Proposed statue is really about history
This letter is in response to Chuck Russell's letter of March 8. Mr. Russell has the mistaken idea that the Yuma City Council is promoting a specific religion by allowing a bronze statue in the West Wetlands Park commemorating the Mormon Battalion.
First, Mr. Russell, I want you to know I'm not Mormon, nor do I agree with or believe any of the Mormon teachings. What I do believe in is history and anyone's impact on it. The simple fact is, the Mormon Battalion played a huge part in the settling of the West.
A group of 543 men were recruited by the U.S. Army in Iowa and their march of 2,000 miles across the West is still one of the longest military marches in history. The Mormon Battalion forged the first road across the western region, which became a route for thousands of pioneers, treasure seekers and others headed to California during the gold rush. Roads and trails blazed by the Mormon Battalion later became the Butterfield Overland Stage Route, which carried U.S. mail and thousands of passengers across Arizona and California. Without the Army of the West, settlement of the West surely would not have occurred at the rapid rate that it did.
The Yuma City Council's agreement to honor these men is no more an approval or promotion of their religion than every state that has turned many Catholic missions into state parks and historical monuments. There is one big difference between the missions and the Army of the West. Fathers Kino, DeAnza, Garces and others were here with the sole purpose of converting the Native American and Mexican settlers to Catholicism and were not here under the auspices and support of the U.S. Army and the federal government.
Much of this country's history is rooted in religion in some form or fashion, be it an effort to escape persecution from practicing it or attempts to spread ones particular beliefs and faith. Whether it was the Mormons or the Catholics, both groups played an important part in this country's growth as a nation. Any government's attempt to honor that is simply a commendation of that contribution and not an approval of their beliefs.