The Mormons and the Settlement of the West

Thursday, January 16, 2014
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum
Mormon Pioneer Trail


Elliott West
Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, University of Arkansas

About the Seminar

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, popularly known as the Mormons, grew from a small sect in the 1830s to one of the world's great religions today. Its story, fascinating in its own right, reveals much about the United States, and especially the American West, in the 19th century. This seminar will follow the Mormon story from its beginning, with a divine revelation in the forests of western New York, to settlements in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and finally the “New Zion” around the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

We will explore the Mormons’ evolving beliefs, among them the controversial practice of polygamy, or plural marriage, and their conflicts, including the 1857 confrontation in Utah that some have called the “first American Civil War.” We will examine as well the church’s remarkable accomplishments, its role in western settlement and its ultimate reconciliation with the federal government and movement into the American mainstream.

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Assigned Readings

    The Birth of a Religion
    1. Palmyra New York Temple, First Vision Mural.
    2. "The Prpohet's Introduction," The History of Joseph Smith, The Prophet, by Himself, pp. 1-51.
    3. Melchizedek Priesthood, statue, by Avard T. Fairbanks,1960. Historical information about the statue.
    4. Scriptures, the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132.

    1. Oration by Sidney Rigdon, on July 4, 1838. Mormon "Declaration of Independence" against persecutors.
    2. "Extermination Order": Lilburn Boggs, Governor of Missouri, Executive Order 44, October 27, 1938.
    3. The History of the Saints, by John C. Bennett, 1842.
    4. Nauvoo Expositor, First and only issue: June 7, 1844.
    5. Martyrdom of Joseph and Hiram Smith in Carthage jail, June 27th, 1844.

    Exodus to Deseret
    1. Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake: Febuary 1846-July 1847 (zoomable). Click here for a printable pdf version of the map.
    2. Deseret maps.
    3. Mormon Handcart Pioneers, by Kimbal Warren.
    4. John Chislett Reminiscence of Handcart Migration of 1856.
    5. Irrigation. Brigham Young's houses, the Lion House and Beehive House (left). Mormon pioneers in Cache Valley, Utah, built the Logan/Hyde Park/Smithfield Canal in 1861-62 (right).

    1. The Mormon Octopus. Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society, Westminster College, 1898.
    2. Remnant of Jacob ("Third Nephi: The Book of Nephi: the Son of Nephi, Who Was the Son of Helaman).
    3. Polygamy cartoon.
    4. Correspondence from The Utah Expedition 1857-1858.

    The Utah War
    1. "Proclamation by the Governor," from The Utah Expedition 1857-1858.
    2. Poem composed at the approach of U.S. Army on Utah, by James Martineau diary, September 28, 1857.
    3. Mount Meadow Massacre. 57th Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives. Document No. 605.

    1. Excavating to build the railroad. Photograph.
    2. Manifesto ending the sanction of plural marriage. by Wilford Woodruff, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.