This book contains twelve articles chronicling the story of the Mormons’ great trek west. It is divided into three parts, each containing four articles that cover a different aspect of the story of the Latter-day Saints moving west. Part 1 focuses on the Mormons being forced from their homes in Nauvoo. Part 2 examines their journey across the plains and through the Rocky Mountains. Part 3 discusses what the Mormon Trail means to people now, how it has been interpreted, and how it is being preserved.
The book is edited by Richard E. Bennett (professor of Church history and doctrine, BYU), Susan Easton Black (professor emerita of Church history and doctrine, BYU), and Scott C. Esplin and Craig K. Manscill (associate professors of Church history and doctrine, BYU). Esplin, Black, and Bennett also contributed their own essays to this book, with the latter also penning the introduction. Other contributors include Douglas Seefeldt (assistant professor of history, Ball State University), Alexander L. Baugh (chair of the Department of Church History and Doctrine, BYU), Wendy Top (independent historian, Pleasant Grove, Utah), Terry B. Ball (professor of ancient scripture, BYU), Spencer S. Snyder (student at Virginia Commonwealth University pursuing a master’s degree in health administration), David F. Boone (associate professor of Church history and doctrine, BYU), Hank R. Smith (adjunct professor of ancient scripture, BYU), Kenneth L. Alford (associate professor of Church history and doctrine, BYU), Richard O. Cowan (professor emeritus of Church history and doctrine, BYU), and J. B. Haws (assistant professor of Church history and doctrine, BYU).
The first essay in part 1, by Seefeldt, discusses the maps of the west that were available around the time of the Mormon exodus. Baugh’s essay explores John C. Frémont’s western expedition in 1843–44 and how it influenced the Mormons’ settlement in Utah. Black’s essay analyzes the economic sacrifice of leaving Nauvoo. Part 1 concludes with Wendy Top, writing on the rescue of some left behind in a “poor camp” during the early stages of the exodus from Nauvoo.
The first essay of part 2, by Ball and Snyder, shows the reader the kind of environment that welcomed the Saints when they finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. The next two essays, by Bennett and Boone, respectively, explore the unique experiences of Horace K. Whitney (as recorded in his journals) and of the Saints who came up from the South. The concluding essay, by Smith, discusses Cache Cave and its meaning to Utah pioneers.
Part 3 opens with Alford discussing the safety and upkeep of a portion of the Mormon Trail during the Civil War. Cowan then compares the routes of travel that wagons, trains, and automobiles forged when heading west. Haws explores the character of Wilford Wood, a key individual in preserving Church historical sites. This section and the book conclude with Esplin’s essay on the preservation and marking of the Mormon Trail.
This book provides valuable insight into the lesser-known aspects of our pioneer heritage, adding a depth and richness that causes the reader to appreciate this part of Mormonism’s history even more.