Before Zion

An Account of the Seventh Handcart Company

Book Notice

Before Zion: An Account of the Seventh Handcart Company, by Allen C. Christensen (Springville, Utah: Council Press, 2004)

This book is Dr. Allen C. Christensen’s contribution to the various histories of the ten handcart companies. He is the director of the Benson Agriculture and Food Institute at Brigham Young University and a descendant of some of the members of the Seventh Handcart Company.

The author points out in the first few sentences of the introduction that the Seventh Handcart Company is not as well known as other handcart companies, in part because “there is a paucity of written documentation on their journey” (3). However, he does tell their story competently, and he uses some sources that are not generally available.

The book begins with a substantial amount of background information. The specific story of the company does not begin until page 68. Up to that point in the narrative, the author gives a general overview of the conditions in Europe and Scandinavia as the gospel was being spread prior to the company’s departure. The overview includes comments regarding members of the Seventh Company along with many other associated individuals. This initial background information is thorough and well footnoted.

The book presents the handcart trek in chronological order, making it is easy to follow the story of the Saints’ challenges as they struggled across the country. However, the book does contain some digressive supplemental material. For example, the author includes the story of Mark B. Garff’s work as a mission president in Europe at the start of World War II. President Garff’s story is fascinating but not relevant to the handcart history and takes up multiple pages. Likewise, the last chapter of the book is supplemental material regarding the Utah War that does not touch on the Seventh Company’s trek.

Still, scholars who are interested in the many handcart companies (most of which were quite safe and successful), as well as readers from the large body of descendants of those in the Seventh Handcart Company, will find this background information and ensuing history satisfying.


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Oliver Cowdery

Print ISSN: 2837-0031
Online ISSN: 2837-004X