After extensive renovation and technological enhancement, the newly reopened Mormon Battalion Historic Site operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially dedicated on Friday, 26 March 2010
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the new facility. He was accompanied by Elder Richard G. Hinckley and Elder Marlin K. Jensen, both of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Elder Hinckley oversees the Church’s Missionary Department and Elder Jensen serves as Church Historian.
“We acknowledge today a people who, in great measure because of their faith, were determined to show patriotic allegiance and a willingness to give military service to their country in spite of the persecution and treatment being received at the hand of the very government asking them to serve,” Elder Holland said.
Kevin Faulconer, a San Diego City Councilman also attended the dedication. “The Mormon Battalion is an important piece of old town San Diego,” he said. “We thank you and we commend you.”
The historic site tells the story of the Mormon Battalion, the only military unit based solely on religious affiliation in American history. With the United States involved in the Mexican-American War, President James K. Polk called for several hundred Mormon volunteers to march from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and then on to California on a one-year U.S. Army enlistment.
“All the men wanted to do was live their religion, worship God and provide for their families,” Elder Hinckley said. “If we tell that story right, in a human way with a human touch, I think it will make all the difference. It’s not just the interesting and fascinating and really marvelous technology; that helps us to tell the story. But the story is what we need to tell – with feeling.”
Leaving in July 1846, the Mormon Battalion marched some 2,000 miles in what would become one of the longest religious marches in U.S. history. Along the way, the battalion carved out a vital road for wagons through the American Southwest. After arriving in California six months later, the battalion assisted with construction projects that helped build up the San Diego community.
“This new center preserves and communicates a story of great historical significance, both to Latter-day Saints and to California,” Elder Jensen said. “The story of the Mormon Battalion is one that needs to be told. This group of ordinary people left behind a legacy of faith, courage, devotion to God, and dedication to country. That’s a legacy that resonates with all people.”
Located at 2510 Juan Street in San Diego, the exhibit formerly known as the Mormon Battalion Visitors’ Center reopened to visitors on January 30, 2010. At the revamped center, visitors can enjoy panning for gold, making bricks and wearing replica period clothing. Authentic artifacts are on display, including muskets, bricks from the foundation of the Old Town courthouse, and a canon that the battalion rolled across the United States. Volunteer guides, dressed in period clothing, also lead visitors on tours that employ cutting edge video technology to share the Mormon Battalion story.