Utah History | BYU Studies

Utah History

Life in Utah: Centennial Selections from BYU Studies

Editor John W. Welch, Editor James B. Allen,
Life in Utah has never been easy. Thin soil and thick politics challenged everyone as Utah grew toward statehood in 1896. Native Americans, Mormon and gentile settlers, federal officials, LDS Church leaders—these Utah men and women all filled crucial roles. This book contains the best articles from BYU Studies on Utah history. Looking back on life in pioneer Utah, this centennial collection... Read more

Nearly Everything Imaginable: The Everyday Life of Utah's Mormon Pioneers

Editor Ronald W. Walker, Editor Doris R. Dant,
From living in a dugout called the Castle of Spiders to eating so many weeds their skin took on a green cast to losing four children in just a few weeks to diphtheria, nearly everything imaginable happened to the Mormon settlers of Utah Territory. Here are the details of the lives of the common people—what they ate, wore, lived in, and celebrated, how they worshipped, and why they endured. In... Read more

To Make True Latter–day Saints: Mormon Recreation in the Progressive Era

Author Richard I. Kimball,
Historians have used a variety of touchstones to describe the Mormon experience—polygamy, communal associations, and corporatization among others—but none has provided a long-term, large-scale, interpretation of Mormon leisure and recreation. Focusing on the period of 1890 to 1940, Richard Ian Kimball describes the most significant changes that occurred in Latter-day Saint recreation practices... Read more

Which Is the Wisest Course?: The Transformation in Mormon Temple Consciousness, 1870–1898

From the 1870s to 1890, the first Latter-day Saint temples in Utah were completed and temple work was fully underway, and at the same time the Church was being legally compelled to abandon polygamy. In 1890, Wilford Woodruff faced disenfranchisement of the Church and the loss of the temples. He was prepared to defend polygamy, but upon revelation from God changed his course and issued the... Read more

Probing the High Prevalence of Polygyny in St. George, 1861–1880: An Introduction

This is the introduction to a trilogy of articles that interpret and map the unusually high incidence of polygamy (or polygyny, the proper term) that characterized St. George, Utah, from its founding in 1861 through the federal census of 1880. Polygamy was practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the 1840s to 1890. The first, and most theoretical, of the three... Read more

Accommodating the Saints at General Conference

Our buildings are very commodious," Elder Joseph W. McMurrin of the Quorum of Seventy told assembled Saints at an outdoor general conference meeting, "but entirely too small to accommodate the people who desire to hear the word of God. Even in this overflow meeting," he added, "notwithstanding the chilliness of the weather this morning, the people are anxious to come and hearken to the counsels... Read more

The Artist and the Forger: Han van Meegeren and Mark Hofmann

In 1947 the artist Han van Meegeren stood in the criminal court in Amsterdam and admitted he was guilty of forgery in what may be the greatest known art fraud. Forty years later, in 1987, Mark Hofmann confessed his guilt of forgery, fraud, and murder growing out of what may be the greatest known historical document fraud. The two cases show some striking similarities. These two men, the artist... Read more

Cooperation, Conflict, and Compromise: Women, Men, and the Environment in Salt Lake City, 1890–1930

In 1939 when Hitler's armies marched into Poland, the LDS missionaries marched out—out of Germany and eventually out of all continental Europe. The missionaries left a strong and thriving Church in the eastern part of Germany. The major cities of this area—Berlin, Leipzig, Chemnitz, and Dresden—were among the few cities in Europe with multiple branches, many of which were old and well established... Read more

I Dreamed of Ketching Fish: The Outdoor Life of Wilford Woodruff

Known as both a "mighty fisher" of men and and enthusiastic literal fisherman, President Woodruff melded the spiritual metaphor of fishing with the temporal reality. Read more

Dancing the Buckles off Their Shoes in Pioneer Utah

In 1997 we paused to pay tribute to the pioneer settlers who came to the desolate Great Basin area and laid the groundwork for the life that Utahns now enjoy. In our modern American society we are surrounded by trappings that, by comparison with the lives of those early settlers, make our lives seem luxurious and opulent. In our more appreciative moments we wonder at the magnificence of human... Read more

Editorial Procedures

Andrew Jenson wrote some of his field notes on previously used paper. Many sheets contain entries for an index to volumes five through eight of Jenson's Historical Record (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson, 1885-1889). During his massacre-related interviews, Jenson, who did not know shorthand, wrote fast in order to capture as much information as he could. In so doing, he typically left off the... Read more

Demographic Limits of Nineteenth-Century Mormon Polygyny

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. What percentage of nineteenth-century Mormons practiced polygyny? Estimates of the answer have evolved as have the methods of posing the question. The authors use a simple demographic model to derive mathematical limits on polygyny prevalence. These limits provide benchmarks... Read more

Preface

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University has been acquiring manuscripts relating to the life of Thomas Leiper Kane for many years. The focus of searching out and collecting these manuscripts has been to discover more about Kane’s relationship with the Mormons from 1846 until his death in 1883. Over the years, items of significance have been... Read more

The Andrew Jenson Collection

Andrew Jenson, who later became an Assistant Church Historian, collected material on Mountain Meadows for the immediate need of helping Orson F. Whitney write his History of Utah and the longer-range purpose of one day bringing to light all of "the true facts" of the massacre. Nearly from its inception, the Jenson material has been housed at the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of... Read more

Prologue: The Spirit of Elijah

In 1894, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) founded the Genealogical Society of Utah. Genealogical research had been undertaken by many people for various reasons since ancient times, but it holds a unique spiritual meaning for Latter-day Saints. Impelled by what they refer to as the Spirit of Elijah, Church members seek to identify their ancestors... Read more

Thomas L. Kane and Nineteenth-Century American Culture

This article, originally a lecture given at Brigham Young University in 2009, was published as part of a special issue of BYU Studies featuring Thomas L. Kane. Although Kane was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was an advocate for the Mormon cause and a trusted friend of Mormon leaders for almost forty years. Kane's legacy has been passed down in LDS memory... Read more

The Crusades Against the Mason, Catholics, and Mormons: Separate Waves of a Common Current

The anti-Catholic movement of the 1850s shares common features with the anti-Masonic movement of the 1830s and the anti-Mormon movement of the 1870s and 1880s. A closer look at these three movements reveals a distrust among nineteenth-century Americans for any small yet unified minority. The author discusses the similarities among the three campaigns and explores reasons why the anti-Mormon... Read more

Toward a Reconstruction of Mormon and Indian Relations, 1847–1877

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. There are reminiscent stories about the last days of the Ute chief Black Hawk. Tormented by his several years' warpath and pillage, the physically broken warrior toured central and southern Utah asking forgiveness. At times, his rite bordered on self-flagellation. Tonsured... Read more

The Prophets Have Spoken, but What Did They Say? Examining the Differences between George D. Watt's Original Shorthand Notes and the Sermons Published in the Journal of Discourses

From 1851 to 1868, George D. Watt took shorthand of hundreds of speeches given by LDS leaders. A few of his shorthand notes were preserved but were inaccessible to researchers because no one could read the Pitman shorthand. Some notes have now been transcribed. These notes reveal that extensive rewriting and polishing was done between the taking of the notes and the publication of these speeches... Read more

Mapping the Extent of Plural Marriage in St. George, 1861–1880

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. This article is one of a set on the practice of polygamy in St. George, Utah, from 1861 to 1880. It asks why polygamy rates in that Mormon settlement exceed the demographic limits produced by Bitton and Lambson in their article "Demographic Limits of Nineteenth-Century... Read more

"I Was Not Ready to Die Yet": William Stowell's Utah War Ordeal

In the fall of 1857, young wives Cynthia Jane Stowell and Sophronia Stowell bade fare­well to their husband, William R. R. Stowell, a lieutenant in the Utah militia working to hinder the US Army from entering Utah Territory. That winter they received word that William had been captured and was being held prisoner at Camp Scott, in present-day Wyoming. The Utah War arose from a complex web of... Read more

Theory and Practice of Church and State During the Brigham Young Era

The early Latter--day Saints felt they were building the spiritual and political kingdom of God on Earth. The concept of the kingdom included political ideals as well as economic and social. Joseph Smith ran for US president on this premise. After his death, when the Nauvoo charter was repealed, a political vacuum was created, and Brigham Young was there to fill it. As the Saints went west,... Read more

Chapter 1: Small Beginnings

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He Is Our Friend: Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons in Exodus, 1846–1850

This article, originally a lecture given at Brigham Young University in 2009, was published as part of a special issue of BYU Studies featuring Thomas L. Kane. Although Kane was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was an advocate for the Mormon cause and a trusted friend of Mormon leaders for almost forty years. Bennett shows how documents from the Kane collection... Read more

Joseph F. Smith and the Reshaping of Church Education

This article examines the educational background, philosophy, and legacy of Joseph F. Smith and his impact on Church education. It traces the role President Smith played in expanding the Church academies and later facilitating the formation of the current seminary system. It places these changes within the context of the dramatic growth in U.S. public education and the financial challenges faced... Read more

Selections from the Andrew Jenson Collection

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Mary S. Campbell

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Photographs of the Interior of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, December 1905

In December 1905, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints celebrated the one hundredth birthday of its founder, Joseph Smith. A granite monument was erected at his birthplace in Sharon, Vermont, and gatherings of Saints were held in congregations in Utah and other western states. The Church at this time was under investigation and criticism from federal and local government and religious... Read more

Pools of Living Water: No Longer a Thirsty Land?

St. George native Bruce Hafen tells how the settlers of this southern Utah town shaped and were shaped by the harsh terrain. His ancestors, who were among those Mormon pioneers who settled here, brought with them principles of faith, sacrifice, and hard work. It is crucial that today's people pass those principles to future generations through example and sharing family histories. Hafen compares... Read more

Mary H. White

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Thomas L. Kane and the Mormon Problem in National Politics

This article, originally a lecture given at Brigham Young University in 2009, was published as part of a special issue of BYU Studies featuring Thomas L. Kane. Although Kane was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was an advocate for the Mormon cause and a trusted friend of Mormon leaders for almost forty years. This essay explores instances in which Kane assisted... Read more

Corrections to Bancroft History

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Chapter 2: Coming of Age, 1907–1920

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Growing Up in Early Utah: The Wasatch Literary Association, 1874-1878

One day in early February 1874, Jim Ferguson, sensing the forlorn hope of advancing his courtship with Minni Horne, suggested to Ort (Orson F.) Whitney and another of the boys that they organize a reading society. Ferguson "had heard, no doubt, of fond couples 'reading life's meaning in each others eyes,'" Whitney later mused, "and that was the kind of reading that most interested him" Since the... Read more

Rediscovering Provo's First Tabernacle with Ground-Penetrating Radar

During the early morning hours of December 17, 2010, fire broke out in the Provo (Utah) Tabernacle, virtually gutting the historic building and leaving only the exterior walls standing in stable condition. On October 1, 2011, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the ruined tabernacle will be restored as a temple, the Provo City Center Temple, giving a second life to the... Read more

Lower Goshen: Archaeology of a Mormon Pioneer Town

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The Hofmann Maze: Review Essay

LINDA SILLITOE and ALLEN D ROBERTS. Salamander: The Story of the of the Mormon Forgery Murders, with a Forensic Analysis by George J. Throckmorton. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988. STEVEN NAIFEH and GREGORY WHITE SMITH. The Mormon Murders: A True Story of Greed, Forgery, Deceit, and Death. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1988. ROBERT LINDSEY. A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of... Read more

Striving to Live the Principle in Utah's First Temple City: A Snapshot of Polygamy in St. George, Utah, in June 1880

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. This article is one of a set on the practice of polygamy in the Mormon settlement of St. George, Utah, from 1861 to 1880. For years researchers have known that St. George had an unusually high percentage of its population living in polygamous households and have been... Read more

Photograph of Children Traveling to the Salt Lake Temple Dedication, 1893

In early 1893, the Latter-day Saints eagerly anticipated the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, the culmination of more than forty years of effort and struggle. To allow as many Saints as possible to participate, President Wilford Woodruff announced that a series of dedicatory sessions would be held. To accommodate the many Sunday School children who had "donated of their means to assist in... Read more

Edwin Rushton as the Source of the White Horse Prophecy

The so-called white horse prophecy has been cited in news media as the source of a prophecy that Latter-day Saint elders will preserve the US Constitution as it hangs by a thread. It is commonly claimed that the white horse prophecy was written and made public among Latter-day Saints in the 1850s. However, Don Penrod shows in this article that it was written around 1900 by Edwin Rushton, a Mormon... Read more

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