One nice thing about holidays is that it forces us to remember the reason for the day. Generally, any holiday has activities to help us remember the origin of that holiday.
God understands the nature of human beings, after all, he made us. That is why He gave the Israelites many holidays and festivals to observe. He wanted them to REMEMBER the PURPOSES for the holidays. As an example, when the Jews celebrate Passover they remember the miracle of their leaving Egypt—and honor the God who delivered them.
The Passover holiday could be very analogous to the early pioneers in Utah. We also had a miraculous event happen which was taken as a sign God was looking out for his people. Do you remember the story of the crickets and the seagulls? In fact, when was the last time you heard that story? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a holiday for just this miraculous event? Sure, we have Pioneer Day on July 24th with its rodeos and parade and fireworks, but the Miracle of the Gulls has been overlooked in Pioneer Day events. We have a monument, the Seagull Monument, located on Temple Square in Salt Lake City which commemorates this event. And because of this event, the California Gull is Utah’s state bird. But the story isn’t connected with Pioneer Day anymore.
In 1848, it was a time of intense faith and prayer because the very existence of the 4,000 pioneers in the valley of the great Salt Lake was in jeopardy. Having been here less than one year, the people planted their spring crops of corn, wheat, and garden vegetables to have food to survive the coming winter.
At a critical time when the crops were growing in late May, the crickets came! Not just a few, but tons of them—tens of thousands! It was an invasion. As large as three inches long and traveling more than a mile a day as they advanced in swarms. Unable to fly and cannibalistic in nature they ate everything in front of them, including other crickets and ALL crops. Vanishing before the eyes of the pioneers was their future. With their food gone, they would be gone. The settlers tried everything humanly possible to stop those “Mormon” crickets, as they are called today. Shovels, ditches and even fire, but to no avail. Thousands upon thousands of crickets kept advancing and eating everything in sight.
Then the pioneers turned to their last hope—their God. They knelt in fervent prayer, sincere and desperate were their feelings. They wondered, “Did God guide them to this valley only to have them extinguished through starvation?” “ No,” they reasoned and continued to work to save themselves and cry for help from God. After many days of the insect plague, God did help them—in the form of seagulls! They were rescued from an enemy to their existence just like the Israelites. It was the early part of June when the gulls came, swept up mouthfuls of crickets, drank water, regurgitated, and went back for more. This continued each day for about three weeks until the crickets were gone.
But why then the crickets? With all the other problems the pioneers had in establishing themselves in a foreign place, why this one? What would you think the reason could be?
I believe God needed to remind them of their relationship to Him as His covenant people. DO NOT FORGET JESUS CHRIST was the message. Your very existence—both temporal and spiritual— depends on your Savior. The same message He gave the Israelites when He delivered them from their enemy of extinction, Pharaoh and the Egyptian army. And deliver His people He did, both times, then and now— with a miracle!
The Jews remember their miracle in Egypt with a holiday, the Passover. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could remember ours with a specially named holiday? Perhaps even—Seagull Day!
Exodus 12:14 “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”