayer, members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed a concert, closing with “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”
Earlier in the day Elder Jensen addressed about 200 volunteers, praising them for their efforts.
Thousands of service hours were logged over the past several months by members of the Church who helped in the landscaping.
“You learn to love what you sacrifice for, so it was important that we did that,” said Scott Hintze, president of the Manti Utah Stake, who believes the gardens will mean more to those who volunteered.
“Hopefully we will have opportunities still to come and give service and keep it clean and maintain it. If you don’t put a little sweat labor into it, it’s not yours,” he added.
“We are the luckiest people in the state of Utah,” said Shannon Miller, president of the Central Utah Pioneer Heritage Association.
“We have a group of people that understand what beauty is and why we should appreciate it, and because of that people have come out and helped, and our garden is complete,” she added.
The property is just west of the temple and is part of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage area, which runs along Highway 89 in central and southern Utah.
“The Pioneer Heritage Gardens team wanted to focus not on what the pioneers did (although they did an incredible work) but rather ‘How did they do it?’ With only their grit and their intellect, they lived their lives by sticking to their values. Faith, education, cooperation, and industry allowed them to succeed in their harsh new environment,” Sister Miller said.
The 2.5-acre gardens include a reflecting pool for the temple, a small amphitheater, and benches where visitors can sit and meditate. The gardens are also near the Manti Cemetery, where many early pioneers are buried, including Isaac Morley who, at the direction of Brigham Young, led the first 224 pioneers to Manti, arriving on November 22, 1849. William Fowler, who wrote the lyrics to the hymn, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” is also buried nearby.
The dedication of the gardens is a dream come true for Jane Braithwaite of Manti, who founded the Manti Destiny Committee in 1981. The organization is now part of the Central Utah Pioneer Heritage Association.
“It’s all turned out more glorious than we ever imagined, and it’s truly a miracle.” “This location alone is the result of a tremendous effort,” she said.
“Wow!” was the reaction from Manti resident Mike Kohut, who was admiring the gardens early Saturday morning before the dedication. “This will really make a difference to those who stop, and it will help us to honor our pioneer heritage.”
Sister Miller believes the gardens, literally in the shadow of the temple, will add to the beauty of the area. She is excited that they were finished before thousands visit Manti for the annual Mormon Miracle Pageant, which begins on June 21.
“It’s an important piece of ground right by the Manti Temple, and it will forever be taken care of,” she said.