Building Zion

The Foundation of My Fathers

Parley Pratt was seeking God's word. He devoured the Book of Mormon and went looking for its author, Joseph Smith. His family became Mormons, including his brother, Orson—my great-great-great grandfather. Orson Pratt was one of the first two Mormons to enter Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The Mormons were headed west to make the desert blossom and build Zion. Parley and Orson were called among the first of the modern Twelve Apostles.

John Taylor and his wife, Leonora, found Mormonism in Canada and began to share it. John took a letter from Leonora to her brother George Cannon, in England. George read the Book of Mormon, propped at his joiner's bench, in a week. He judged that an evil-minded man could not have written the book, and a good man would not have written it with intent to deceive. George took his family to Nauvoo. Along the way, his wife Ann died, and he died not too long after. Their children cared for each other and moved west with the Mormons fleeing the mobs. They went to build Zion. John became the third President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. George and Ann's oldest son, George Q., became a prominent Apostle for the whole church. My great-great grandfather, Angus Cannon, was a Stake President over hundreds of families, for many years. There is still Cannon Stake named after him.

Names of my ancestors pop up throughout LDS Church history, with a grandfather and an uncle in Carthage Jail when Joseph and Hyrum were murdered. Others settled towns from southern Utah up to southern Idaho, befriending the American Indians and blasting canals through solid rock to water their crops. Others built the first iron foundry in Utah. Others helped build the beautiful, pioneer temples. The first Mormon scientist was one. Many were farmers. In my Grandma Cannon's line there were teachers, with a school named after Great-Grandpa Knowlton in a small city north of Salt Lake. A beautiful copy of The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith sits on my shelf with the name George Q. Knowlton written in the cover. I remember the day Grandma Dorothy gave it to me. I was 23 or 24, recently back from my own mission. I had driven two and a half hours to visit Grandma for a day or two. We were looking at her paintings, and I saw the book. I told Grandma how much I loved it. She told me to take it.

Along with the memories of my own mission to Italy, the stories of faith and sacrifice from my family who sent missionaries all over the world to share the message of Mormonism are more than I can hope to remember. Through all the faith and falling away, was the unifying thread that we were all on the inevitable journey toward a future, glorious Zion—whether we were building it, or fighting it. I wanted to build it. To be among those obedient to God and His Prophets. To be ready for the days of peace and unity, freedom from sickness and fear, and universal submission to the divine rule of Christ. I wanted to be there.

I still do.