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Mormon History, Settling the West

Settling The West: 1846-1900

Before his death Joseph Smith taught that there was "a place of safety preparing for [the Saints] away towards the Rocky Mountains."1 So when persecutions grew severe Brigham Young began preparing the Saints to leave Nauvoo and travel west. The journey was planned for the spring of 1846 but because of mob threats the Saints left Nauvoo in February.

Because of the harsh winter weather and unschooled teams "it took the Saints 131 days to travel the 310 miles from Nauvoo to the settlements in western Iowa where they would pass the winter of 184647 and prepare for their trek to the Rocky Mountains." 2 Many died along the way and during the stay at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. But because of the experience the Mormon pioneers gained the crossing of the 1,000 miles to the Salt Lake Valley took only about 111 days.

While the Saints were in Iowa, Army recruiters requested a battalion of men to serve in the Mexican War. Needing the money the army paid, 541 men joined and formed the Mormon Battalion. These men suffered as they marched to California, but never engaged in battle.

The first group of Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. "As President Young looked over the scene, he gave his prophetic benediction to their travels: 'It is enough. This is the right place.'"3

Over the next two decades, approximately 62,000 Saints would follow them across the prairies in wagons and handcarts to gather to Zion.

Most of the wagon and handcart companies reached the Salt Lake Valley successfully. But one of the tragic stories in Mormon history is that of the Martin and Willie handcart companies along with the Hunt and Hodgett's wagon trains. These groups left late and were caught in early snowstorms. Many of them perished before being rescued by men from the Salt Lake Valley.

After the Saints reached Utah they began building cities and farming the land. Then next year a horde of crickets descended upon the new crops but the crops were spared as flocks of seagulls devoured the crickets.

Because of the importance of temples in Mormon belief President Young selected a site for a new Mormon temple only four days after reaching the valley. The Salt Lake Temple took forty years to complete and stands as a testament of the faith of the Saints.

In 1852, Mormon missionaries were called go to on missions to countries throughout the world. They faced little success but sowed seeds for future missionary efforts.

Polygamy had been introduced by Joseph Smith and practiced by some members of the Church, but because of persecution from the government the Lord commanded members in 1890, to discontinue the practice.

By 1900, the Mormons had colonized almost 500 cities throughout the western United States, Canada, and Mexico. They had overcome the persecutions they faced and as the famous Mormon pioneer hymn proclaimed "All [was] well." 4

(1) Ronald K. Esplin, "'A Place Prepared': Joseph, Brigham and the Quest for Promised Refuge in the West," Journal of Mormon History vol.9 [1982], 90

(2) 35448, Our Heritage, 6: Faith in Every Footstep, Preparing to Leave Nauvoo, Winter Quarters

(3) 35448, Our Heritage, 6: Faith in Every Footstep, Preparing to Leave Nauvoo, This Is the Right Place

(4) Clayton, William. Come, Come, Ye Saints. LDS Hymnbook.

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