The Blog @
Southern Virginia University
  1. Pioneer Day!

    July 24, 2014

    July 24 is an important day for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world. We celebrate Pioneer Day, when Brigham Young reached the Great Salt Lake Valley with the first of many wagon trains to cross the plains.

    What led up to this arrival is an amazing story.

    Members of the Church left their beautiful city of Nauvoo, Illinois, and their temple there, because of increasing persecution. It just wasn’t safe to stay.

    Nauvoo_Temple_daguerreotype no date wiki

    Undated photo of the Nauvoo Temple (Wikipedia)

    The exodus began February 4, 1846, earlier than had been planned. The weather was beastly, and snow soon turned into heavy spring rains that left the rudimentary roads across Iowa impassible from the mud. Hosea Stout wrote on April 29, 1846, “This was an uncommonly wet rainy, muddy, miry disagreeable day. Very wet night last night the ground flooded in water[.]” Many of the people had left in such a hurry that they didn’t have necessary supplies. The majority of the pioneers were not country folk used to roughing it; they were townspeople: teachers, business- and tradesmen, so this difficult cross-country travel was a new and unpleasant experience for them.

    Leader Brigham Young set up a daily schedule for the wagon trains to attempt better organization:

    • 5 a.m. — bugle wake up, prayers, breakfast, cooking for the day
    • 7 a.m. — head out (Each teamster and extra men are to carry loaded weapons at all times.)
    • Noon — rest for the animals, cold dinner
    • 8:30 p.m. — cold supper, prayers
    • 9 p.m. — lights out

    Wagons circled at night, with the animals grazing inside the circle. Or if the animals grazed outside, guards were posted.

    They set up a way-station at Winter Quarters — near Omaha, Nebraska — to allow the people to rest, purchase wagons and supplies and prepare to make the trek across the plains. They had to carry everything they needed with them; there were no Walmarts or Lowe’s waiting at the end of their trip to resupply them.

    In early 1847, the first wagon trains headed out of Winter Quarters. Cooking on the trail was difficult. The women had to poke two forked sticks into the ground to hang the cookpot. Sometimes the sticks were not strong enough and the pot, food and all, would fall into the fire. People got used to eating food with ashes. The pioneers ate food that traveled well, such as bacon, beans, cheese, potatoes, bread, biscuits and dried fruit.

    After dinner, wagons were cleaned and bedding set out. This was the only time for washing and mending, too. Each evening, the animals had to be fed and watered and any necessary repairs to equipment made. Work never ended on the trail.


  2. Independence Day: Let Freedom Ring!

    July 2, 2014


    Everyone knows that we celebrate Independence Day on July 4 — with patriotic displays, parades, barbecues and fireworks — but it’s the wrong day, according to John Adams.

    John Adams wrote to Abigail that “The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the history of America,” because the Continental Congress voted for Independence on July 2.

    Here are some interesting Independence Day facts:

    • Not all states voted for independence that day — New York’s delegates abstained because they hadn’t been given permission by their state to vote on the question of independence. They approved the action of the Continental Congress July 9.

    Independence Hall

    Independence Hall (National Park Service photo)

    • The Declaration of Independence was officially signed August 2, 1776.

    John Trumball Declaration

    John Trumbull painting in the U.S. Capitol (Architect of the U.S. Capitol photo)

    • This is what the room looks like today. Not exactly as we saw it in the movie “National Treasure.”

    Independence Hall room

    Signing room (National Park Service photo)

    • In 1776, there were about 2.5 million residents of this new country. Now there are more than 310 million residents.
    • The “Dunlap Broadside,” or original printed version of the Declaration of Independence, consisted of 200 copies. Only 26 have been accounted for.
    • Independence Day has been celebrated since 1777 but didn’t become a federal holiday until 1870.

    loud bangs

    So this Friday, be sure to celebrate! My favorite part is the fireworks — the louder, the better. If you’re in Buena Vista for the summer, check out the annual ballon rally and firework show at the Virginia Military Institute.

    Some Von Canon Library resources about our declaration for independence:


    “Founding Mothers: the women who raised our nation”
    by Cokie Roberts

    “The annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence”
    edited by Jack Rakove

    “Foreign affairs and the Founding Fathers: from Confederation to Constitution, 1776-1787″
    by Norman A. Graebner

    “The faiths of the Founding Fathers”
    by David L. Holmes


    “John Adams”
    HBO Films (DVD)

    Columbia Pictures (DVD)

    “A More Perfect Union”
    BYU Productions


    “Suicide Pact: 56 men put their lives on the line by signing the Declaration of Independence”
    by William Hogeland
    American History August 2013

    “When in the course of human events it became necessary to celebrate July 4th”
    by James R. Heintze
    Phi Kappa Phi Forum
    Summer 2009

    (Post by Melissa Davis. Photos by Melissa Davis and Eryn Davis.)

  3. Zion’s Camp 2014: Week One

    July 1, 2014

    When I sat down to write a post on Zion’s Camp last year, I was at a bit of a loss. I hadn’t really been involved with the camp myself. In order to genuinely describe it, I ended up interviewing my younger brother who had attended. Since then, my brother has repeatedly told me how much he enjoyed the camp, piquing my curiosity. When Jordan was assigned to photograph as much of the Zion’s Camp activities as possible, I offered to help him out just so I could tag along and see what was going on.

    I wasn’t disappointed. The purpose of Zion’s Camp is to prepare youth to serve as missionaries, and from my perspective it was the perfect place to do just that. As they arrived, each participant was sorted into a district by putting on a magic hat. Wait, that was Hogwarts; I’m always getting that confused. What I meant is that when the youth arrived at Zion’s Camp, they each received a “mission call” that assigned them to a district and to a companion. Each district was named after a country (France, Korea, Mexico, and England) so that these future missionaries could prepare as if they already had received a call.

    Every day was filled with activities. There were district and zone meetings where they discussed the Gospel and how it can be taught. There were opportunities to practice teaching with investigators. One morning they hiked up a mountain where, after a wonderful devotional, they each spent a little time alone with the Spirit. They played all sorts of games where they learned to have fun and work together. They learned, as Elaine S. Dalton, former Young Women General President, taught in General Conference a few years ago, that not only can they do hard things, but that “in the strength of the Lord, [they] can do all things.”

    While they were on campus, each district stayed in one of the modular houses at Carriage. My favorite part of each day was when all the participants went back to their houses to make dinner. Jordan and I would go to photograph them and we’d have some time to talk with them and get to know them. What impressed me were the districts that would work together to make dinner. You could feel the love they had for each other and for the Gospel that bound them together.

    I’m glad that I got to get a closer look at Zion’s Camp. I can’t wait until the other sessions later this summer. Here’s a shoutout to all the future missionaries who participated. You guys are awesome! Thanks for being willing and worthy to carry on the work of the Gospel.

    (Post by Alec Johnson ’13. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)

  4. Photos & Videos: Commencement

    June 30, 2014

    We enjoyed a beautiful Commencement on May 8, 2014, with addresses by Elaine S. Dalton and three graduating seniors. View their speeches and a Commencement video below.

    Commencement 2014 Video

    Elaine S. Dalton

    Valedictorian George Ryan Sloan

    Salutatorian Sariah Benson Rodriguez

    Senior Speaker Gregory J. Turner

    (Post by Hannah King ’13. Photos by Brinn Willis ’07, Jordan Wunderlich ’16, Hysen Justo, and Hannah King ’13. Videos by John Worthington ’13.)

  5. Throwback Thursday on Friendship Lane

    June 19, 2014


    Yeah, that’s right. You’re looking at a photo of a bunch of college kids standing around a street sign that reads, “Friendship Lane.” This was the summer of 2010, and I think we were on our way back from The Cheese Shop, which may explain why we took such a cheesy photo. That summer was so much fun. Nothing really monumental happened — I mean, we stopped by Foamhenge, but that’s more of a faux monument — but it was all the little things we did as friends that made it so memorable.

    One day we hiked from Lexington to BV. Some of us had a Toy Story marathon which culminated in going to the theaters to see the newly released Toy Story 3 (which is still my favorite movie by the way). A bunch of us were regular participants in yoga club. Many of my friends were in the summer musical, “Annie, Get Your Gun.” I was a FHE group leader in the summer ward, and we had great activities, including when we ambushed another FHE group with water balloons and they totally soaked us in retaliation. A thousand such memories cloak those months in an aura of magical nostalgia.

    Today, everyone in that photo has graduated. (Actually, I think they’re withholding my diploma until I pay all those library fines, but it’s close enough.) It’s amazing to look back and see how far I’ve come in four years. There are many things I appreciate about Southern Virginia University. The liberal arts education, the spiritual environment, the opportunities to participate, the small classes and personal attention from professors are a few of these things. But what makes me truly love this place are the friendships I’ve made since coming here.

    (Post by Alec Johnson ’14.)