SALT LAKE CITY — It was 125 years ago today that Utah officially became a state.
On Jan. 4, 1896, President Grover Cleveland signed an order making us the 45th state.
There were terms and conditions — Utah had to forever give up the practice of polygamy (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did so in 1890). Women had the right to vote, which was not the same across the rest of the nation. Slavery also remained a contentious issue. Congress also did not like the name "Deseret," which came from The Book of Mormon and means "honeybee," nor did they support an all-Mormon government.
So it was renamed to "Utah" after the Ute Tribe that was here before Mormon pioneers arrived.
Originally, the state of Deseret would have encompassed what is now Utah, but also parts of Nevada and Arizona, California, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Idaho.
Historical accounts from the time show that upon news of statehood, people rushed into the streets in "pandemonium." Celebrations were held in subsequent days. See a photo gallery of statehood celebrations from the time here.
Statehood day celebrations this year will be a little different. Crowds are discouraged because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There will still be fireworks, and FOX 13 is broadcasting a special about statehood Monday at 6:30pm.
Coincidentally, last year the Utah State Legislature decriminalized polygamy in a bill that makes bigamy among consenting adults an infraction. But the sponsor of that bill, now Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, told FOX 13 in an interview on Saturday it will not undermine Utah's statehood.
"Even with the laws we passed last year, decriminalizing it, it’s still illegal," she explained. "What we tried to do with that is to make sure that people who practice polygamy aren't feeling like they’re outcasts in society. That they’re not feeling like they can’t go to police, for example, if there’s a problem or can’t go to the doctor because they live in fear that they’re going to be prosecuted for a felony."