Building on Utah’s pioneer-era ties with Iceland

Jun 14, 2024, 7:43 PM | Updated: 7:49 pm

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — A Utah delegation visited Iceland to explore the possibilities of using the state’s geothermal energy. And during the trip, the delegation found a pioneer-era tie with the Land of Fire and Ice.

In searching for lessons for a Utah clean energy future, many introductions were made, and symbolic exchanges were given. But a deep tie between Iceland and Utah’s pioneer history came out several times, including during a visit with the nation’s president, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

President Jóhannesson (left) speaking speaking to the Utah delegates who are visiting Iceland.

President Jóhannesson (left) speaking to the Utah delegates who are visiting Iceland. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

“He knew about Utah. He knew about the relationship (of) the first settlement of Icelanders in the United States was in Spanish Fork, Utah,” said Franz Kolb, the director of International Trade and Diplomacy for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.

While the President declined an interview, he shared his appreciation for the shared history and the story of about 400 converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who migrated to Utah. Most of them settled in Spanish Fork.

In 2005, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated a memorial to honor those Iceland emigrants.

The Icelander Lighthouse Monument of Spanish Fork in Utah.

The Icelander Lighthouse Monument of Spanish Fork in Utah. (KSL TV)

President Jóhannesson’s awareness of the emigrants’ story to Utah was likely due to being a historian before being encouraged to run for President in 2018.

“I’m very grateful to be here and to for me, it was very, very important from an international business and and diplomacy standpoint,” Kolb said.

Kolb said he was elated to meet President Jóhannesson and believes that Utah and Iceland will have a strong relationship, even after Jóhannesson steps down in the summer.

“In international relations, it’s not just one we learn from. First of all, we learn from each other. There will be a delegation from Iceland coming to Utah, in the near future,” he said.

A Utah delegate giving President Jóhannesson a gift.

A Utah delegate giving President Jóhannesson a gift. (Mike Anderson, KSL TV)

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Building on Utah’s pioneer-era ties with Iceland