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Describe the Mormons.

Mormons are members of a particular sect within the Christian church. The Mormon doctrine was first expounded in 1830 by a farmer called Joseph Smith.


What are the origins of the Mormon Church?

The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith. He claimed to have been visited by the Angel Moroni in 1827 who told him where he could find golden plates that Smith would translate and publish as the Book of Mormon. Smith won many followers, but also angered others who accused him of fraud and blasphemy. By 1831 the Mormon Church had more than 1,000 followers, and Smith decided to move them to set up a City of God.


Describe the main stages of the Mormon travels across America.

- 1831 - Kirtland, Ohio
A new start away from New York State, where Joseph Smith lived.
In 1832, Smith was tarred and feathered by locals. In 1837 economic depression caused the bank he had founded to go bankrupt, and the Mormons were driven out altogether.
- 1837 Missouri
An area where few people lived, so offered some sanctuary.
The Mormons were attacked by mobs, and an extermination order was issued by Governor Boggs. The Mormons angered people by speaking out against slavery and in favour of Native American rights.
- 1839 Nauvoo, Illinois
A swamp area, which most settlers avoided.
The Mormons were hated by the locals, especially when Smith began to sanction polygamy. In 1844, Smith was killed by a mob.
1847 - Great Salt Lake
Described as an 'unpopulous' country where 'a good living will require hard labour, and consequently will be coveted by no other people'.


Why were the Mormons hated?

- Many Christians thought the new religion was 'contemptible gibberish'.
- People disliked the Mormon belief that they could have more than one wife.
- The Mormons cut themselves off from ordinary people ('the Gentiles').
- A group of Mormons called the Danites attacked Gentiles, and robbed them.
- People were afraid of the large and growing numbers of Mormons.
- People feared that the Mormons would take over the government and law courts.
- People said the Mormons were of low social class ('little better than our blacks' was a phrase used).
- People disliked the encouragement Mormons gave to slaves and to freed slaves to join them.


Why did the Mormons move to Salt Lake?

An important reason for moving was that the Mormons wanted to escape the non-Mormons they despised, and called the Gentiles.
They thought Gentiles were "...the lowest of men" and "disliked their midnight parties, their sabbath-breaking, horse racing and gambling."
The Mormons also had other reasons for moving:
The Gentiles persecuted them. In 1846 Brigham Young (by now leader of the Mormons) told the US President, James K. Polk, that the Mormons had decided "to leave the country for the sake of peace".
The government persecuted them, eg:
Governor Lilburn Boggs issued an exterminating order against them.
The state governor of Illinois asked them to leave. (Until 1848 the Great Salt Lake was part of Mexico - ie outside US government jurisdiction altogether - which added to its attraction.)
Brigham Young's influence was the critical factor:
he was "a firm believer, a man of iron will, an organiser"
he was believed by the Mormons to be their prophet - appointed by God to lead them
he decided to go to Salt Lake, organised the march, and told Mormons that Salt Lake was "the promised land"


On their trek to the Great Salt Lake the Mormons faced many problems, all of which they had to overcome, describe the four key problems.

Poorly prepared - in Spring 1846, mobs looted Mormons' workshops, forcing them to leave Nauvoo before they were ready for their long trek to Salt Lake.
Brigham Young (Mormon leader) sent advance 'pioneers' ahead, to plant crops, build houses, set up staging posts for the travellers.
The journey - the Mormons faced a journey of 2,250km, which made them 'weary and footsore'. They endured 'stormy weather' in winter and 'excessive heat' in summer.
No solution, Mormons had to 'endure'.
Organisation - on the journey 15,000 Mormons faced accidents, breakdowns, mouldy food, fever, lack of medical facilities, Native American attacks.
Young taught Mormons how to manage a wagon train, and how to defend themselves against attack at night.
Faint hearts - some Mormons preferred Oregon. Another suggested California, and said 'nobody on earth' would want to live at Salt Lake.
Young said:"If there is a place on this earth that nobody wants, that's the place I'm looking for."


Describe the problems at Salt Lake City and how the Mormons overcame these.

On arrival at Great Salt Lake things didn't get easier straight away. The Mormons faced further problems, which they also had to overcome. Life at Salt Lake was hard, and the Mormons were 'tired out and worried'. Salt Lake was a 'desolate and forsaken spot' with little rain.
The Mormons had to develop irrigation schemes, using snow water from the mountains - by 1859 Salt Lake was well-filled with peach, apple and other fruit.
There were no trees in Salt Lake, so the Mormons had to make houses from mud bricks - by 1855 there were 'warm, comfortable, neat' houses and a 'magnificent' city, with a temple, a tabernacle and hall.
There were not enough people for the community to be entirely self-sufficient - so the Mormon leader Brigham Young called Mormons from all over the world to go to Salt Lake to help out. As a result, large numbers of Mormons migrated to Salt Lake City (although many died on the way).
The Mormons had no manufacturers, and although they tried to set up industries, they failed - so necessary items often had to be made by hand.
In 1848 the US occupied New Mexico, where Salt Lake was situated, and the US government refused Young's attempt to have a 'free and independent' Mormon state of 'Deseret'. In 1857 he sent in 1,500 troops - so the Mormons prepared for war, but eventually came to a compromise. As a result, Salt Lake City became the US state of Utah.