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Latter-day Saint employees are an essential part of many companies’ workforces yet often receive little dedicated attention as a demographic group. One way to create a greater sense of belonging for Latter-day Saint employees is by acknowledging and sharing educational resources about Pioneer Day, a Latter-day Saint Holiday, as part of your organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy. 

Additionally, you should also ensure that people of all religions, spiritualities, and cultural backgrounds, including Latter-day Saints, are protected by your company’s systems and policies. That means ensuring that your non-discrimination policy explicitly covers religious beliefs.

Acknowledging and celebrating Pioneer Day (and other diversity holidays) is important because it shows respect for diverse people and helps create a culture of inclusion where people can be their full selves at work. 

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The History Behind the Latter-day Saint Holiday, Pioneer Day

The celebration of Pioneer Day in Utah can be traced back to June 24, 1847.  On that day, pioneers arrived in Salt Lake City after a long and challenging journey from Nauvoo, Illinois. After suffering a brutal winter in Wyoming, they made their way to Great Salt Lake Valley. 

In 1849, Brigham Young declared July 24 an annual day of rest from work for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Initially, Latter-day Saints celebrated it on July 20, a date designated by church founder Joseph Smith as a day of thanksgiving for deliverance from persecution. However, local leaders soon asked permission to change the date because of weather issues and agricultural concerns. It wasn’t until 1856 that church leadership granted permission and moved the holiday to a Sunday so that nonmembers could celebrate pioneer heritage. 

Who Celebrates Pioneer Day?

It’s a common misconception that only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) celebrate Pioneer Day. While it’s true that many Latter-day Saints do celebrate with parades, picnics, family gatherings, and parties, many people of other faiths also recognize the day in Utah (where one-third of Latter-day Saints reside) and beyond. 

How Do Latter-day Saints Celebrate It?

The LDS Church encourages members to mark the day with prayer, scripture study, service to others, music, dance or other appropriate activities. And many Latter-day Saints across Utah also participate in parades.

A significant event occurs at Nauvoo, Illinois — the site of an early Latter-day Saint settlement — with large celebrations on July 24th–26th. Latter-day Saint members also hold community events throughout Salt Lake City at Temple Square, downtown Salt Lake City, and many parks. 

Historical reenactments about migration westward from Nauvoo are also common, along with displays of arts and crafts typical of nineteenth-century pioneers. These activities typically take place between June 26 and August 31st.

Why Should Employers Acknowledge the Day Within Their Organizations?

Consider acknowledging Pioneer Day on your social media channels and in your internal newsletter. Ask team members who celebrate Pioneer Day if they might be willing to share their experience, and be sure to share reputable learning resources for employees to continue their learning. 

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Tommy is a freelance writer and editor-in-chief for HBCU Buzz.

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