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Krista Cook

Pioneer Day: The Only Mormon Holiday

By July 24, 2013

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July 24 is Pioneer Day in Utah. A state holiday, it is the closest thing we have to a Mormon holiday.  Celebrated with parades, historical reenactments, and of course, food and fun, Mormons world wide reflect on their pioneer heritage and the sacrifices they made on our behalf.

One of my ancestors, Thomas Bullock, was part of that original 1847 pioneer wagon train into the valley. In addition, he clerked for early LDS leaders, documented the pioneer trek to the west and many other things. He also transcribed early sermons and teachings. He left a lasting legacy

Unfortunately, instead of reflecting on what he did do, this year I am reminded of what he did not do. He did not do Pitman Shorthand. Pitman Shorthand is 19th century shorthand. Why is this important? Well, all of Bullock's notes were incomplete. He used a sort of personal shorthand that could only document portions of sermons.

Someone skilled in Pitman Shorthand can record things verbatim, not just portions. If Thomas Bullock had known Pitman Shorthand, we would have the complete text of the King Follett sermon. Instead we have fragments compiled from the notes of at least four different note takers, one of them Bullock.

King Follett died a few months before Joseph Smith, our founding prophet. Smith preached a legendary sermon at Follett's funeral that remains controversial, only because the exact text does not exist.

Back then, we needed someone who could write in Pitman Shorthand. Nowadays, we need someone who can read it. LaJean Purcell Carruth can. Self-taught, and employed in the Church Historian's Office, she transcribes early church teachings lost to us for over a century.

Because of her work on the Lost Sermons Project, in the future we can celebrate Pioneer Day with a better understanding of the men and women who gave us so much.

Tell us how you will be celebrating Pioneer Day this year.

Image courtesy of Bullock family descendants. Thomas Bullock and Henrietta Rushton Bullock, his first of three wives. I descend from her. Please write in if you know anything more about this photo.

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