As a college sophomore, I had the opportunity to visit New York City. I was impressed with many of the historic buildings we saw as we walked the streets of this iconic city. St. Patrick’s Cathedral particularly moved me. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated just the November before, and the church’s pews, windows, and walls were draped in black. The sight moved me, and I was surprised that such a historic building held such emotion for me.
Several years ago, my sister, Jan, invited Jane, her twin, and me to visit the Biltmore estate in Ashville, North Carolina. It was in November, and the historic mansion was filled with Christmas trees, many twenty and thirty feet tall. The turn of the century building was and probably still is one of America’s most beautiful buildings ever constructed. The interior was breathtaking and represented the finest craftsmanship in American history. Still, more importantly, it tells the story of one of the wealthiest families in our country’s history: the Vanderbilts. This luxurious building represented their courage, entrepreneurial spirit, and love of the American dream. I came home and researched the Vanderbilts and was inspired by all they had done for themselves, but more importantly, for America.
Why are old buildings of any kind important to the citizens of their community? They represent a history that anchors people to their ancestors. With despair, I remember the destruction of our beloved tabernacle in Lehi. Its spires were the first thing seen in Lehi as we rounded the Point of the Mountain and looked upon Utah Valley years ago. Important church meetings were held in that building, and the Old Folks in Lehi held their annual get-together in the basement. The main chapel had a solid maple stage and velvet draperies. Its sloping floor allowedeveryone in the back to see the rostrum and stage. Everybody in Lehi loved that building. It gave us an identity.
A recent study by BYU researchers (Hill, Haydon, et al.)discovered that family history knowledge is linked to healthy adolescent identity development. The more youth knew about their parents and grandparents, the better. Haydon summarized, “Although intuitively the idea that knowing family history can strengthen individual and family identity feels right, anecdotal evidence also suggests this. We felt it was important to provide empirical evidence to support that proposition and to underpin applied ancestry youth programs.” Specifically, the study(published in the journal Genealogy) found that family history knowledge is linked to healthy adolescent identity development. The more youth knew about their parents and grandparents, the better.” (Rachel Sterzer Gibson, Church News, 12 March, 2023).
What does this information, both anecdotal and empirical, teach us? We recognize the value of historical buildings and the stories they tell. Their presence affirms our history and connections to the lives of those who came before. Our children grow up knowing the trials and victories of their ancestors. Lehi leaders must prioritize keeping and maintaining the few historic buildings left. As one respondent commented on a recent Lehi survey, “I love the historic feel of Lehi.” I do, too. Let’s instill a love and reverence for our community’s history for our children’s benefit now and in the future.