Following the call of Brigham Young, Henry Holmes and thousands of Latter-day Saints poured into the Arizona Territory, building up what would become one of the more dense Church settlements.
Many Saints in the region had made their way across the plains, heading toward Zion. Once Salt Lake City had been established, however, Church leaders found it necessary to spread out the population among the intermountain state of “Deseret.”
With hopes and dreams of prosperity and fertile land, Saints left their loved ones and the security of the Salt Lake Valley to travel south to a bleak, unknown land. The strong Saints suffered encounters with snakes, small pox, and sand drifts. They trekked across pathways once journeyed by the Mormon Battalion and somehow found a way across the forbidding Grand Canyon. It took several days for companies to conquer the Little Colorado River, whether by fording it or by crossing on the ice.
Once companies established settlements in Tubac, Snowflake, St. Joseph, and other areas, the population of Saints in Arizona began to quickly add up. The development of towns with names like Lehi, Alma, and Fort Moroni can be credited to early pioneers of the Church. Snowflake was one of the most prosperous towns of Mormon origin. As of 1920, towns south of Snowflake didn’t sell tobacco in any form. Saints from Bear Lake County and Salt Lake County settled Mesa, a town about fifteen miles east of Phoenix.
Even in the early development of the Church in Arizona, the Saints looked forward to the building of a temple in the area. In 1887, Mrs. Helena Roseberry, a poor widow, was recorded to have donated five dollars toward the building of a temple. This example of the “widow’s mite” is repeated throughout LDS history in Arizona. The Mesa Arizona Temple was dedicated on October 23, 1927. Another temple, in Snowflake, was added in 2002.At around 331,000, the state of Arizona has the fifth highest population of Latter-day Saints and is home to 78 stakes, 610 wards, 62 branches, 4 missions, and 2 temples. Phoenix is the capital and heart of the state, rich with the history of its many peoples and cultures. From its red rocks to its amazing sunsets, Phoenix contains a natural beauty inaccessible in most cities. Use this guide to direct your trail across Phoenix and the mysteries it holds.
4 Places You Must See in Phoenix
The Mesa Temple
Just seventeen miles from the Phoenix International Airport, the Mesa Temple provides a haven for any weary traveler. Enjoy its beauty, inside and out, as you walk between the palm and citrus trees. If you’re in town over the Christmas holidays, make some time to see the Mesa Arizona Temple Garden Christmas Festival. In the spring, be sure to catch the Mesa Easter Pageant.
The Heard Museum
The mission of the Heard Museum is to educate people about the heritage of the living, Native-American cultures in the Southwest. It is home to a magnificent collection (32,000 pieces plus) of Southwestern art including a Navajo hogan, an Apache lean-to structure made of twigs and leaves, and room after room showcasing pottery, art, jewelry, and textiles. Admire and purchase the Indian masterpieces on display. It’s a great place for kids to be involved with hands-on, art-making activities.
Desert Botanical Garden
Looking for a way to bond with nature? Head down to the Desert Botanical Garden and see four thousand different species of cacti, trees, flowers, and succulents. Stroll along the “Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert” trail to learn about ways to save the environment. Let your kids enjoy playing the self-guided game “Desert Detective” while you find some plants for the garden. This collection of plants is not only large, but uniquely beautiful in that desert kind of way.
Arizona Science Center
This is a place for people of all ages to learn and have fun. The Center has over three hundred hands-on exhibits on science-related exploration. With exhibits that explore the human body, experiment with the basic forces, and exercise your mind, there is no end to discovering more about the world and its population. Visit the Dorrance Planetarium for some stargazing and pilot a simulated airplane flight for a thrill—a guaranteed fun experience for the whole family.Heritage Square
Heritage Square is located between 5th and 7th Streets in downtown Phoenix. This city-owned block has a parklike setting and contains the only remaining houses from the original Phoenix town site. Houses along Adams Street date back to early 1900s Victorian style. Also in this area are sights such as the Teeter House, The Stevens House’s, the Arizona Doll and Toy Museum, and the Thomas House and Baird Machine Shop, now a pizzeria. Heritage Square is the perfect place to enjoy a walk and see the some beautiful, classic architecture.
South Mountain Park
At a size of almost 17,000 acres, South Mountain Park is the world’s largest city park. Within its boundaries, hikers, bikers, and horseback riders enjoy a variety of outdoor fun. The park also includes a history of the Hohokam people and the gold-seekers. Search for ancient petroglyphs or a desert animal. Take a walk and admire the beauty this desert park has to offer. If kids have been cramped up in a car for too long, it’s a great place for them to release some of that pent up energy.
Celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright chose this six-hundred-acre space for his permanent winter residence, using the desert elements around him as inspiration for his architectural ideas. Now, as a National Historic Landmark, it is home to an active community of students and architects. There are two guided tours for the interior, as well as a guided desert walk with explanations of Wright’s landscape choice. Schedule a tour by calling (480) 860-2700 or visit [franklloydwright.org].
The Apache Trail
This 150-mile drive, praised by President Theodore Roosevelt as “the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful panorama nature ever created,” is just east of Phoenix. If you’re staying in Phoenix for a few days, take the time to drive through the wilderness on Arizona Highway 88. The winding and mostly unpaved road takes you past Theodore Roosevelt Lake, the Superstition Mountains, and Tonto National Forest. Find beauty in Fish Creek Canyon and head past the Apache Junction. While it is possible to make this trip in a day, it’s advisable to consider spending the night in Globe and continuing back to Phoenix the next day.
Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse
Wanna be a cowboy? With stunt shows, desert train rides, stagecoach rides, a petting ranch, bull riding, gold panning, rock climbing, and a working blacksmith shop, anybody can be a cowboy—at least for a day. Rides and attractions for all ages can keep your family busy for the whole afternoon. Finish up at the Sundown Cookout, but plan ahead: reservations are recommended. Visit [rawhide.com] for more information or to reserve a spot at the cookout.