Additional Resource

Mormon Settlement Grows Despite Weather, Sagebrush and Flood

Though the Upper Snake River Valley claimed a glimpse of the striking Teton Mountain range and easily accessible water, the overall geographic conditions presented a stiff challenge to early Mormon settlers. The weather proved imposing; the surrounding acreage was filled with sagebrush. Yet, armed with the words of a senior leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an ample supply of pioneer perseverance, those settlers endured and founded Rexburg, Idaho, now known as “America’s Family Community.”

When the challenging circumstances of building a community wore thin, locals held on to the promises issued in 1884 by Elder Wilford Woodruff, then an apostle of the Church:

The Spirit of the Lord rests mightily upon me and I feel to bless you in the name of Jesus Christ.  I promise you that the climate will be moderated for your good. I can see these great sagebrush prairies, as far as the eye can reach, turned into fertile fields. I bless the land that it shall yield forth in its strength. Flowers and trees and fine homes shall grace this valley from one end to the other. Schools and colleges of higher learning shall be built to serve you that you may learn the mysteries of God’s great universe. I see churches and meetinghouses dotting the landscape, where the God of Israel may be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Yes, and as I look into the future of this great valley I can see temples — I can see beautiful temples erected to the name of the living God.

Enduring life in Rexburg meant hard work in every sense, but settlers banded together and cemented a community. That community spirit grew and survived the turmoil of the Depression, the aftermath of World War II, and eventually, the devastation of the 1976 Teton Dam flood. Former Rexburg mayor John C. Porter noted, “I don’t recommend a flood to anyone, but there’s no question that some positive things have happened because of the flood.”

Rexburg, as a community, rebounded following the flood to flourish with rebuilding and rededication.

As Rexburg has grown and expanded, so has the education institution in its midst, BYU-Idaho. From the 1888 Bannock Stake Academy housed in the local church through several name changes and varied academic definitions, the school now offers a full four-year university experience to students from many parts of the world.

In speaking to those students and to the community, President Henry B. Eyring explained: “Latter-day Saint pioneers came to this place for the Lord. They built this school in their poverty. The people here have treated all they had as the Lord’s and always counted it as enough. Because of that faithful obedience and sacrifice, I certify the Lord has poured out His Spirit here.”

A spirit of love and service thrives in Rexburg today, a spirit that acknowledges the fulfillment of Woodruff’s prophecy with a temple in its boundaries, a thriving economic circumstance and a vibrant institution of higher learning.

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