On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape

On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape tells the tale of a beloved mountainous landmark and a disregarded lake. Jared Farmer’s penetrating and sweeping gaze invites readers to view connections between land, landscape, and peoples that have remained, like Poe’s purloined letter, hidden in plain sight. Farmer’s story of “Timp” relates directly to the story of Indians native to the land and Mormon settlers who became “neonatives,” in part by creating a significant landmark in Timpanogos and seeing imagined Indians while forgetting and displacing Utah Lake and real Indians. By illuminating these interwoven narratives with interdisciplinary research involving history, folklore, popular culture, and studies of place, Farmer cannily crafts a plea for recognizing homes and landmarks as signs of society and indicators of forgetfulness. He admits that his story of a lake and a mountain in Utah involves unique features but is not an anomaly in the colonization of the United States, where landmarks are created, imagined, and venerated with little awareness or consideration of historic events and displacements. As much a book about usable pasts as about American landscapes, On Zion’s Mount argues that this story and these landscapes matter because “what we see affects what we do.” The unspoken plea in Farmer’s closing call to move the love of the mountain down to the lake is for greater environmental and cultural awareness through more attuned historical understanding—with a hope to connect what we do, perhaps, more fittingly with what we believe.

In addition to presenting thought-provoking awareness of landmarks as a combination of natural, historical, and cross-cultural features and processes, Farmer writes with fine craftsmanship and abundant care in structure and style. The book is divided into three major sections, capturing the author’s commitment to regional, local, and extralocal history and storytelling. An informative introduction establishes the juxtaposition of the lake and the mountain within the time frame of “the nineteenth century, and for untold ages before,” while also engaging the scholarly discourse of landmarks, space, place, and the geographic practices of colonization.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 49:2
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