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Utah is referred to as the Beehive State due to the symbol of the beehive being associated with the state, including its use on the state flag. The beehive is considered to be synonymous with industry and perseverance, since bees are famously hard workers, toiling almost endlessly for the well being of the hive and the bees living within it. Similarly, the early settlers in Utah, primarily members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church and Mormon Church, saw the beehive as the perfect symbol to indicate their industriousness and hard work. This association with hard work and the industriousness of bees is also why the state motto is “Industry.”
The symbolism and use of the term “Beehive State” dates back almost as long as the founding of the territory by early pioneers. Following the death of Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS Church, Brigham Young emerged as the new leader and wanted to find a new place in which to help his followers grow and develop. He led many church members west from Illinois and ended up in Utah, where he and thousands of pioneers established new towns.
Almost immediately, the image of the beehive and of industriousness became synonymous with those pioneers and their efforts to build a new life for themselves. Even prior to becoming a state, the territory was often referred to as the provisional State of Deseret, which is said to be a word from the Book of Mormon meaning “honey bee.” The term “Deseret” is still used often in Mormon businesses and practices, and Utah developed as the Beehive State after admittance into the United States (US) in 1896.
It was not until 4 March 1959 that the official state symbol for Utah was established as the beehive, but even prior to that it was often referred to as the Beehive State. The beehive was on the state seal of Utah as soon as it became a state, as a carryover from earlier territorial symbolism. Utah was further established as the Beehive State in 1983 when a fifth-grade class effectively lobbied for the state insect to be established as the honey bee. The hard work and industry of honey bees as they build and support a beehive have become emblematic of the importance of industry and family often associated with the Beehive State.
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