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Marker memorializes 'ensign to nations'

Ensign Peak, the mountain landmark from which Brigham Young raised "an ensign to the nations" two days after he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, was memorialized July 21 with a marker dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency.

President Ezra Taft Benson attended the dedication ceremony, along with members of his family. He is a great-grandson of Ezra T. Benson, an early Church apostle who was with Brigham Young when the pioneer leader surveyed on July 26, 1847, the valley of the Great Salt Lake from the peak located north of Salt Lake City.The Salt Lake City Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers erected the marker, located on a grassy tract between the Utah State Capitol and the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum to the west. Standing before the marker, one can gaze directly at the peak, about a mile to the north.

More than 50 years ago on July 26, 1934, a monument was placed on Ensign Peak. Designed by George Cannon Young, grandson of Brigham Young, the monument, which was 18.47 feet high, was later destroyed by vandals.

Preston W. Parkinson, chairman of the marker committee, said the site for the new marker was selected because it provided a good view of the peak and because its location could afford the marker protection from vandalism.

An inscription on the new marker reads in part: " . . . Two days after the Mormon Pioneers entered this valley, Brigham Young and party climbed to that point, and with the aid of field glasses, made a careful survey of the mountains, canyons and streams. In addition to Brigham Young, the party included Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Ezra Taft Benson, Willard Richards, Albert Carrington and William Clayton.

"Wilford Woodruff was the first to ascend the peak, Brigham Young the last, due to a recent illness. It was suggested that this would be a fitting place to set up an ensign for the nations' where the Lordshall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth,' as foretold in Isaiah 11:12. It was then named Ensign Peak, and in later years a standard was erected on its summit."

Descendants of seven of the eight men who stood on the peak on that occasion attended the July 21 dedication ceremony.

"To me it's a thing of wonder," President Hinckley said in his address, "that this little group of outcasts, who had traveled all the way to this dry valley, as it must have appeared in July, would stand on this peak, and in terms of the words of Isaiah, declare an ensign to the nations."

The message, he noted, went to the nations of the earth, bringing "inspiration, consolation and strength concerning the great, remarkable plan and wonderful works of our Eternal God."

"It was a wonderful thing they did," he added, "when they placed an ensign, perhaps only by the waving of a bandanna or handkerchief from the pocket of Wilford Woodruff, up on the peak to the north of us."

Dean L. May, professor of history at the University of Utah, outlined some of the history relating to Ensign Peak. He said it became sacred to the Mormon people, not for its comeliness but because it symbolized the "spirit of international outreach and the ancient promise that here, one could learn the ways of God."

Tens of thousands of converts to the Church immigrated to the Mountain West from other parts of the world because of the ideals symbolized by Ensign Peak, he said.

May noted that the Latter-day Saints, in their poverty, dedicated Ensign Peak as a place to perform the sacred endowment ceremony until the Endowment House could be built.