Gov. Cox is again asking Utahns to pray for water — this time in ‘thanksgiving’

The ‘day of prayer’ declaration comes after a winter of unprecedented snowpack and two months after Republican Gov. Spencer Cox declared a state of emergency in response to flooding.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Snow covers the east side Utah Capitol marble lions decorated for the holidays known as Fortitude and Integrity on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox is declaring July 2, 2023, “a day of prayer and thanksgiving,” asking Utahns to come back together in prayer “to show gratitude for the water-filled year."

First, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox asked Utahns to pray for rain. Two years later, record-breaking snowfall and flooding sent the state back to its knees.

Now the Republican governor is declaring Sunday, July 2, “a day of prayer and thanksgiving,” asking faith leaders — and the rest of the state — to come back together in prayer “to show gratitude for the water-filled year,” a news release said.

“Whereas, by praying collaboratively and collectively and asking our higher powers for more snow and rain, Utah received record-breaking snowfall this winter season and ideal spring runoff circumstances;” reads the declaration issued Thursday, continuing, “and, Whereas, we want to express our gratitude and appreciation for the water our state has received.”

In the springs of 2021 and 2022, Cox declared back-to-back drought emergencies. The state’s Great Salt Lake shrunk to an all-time low last summer, and its future was looking grim.

As winter rolled around and snow began to fall, it kept falling and piled far higher than expected. In April, Cox declared another state of emergency — this time for flooding. In response, he convened the Legislature in a special session last month to pull together tens of millions of dollars to reduce, and eventually address, expected flood damage.

Runoff into Great Salt Lake, meanwhile, has raised its water level multiple feet. Boats were lowered back into the saline lake at the beginning of June.

But it will take multiple years of winters like the last before the lake’s ecosystem recovers, and toxic dust stops blowing off the dried lakebed.

People work to protect homes into the night along 1700 South in Salt Lake City from the rising flow of Emigration Creek through Wasatch Hollow Park on Wednesday, April 12, 2023. As rapid snowmelt and possible April showers stoke fears of heavy flooding in the Northern Plains, state officials are announcing flood response plans, and residents are assembling thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of sandbags to combat floods themselves. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Cox acknowledges that there’s still a lot of work to do in addressing Utah’s lingering water crisis. In a statement included in Thursday’s news release, he said, “I believe prayer can be a powerful tool. ... I also believe that people who pray for water will conserve water, and we need to continue to conserve.”

The call for more prayers comes after the governor’s office recently asked each department in the executive branch to establish written content review policies “consistent with provided principles and best practices.” Following that ask, records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune show one department head directed his team to delete a social media post related to LGBTQ+ Pride.

A note to staff explaining the decision indicated that the director — a recent Cox appointee — “would like us to be ‘agnostic.’” The director told The Tribune that the policy includes religious holidays, too.