Chapter Twenty-Seven: Establishing a Refuge in Deseret

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“Chapter Twenty-Seven: Establishing a Refuge in Deseret,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 337–51

“Chapter Twenty-Seven,” Church History in the Fulness of Times, 337–51

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Establishing a Refuge in Deseret

Only four days after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young told the pioneers that “he intended to have every hole and corner from the Bay of [San] Francisco to Hudson bay known to us and that our people would be connected with every tribe of Indians throughout America.”1 President Young named the region Deseret, which is a word from the Book of Mormon meaning honeybee (see Ether 2:3). The prophet intended the new settlements to be a hive of activity. The Saints were virtually the only white settlers in the vast Great Basin, the name for an area about the size of Texas between the Rocky Mountains on the east, the Sierra Nevadas on the west, the Columbia River drainage on the north, and the Colorado River drainage on the south. The area was relatively isolated and arid and short on timber and game. The Saints realized that settling here would require considerable faith and their best efforts, but they believed that with God’s help they could succeed.

First Year in the Salt Lake Valley

In August 1847, Brigham Young, the Apostles, and about one hundred others left the Salt Lake Valley for Winter Quarters, Nebraska. At the same time approximately fifteen hundred Saints in ten companies were on the plains en route to the valley. There was great rejoicing when Church leaders met these companies in present-day western Wyoming. After feasting together, President Young’s company continued their journey east while the other companies continued west, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley during the months of September and October.

Crossing the plains was difficult for these Saints who came as entire families. Many were not able to bear the arduous journey and died on the plains. Jedediah M. Grant, member of the First Council of the Seventy and captain of the third company, lost his wife, Caroline, and their infant daughter, Margaret, who, like many others, contracted cholera on the Sweetwater River. Caroline died four days after her daughter. Before her death, she requested that their bodies be buried in the valley, but Jedediah was forced to inter the baby in a shallow grave and continue on to the Salt Lake Valley, where he buried his wife. Then he and his friend Joseph Bates Noble returned to the Wyoming plains to exhume Margaret’s body, only to find that wolves had found the grave first.

But before they reached the grave, the Spirit of God had already comforted him. Elder Grant confided to his friend, “Bates, God has made it plain. The joy of Paradise where my wife and baby are together, seems to be upon me tonight. For some wise purpose they have been released from the earth struggles into which you and I are plunged. They are many, many times happier than we can possibly be here.” Sad that they could not fulfill his promise, they returned to Salt Lake.2

Jedediah Morgan Grant (1816–56)

Jedediah Morgan Grant (1816–56), one of the great missionaries of the Church, served in Zion’s Camp, labored on the Kirtland Temple, and during the Nauvoo period was called as one of the Seven Presidents of Seventy.

He helped bring the Saints across the plains into the Salt Lake Valley, where he became Salt Lake City’s first mayor. The last two years of his life he served in the First Presidency of the Church as second counselor to Brigham Young.

Several years later Jedediah was permitted to see his wife and daughter in the world of spirits. Not long before Elder Grant died, President Heber C. Kimball gave him a blessing. On that occasion Elder Grant related a vision he had received. “He saw the righteous gathered together in the spirit world, and there were no wicked spirits among them. He saw his wife; she was the first person that came to him. He saw many that he knew, but did not have conversation with any except his wife Caroline. She came to him, and he said that she looked beautiful and had their little child, that died on the Plains, in her arms, and said, ‘Mr. Grant, here is little Margaret; you know that the wolves ate her up, but it did not hurt her; here she is all right.’”3

Charles C. Rich and John Young organized a municipal high council in the Salt Lake Valley similar to the one formed a year previously at Winter Quarters. Under the council’s direction, two ten-acre blocks were added to the fort, 450 log cabins were built, an adobe wall around the fort was completed, a fence was constructed around the city to control the livestock, and a number of roads and bridges were built. The “big field,” an area of 5,133 acres, was cultivated, with 872 acres being planted in winter wheat. When Captain James Brown arrived from California with approximately $5,000 in Mormon Battalion pay, the council appointed a group to take some of the money to southern California to buy cows, mules, wheat, and a variety of seeds. The council also approved the use of $1,950 to purchase the Miles Goodyear ranch and trading post on the Weber River thirty-five miles north of Salt Lake, eliminating a possible obstacle in settling that large and promising area.4

The Saints were not alone in the valley. A few of the approximately twelve thousand American Indians who inhabited the Great Basin in 1847 lived in the Salt Lake Valley. In the fall a group of Ute Indians came to the fort. One of them offered to sell two young Indians who had been captured in a raid. When the Saints recoiled at the suggestion, the Indian threatened to kill the children. After another refusal, one was killed. Then Charles Decker, Brigham Young’s brother-in-law, purchased the other and gave her to Lucy Decker Young to raise. Sally, as she was named, later became chief cook in the Beehive House and eventually married the Pauvant Ute chief Kanosh.5

The Old Fort was erected in August 1847

The Old Fort was erected in August 1847 and was located three blocks south and three blocks west of the temple block. Two additions to the fort were later added to accommodate expected arrivals. These were called the North Fort and the South Fort.

The first winter in the valley was mild, but there were many discomforts in the Old Fort. Wolves, foxes, and other predators annoyed the people with their incessant howling and depredations. One night Lorenzo Dow Young spread some strychnine around the area and in the morning found fourteen dead white wolves. Swarms of mice were also a nuisance. One contrivance for catching them was a bucket partially filled with water and a board sloping at each end, greased and balanced on the bucket edge, so that the mice would run onto the board to lick the grease, fall in, and drown. One of the most valuable possessions in the fort was a cat.

During March and April heavy spring snow and rain descended upon the valley. Unfortunately, the Saints had not realized this would happen. Their homes had flat sod roofs, which leaked profusely. Food was gathered into the center of the rooms and protected with buffalo skins obtained from the Indians. “It was no uncommon thing to see a woman holding an umbrella over her while attending to her household duties. The Fort presented quite a ludicrous appearance when the weather cleared up. In whatever direction one looked, bedding and clothing of all descriptions were hanging out to dry.”6

In the spring of 1848, provisions became scarce. Many of the Saints were without shoes and adequate clothing, so they made moccasins and other clothing out of animal skins. The people were placed on rations. Each person was limited to about one-half pound of flour per day. They also ate crows, thistle tops, bark, roots, and sego lily bulbs.7

Sego lily, Utah’s state flower

Sego lily, Utah’s state flower

Priddy Meeks graphically described his attempts to find food while his “family went several months without a satisfying meal of victuals. I went sometimes a mile up Jordan to a patch of wild roses to get the berries to eat which I would eat as rapidly as a hog, stems and all. I shot hawks and crows and they ate well. I would go and search the mire holes and find cattle dead and fleece off what meat I could and eat it. We used wolf meat, which I thought was good. I made some wooden spades to dig seagoes [sego lilies] with, but we could not supply our wants.” He worked particularly hard for thistle roots: “I would take a grubbing-hoe and a sack and start by sunrise in the morning and go, I thought six miles before coming to where the thistle roots grew, and in time to get home I would have a bushel and sometimes more thistle roots. And we would eat them raw. I would dig until I grew weak and faint and sit down and eat a root, and then begin again.”8

Because of these difficult conditions, the settlers naturally looked forward to the harvest of new crops, but late spring frosts injured much of the wheat and garden vegetables. Then a May and June drought injured more of the crops. Worse yet, great swarms of crickets descended from the foothills and began devouring what remained. Men, women, and children turned out with sticks, shovels, and brooms to combat the pests. They used fire and even dug trenches to drown the crickets, but these measures failed to stop the onslaught. For about two weeks they battled and prayed for relief. Crop failure meant disaster for the present colony and no food for the more than two thousand Saints planning to immigrate that year.

Finally on a Sabbath day, while Charles C. Rich was preaching, seagulls from the Great Salt Lake flew in and began to devour the insects. “They would eat crickets and throw them up again and fill themselves again and right away throw them up again,” reported Priddy Meeks. The gulls continued their attacks for over two weeks until the crickets were effectively eliminated. Meeks said, “I guess this circumstance changed our feeling considerable for the better.”9 Many of the crops were preserved. Today the seagull is Utah’s state bird, and a monument to the seagulls stands on Temple Square.

The Seagull Monument

The Seagull Monument, located on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, was designed and executed by Mahonri M. Young, a grandson of Brigham Young. The monument was dedicated 1 October 1913 by President Joseph F. Smith. Today the seagull is Utah’s state bird.

The Saints nurtured the remaining crops throughout the summer and on 10 August held a harvest feast. Parley P. Pratt described it: “Large sheaves of wheat, rye, barley, oats and other productions were hoisted on poles for public exhibition, and there was prayer and thanksgiving, congratulations, songs, speeches, music, dancing, smiling faces and merry hearts. In short, it was a great day with the people of these valleys, and long to be remembered by those who had suffered and waited anxiously for the results of a first effort to redeem the interior deserts of America, and to make her hitherto unknown solitudes ‘blossom as the rose.’”10

The settlers also anxiously awaited the return of a number of their fellow Saints, including Brigham Young and other Church leaders, who arrived in September. Before the end of 1848, nearly three thousand Saints, including members of the Mormon Battalion, had arrived in the valley. About one-fourth of the exiles from Nauvoo were now in their new refuge in the West. In Deseret for the second time, Brigham Young enthusiastically wrote to those in Iowa that the Saints had surely found “a haven of rest, a place for our souls, a place where we may dwell in safety.” This was happy news to refugees who had been driven from their homes more than once. He also affirmed that they would “once more rear a temple to his [God’s] names’ honor and glory.”11

The Provisional State of Deseret

During the first year in the valley, the high council made laws, levied taxes, apportioned land, issued water and timber rights, established a cemetery, and imposed fines and punishments for criminal offenses. When the First Presidency arrived in the fall of 1848, civic responsibilities for the growing community passed to a general council of about fifty leading priesthood holders, presided over by the First Presidency, which met weekly at the house of Heber C. Kimball. There was no separation of church and state because the Latter-day Saints considered all affairs of the kingdom of God to be one, whether spiritual, economic, or political.

This provisional government continued to lay out the expanding city. Throughout the fall and winter of 1848, under the direction of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, lots were apportioned to applicants who could adequately care for their property. The city was then divided into nineteen wards, each nine blocks in size. Bishops were placed in charge of each ward, and, under their supervision, fences were built, a network of irrigation ditches was constructed, and trees were planted along the ditch banks.

The Council House

The Council House, started in 1849 and completed in 1850, was the first public building in Utah. Its functions varied over the years. The territorial legislature met here; the territorial public library was here; endowments were given here; and the University of Deseret occupied the building for a number of years. It was finally destroyed by fire in 1883.

A plan for distribution of farming lands worked out in the fall of 1848 was consistent with President Young’s philosophy that the land should not be monopolized by the earliest settlers, but should be put to its most productive use for the good of the community. There was to be no private ownership of water and timber—natural resources important to the entire community. Under the direction of bishops, workers turned out to build irrigation systems and roads to the canyons. Families received the right to use water and timber in proportion to the work they put into building and maintaining these systems. Disputes over land and resource use were mediated by priesthood leaders. Even though there was considerable cooperation among the Saints in the use of land, water, and timber, private business enterprises gradually developed to regulate these same resources.

Cooperation also characterized the erection of public works. Daniel H. Wells was placed in charge of this department, which began building a wall around the temple block, a tithing house, the Council House (used for public and political meetings), a small adobe Church office building, a public bathhouse at the warm springs just north of the city, an armory, and a bowery on Temple Square to be used for a central meeting place. A tannery and leather manufacturing establishment, gristmills, sawmills, and a foundry were built with a combination of public and private effort.12

The first means of economic exchange in the valley was the thousands of dollars worth of gold dust brought from California by members of the Mormon Battalion who had participated in the discovery of gold near Sacramento. Later the First Presidency sent a few men to California on a “gold mission” for more of the precious metal to help with Deseret’s economy. The gold dust was minted into coins. Paper currency based on the Church’s gold supply was also used.13

The first gold coins in Utah

The first gold coins in Utah were minted in September 1849. Later the crucibles were broken, making it impossible to make more coinage until materials could be ordered from the East. It was then decided to issue paper currency.

With the culmination of the Mexican War and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on 2 February 1848, the fledgling colony of the Saints became part of the Union. The treaty granted the United States all of the territory comprising the present states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. When Church leaders realized that their colony was part of America, they began planning to become a state. Early in 1849 the general council formally established a provisional State of Deseret, with Brigham Young as governor, Willard Richards as secretary of state, Heber C. Kimball as chief justice, Newel K. Whitney and John Taylor as associate justices, and Daniel H. Wells as attorney general.

The provisional State of Deseret was the civil government in the Great Basin for two years. It organized counties, granted rights to natural resources, regulated trade and commerce, established the Nauvoo Legion as an official state militia, and fulfilled all functions of a regular government.14 The “state legislature” consisted of men selected by Brigham Young and ratified by the voters. This government performed admirably and smoothly until the United States Congress formally established the Territory of Utah in September 1850.

“Here We Will Stay”

Even though the Saints were efficiently governed, there were several challenges in establishing a strong refuge in Deseret. In contrast to the previous winter, the winter of 1848–49 was very severe and created serious needs among the people. It snowed frequently, and the snow remained on the ground throughout the entire winter, making it difficult for the cattle to feed. Heavy snowfall in the mountains made it difficult to gather wood. Excessive cold and violent winds often made life miserable for the settlers.15

Food was again so scarce that the people ate wolves, hawks, crows, dogs, and animals that had been dead for some time. The council sponsored a contest to eliminate the “wasters and destroyers” that were diminishing what little food supply there was. Numerous predatory animals were killed in this hunt. The brethren also instituted a voluntary rationing and community storehouse system. Those with surplus food were asked to give it to their bishop to be divided among the needy.

The harshness of the winter, constant hunger, a meager harvest the previous year, and the pull of what was called “California fever” created some discontent, and a few settlers loaded their wagons and prepared to leave in the spring. During those trying times, President Heber C. Kimball was moved upon to prophesy, “Never mind, boys, in less than one year there will be plenty of clothes and everything that we shall want sold at less than St. Louis prices.”16

President Brigham Young also encouraged the Saints: “God has appointed this place for the gathering of His Saints, and you will do better right here than you will by going to the gold mines. … We have been kicked out of the frying-pan into the fire, out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and here we are and here we will stay. … As the Saints gather here and get strong enough to possess the land, God will temper the climate, and we shall build a city and a temple to the Most High God in this place. We will extend our settlements to the east and west, to the north and to the south, and we will build towns and cities by the hundreds, and thousands of the Saints will gather in from the nations of the earth. … We have the finest climate, the best water, and the purest air that can be found on the earth; there is no healthier climate anywhere. As for gold and silver, and the rich minerals of the earth, there is no other country that equals this; but let them alone; let others seek them, and we will cultivate the soil.”17

Most Saints remained loyal to the cause and planted their seeds. As summer came, the prophets of God were vindicated. The Lord did temper the elements, and there was a bounteous harvest, enough to feed the nearly five thousand Saints who were already in the valley and the fourteen hundred who immigrated during the summer. Moreover, an estimated ten to fifteen thousand gold seekers passing through Salt Lake City in both 1849 and 1850 provided an economic windfall for the Saints. Merchant companies, organized to haul goods to California, learned upon reaching Salt Lake City that food, clothing, implements, and tools sent by ship had already reached the marketplace. They sold their goods to the Saints at devalued prices rather than take an even heavier loss in California. The overland immigrants’ wagons needed servicing and re-outfitting, thus providing employment to Mormon blacksmiths, wagonsmiths, teamsters, laundresses, and millers. The Saints established ferries on the upper crossing of the North Platte, and on the Green and Bear rivers, which were used by the California-bound trains.18

Parties with empty wagons were sent out from Salt Lake to collect valuable items discarded along the route by those who had attempted to lighten their loads so they could hurry faster to the gold fields of California. John D. Lee spent several days looking for a suitable stove for his family. He finally “found one to his liking, a fine large Premium Range No. 3 which would have cost more than fifty dollars to purchase. On the way back he started loading up with powder and lead, cooking utensils, tobacco, nails, tools, bacon, coffee, sugar, trunks of clothing, axes, and harness.”19 Thus the famous 1849 gold rush fulfilled the prophecies of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball and directly enabled the Saints to survive in the Salt Lake Valley.

Early Exploration and Colonization

Although the major effort of the Saints during their first two years in Deseret was to establish a base of operations, Church leaders also sought other locations for settlement. Exploring parties determined the natural resources of the different areas, including water supply, soil fertility, availability of timber and other building materials, altitude of surrounding mountains, and mineral deposits.20

In July and August of 1847, men from the pioneer company were sent to explore southward in the Salt Lake Valley, northward along the Bear River, and eastward into Cache Valley. During the fall of 1847, two routes to California were traversed by Mormon companies. Captain James Brown accompanied Samuel Brannan along the northern trail back to his colony at San Francisco. Jefferson Hunt, senior Latter-day Saint captain of the Mormon Battalion, led a group of eighteen men to southern California to secure cattle and other needed supplies. Hunt was successful in reaching the Chino Rancho by way of the Old Spanish Trail, although members of his party were forced to eat some of their horses to survive.

Lorin Farr (1820–1909)

Lorin Farr (1820–1909) joined the Church at age eleven along with his family, being baptized by Lyman E. Johnson and confirmed by Orson Pratt. He served as president of the Weber Stake and as mayor of Ogden for many years.

In December 1847, Parley P. Pratt led an exploring party southward toward the large, fresh-water Utah Lake. They launched a boat, caught fish with a net, and explored the lake and Utah Valley for two days before returning home by way of the Oquirrh mountain range on the west of the Salt Lake Valley. They explored both Cedar and Tooele valleys and the southern end of the Great Salt Lake before finishing their week-long expedition.

Within a year of the pioneers’ arrival, small towns were settled in the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley and also in what became Davis and Weber counties to the north. One of these, Brownsville, named in honor of James Brown, grew into Utah’s second largest city (later called Ogden in honor of Peter Skeen Ogden, a fur trapper). Other colonists joined the Brown family to establish Brownsville, and they successfully raised wheat, corn, cabbage, turnips, potatoes, and watermelons with seed brought from California. They also milked about twenty-five cows and were the first Mormons to produce cheese in the area. This produce helped fellow Saints in the Salt Lake Valley survive the starvation period in 1848–49. In 1849 Brigham Young visited the rapidly growing colony and sent Lorin Farr to take charge of all Church and political affairs there. President Farr became Ogden’s first mayor and the president of the Weber Stake, serving in both capacities for the next twenty years.

The attractive and fertile Utah Valley—named after the Ute Indians who lived there—to the south of Salt Lake Valley was another logical place for settlement. Church leaders first proposed using this valley as a stock range and as a source to supply fish for the Saints in Salt Lake City, but potential Indian problems led them to establish a permanent fortified settlement instead. Thirty-three families, numbering about 150 people, with John S. Higbee as the president of the company, arrived at the Provo River on 1 April 1849. They built Fort Utah about a mile and a half east of Utah Lake and began farming the rich river bottom lands. In September, Brigham Young visited the fort and recommended that the city be moved to higher ground farther east.

This new location became the nucleus of the city of Provo. During the winter of 1849–50, the Utes threatened war against the new settlers, and the Nauvoo Legion was called upon to protect the people of Provo. In a two-day encounter called the Battle at Fort Utah, forty Indians and one settler were killed and several others were wounded.21 This confrontation effectively ended Indian resistance in Utah Valley and made it possible for other settlements to be developed in 1850 and 1851,22 including Lehi, Alpine, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Springville, Spanish Fork, Salem, Santaquin, and Payson. This line of settlements utilized every mountain stream and was spaced so that the outlying farms and pasture lands of each community bordered the next, and all settlers could rally together in case of danger. Provo became the stake center and county seat.

Fort Utah was also called Fort Provo

Fort Utah was also called Fort Provo in honor of Etienne Provot, an early French trapper.

Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society

Tooele Valley, west of Salt Lake Valley, was colonized in 1849. In November of that same year, one of the first Ohio converts to the Church, Isaac Morley, led 225 colonists to Sanpete Valley, about a hundred miles south of Salt Lake City. They spent a cold and difficult winter in dugouts on the hill where the Manti Utah Temple was later constructed. The next year Elder Morley and his associates established friendly relations with Ute chief Wakara and his people, who had invited the settlers to locate near them.23

A fifty-man exploration company, headed by Parley P. Pratt, was formed on 23 November 1849 for the purpose of choosing locations for additional colonies south of the Salt Lake Valley. Four days later they visited the thriving settlement of Provo, which boasted fifty-seven log houses. The company made detailed observations throughout their exploration. They continued south through Juab and Sanpete valleys, arriving at Manti just twelve days after the colonists began that settlement. On 10 December, while on the Sevier River, over two hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, their thermometer registered twenty degrees below zero Fahrenheit. After another hundred miles, part of the company crossed the rim of the Great Basin into what would become known as Utah’s Dixie, and they noticed a marked change in the climate and topography. By New Year’s Day they had reached the present-day site of St. George.

Indian guides and villagers informed them that the country to the south was desolate and forbidding, so they decided to return north. Returning through Mountain Meadows and Pahvant Valley, they were forced to stop at Chalk Creek (now Fillmore) because of heavy snow. It was decided that half of the company would push on to Provo, while the other half would remain at Chalk Creek until spring. This decision was based on the fact that there were only enough supplies to see half of the company through the winter. One morning the brethren of the forward-moving camp were completely buried by the night’s snow. Elder Pratt arose and shouted at his sleeping brethren: “I raised my voice like a trumpet, and commanded them to arise; when all at once there was a shaking among the snow piles, the graves were opened, and all came forth! We called this Resurrection Camp.”24

Gathering to Zion

During this early exploration and settlement, the First Presidency developed plans to gather the remaining Saints, most of whom were quite poor, from the Iowa camps near the Missouri River.

In 1848 the First Presidency left Orson Hyde in Kanesville, Iowa, to direct the fortunes of the Saints. Approximately thirty communities had developed in Pottawattomie County. Agriculture flourished, craftsmen pursued their trades, and schools were held. Elder Hyde established a newspaper, the Frontier Guardian, in 1849 and edited about one hundred issues before being called to Utah in 1852. This newspaper served to keep the Iowa and eastern Saints informed regarding the progress of the kingdom of God.

Orson Hyde commenced publication of the Frontier Guardian

Orson Hyde commenced publication of the Frontier Guardian on 7 February 1849 in Kanesville, Iowa. In 1852 the paper was sold to Jacob Dawson, who changed the name to the Iowa Sentinel.

Kanesville, the largest of the Mormon communities in Iowa, served Church migration as the staging ground for crossing the plains. Close by were three Church-operated ferries on the Missouri River, which were also utilized by one hundred forty thousand emigrants on their way to Oregon and California. One of the happiest events that occurred in Kanesville was the return of Oliver Cowdery in October 1848. On 12 November 1848, Oliver was rebaptized. Unfortunately, before he could gather to the Salt Lake Valley, Oliver became ill and died on a visit to his wife’s family in Richmond, Missouri. He died on 3 March 1850 in the home of his brother-in-law, David Whitmer.

The rich harvest of 1849 and the economic boost of the gold rush pioneers generated confidence for the Church to gather the ten thousand Saints still in the Missouri Valley, the hundreds still in branches scattered throughout the eastern states, and the thirty thousand members of the Church in England. In the fall of 1849 the Brethren launched the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, or the PEF. Its purpose was to solicit contributions in Deseret and use these funds to outfit the poor Saints who had gathered to the camps in Iowa. Then when the immigrants arrived in the valley, they would be expected to labor on the public works or pay back their debt, thus keeping the PEF a “perpetual” fund. PEF assistance to the Saints in Europe began as soon as possible after the removal of the Nauvoo exiles to the West.

Documents signed by Church members

Documents signed by Church members going to Utah through the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company

Some six thousand dollars was raised that first fall, and Bishop Edward Hunter was appointed as agent to go to Iowa and purchase wagons, livestock, and provisions to outfit numerous Saints to gather to Zion. Approximately twenty-five hundred people immigrated to Deseret in 1850 and another twenty-five hundred were aided in 1851, leaving approximately eight thousand Saints still in Iowa, including those gathered from the eastern branches under the direction of Elder Wilford Woodruff and thousands of British Saints who had come that far.25

Elders Ezra T. Benson and Jedediah M. Grant were appointed in the fall of 1851 to help Orson Hyde in evacuating the camps of the Saints in 1852. To those remaining, the First Presidency implored:

“What are you waiting for? Have you any good excuse for not coming? No! you have all of you, unitedly, a far better chance than we had when we started as Pioneers to find this place: you have better teams and more of them. You have as good food and more of it; you have as much natural strength. …

“… Therefore we wish you to evacuate Pottawatamie, and the States, and next fall be with us all ye Saints of the Most High.”26

Accordingly, most of the Saints sold their land and improvements in Iowa to other American frontiersmen. Twenty-one companies, averaging over sixty wagons each, migrated to the Great Basin in 1852. Only a skeleton force was left on the Missouri River to aid future emigrants.27

Edward Hunter (1793–1883)

Edward Hunter (1793–1883) was baptized 8 October 1840 by Orson Hyde, who was on his way to Palestine at the time. Edward Hunter was a wealthy man who gave liberally to the Church and its leaders. Brigham Young called him to be the Presiding Bishop of the Church in 1851.

International Expansion

Coincident with their interest in the gathering was the renewed attention given by the First Presidency to the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations of the earth. The responsibility for this vast undertaking resided with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Four vacancies in the Quorum (due to the formation of the First Presidency and the apostasy of Lyman Wight) were filled in February 1849 by the call of Charles C. Rich, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, and Franklin D. Richards. Many of the Twelve and several elders under their direction were assigned to take the gospel message to the nations of the earth. John Taylor was sent to France and Germany; Lorenzo Snow went to Italy; and Erastus Snow was sent to the Scandinavian countries; each of them was accompanied by several missionaries.

In the general conference of October 1849, Franklin D. Richards was called, along with others, to a mission in England. Elder Richards was to succeed Orson Pratt as mission president. Missionary work in Great Britain had continued with great success following the short mission of Parley P. Pratt, Orson Hyde, and John Taylor in 1846–47. Thereafter, Orson Spencer and then Orson Pratt directed the mission. Thousands of converts entered the Church between 1847 and 1850. Elder Pratt also supervised the emigration of over three thousand people to Kanesville, Iowa, in the first use of the PEF in England.

Elder Franklin D. Richards officially replaced Orson Pratt as mission president in England on 1 January 1851. Under his able leadership for the next seventeen months, thousands more joined the Church, and arrangements continued unabated for the gathering of these Saints to Zion. Both Orson Pratt and Franklin D. Richards published numerous tracts, which helped the missionary effort. The most important publication, however, was a compilation of several revelations and books of scripture translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, which the English Saints had not previously seen. Elder Richards aptly named this compilation the Pearl of Great Price. This small volume, first published in 1851, became the foundation for the scriptural book by the same name that would be accepted as a standard work of the Church in 1880. Clearly the British Saints contributed greatly to the strength of the Church. Of the thousands who gathered to Zion in the Rocky Mountains in the nineteenth century, over half came from Great Britain.

Title page of the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price

Title page of the 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great Price

Other members of the Twelve introduced the gospel to the continent of Europe. John Taylor directed the first missionary activity in France and Germany in 1849 and 1850. The revolutions that racked Europe in 1848 so stirred society there that Elder Taylor and his companions found little success in either nation, but the Book of Mormon was published in both French and German, and a branch of the Church was established in Hamburg, Germany. Sporadic missionary work continued in Germany for several more years.

Elder Lorenzo Snow, assigned to take the gospel to Italy, arrived in the Piedmont region in June 1850 with two companions, Joseph Toronto, a native of Italy, and T.B.H. Stenhouse, a convert from Britain. The missionaries enjoyed some success among a Protestant group known as the Waldenses, but were unsuccessful with the larger Catholic population. Lorenzo Snow arranged for the translation of the Book of Mormon into Italian and sent the first missionaries to Malta and India. In December 1850, Elder Stenhouse introduced the gospel to Switzerland. In February 1851, Elder Snow dedicated this land for the spreading of the gospel. The work there progressed slowly but steadily throughout the 1850s, and Switzerland became the third most productive mission of the Church in Europe after England and Denmark.

The task of taking the gospel to Denmark was given to Elder Erastus Snow of the Twelve. He arrived in 1850 and enjoyed almost immediate success under Denmark’s strong constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. From among the many converts, Elder Snow set apart 150 native missionaries, who in turn helped speed the dissemination of the gospel message. From Denmark the work quickly spread to Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. Although not as many converts joined the Church in these other countries as in Denmark, all of Scandinavia contributed thousands of Saints to the great gathering to Zion during the next fifty years.

During this time of renewed international missionary zeal, many courageous attempts were made to take the gospel to other nations of the earth. These were usually only marginally successful. Parley P. Pratt was assigned the responsibility of heading the Pacific Mission and sent missionaries to China, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1851 he went to Chile but a revolution paralyzed his efforts. The T’ai-ping Rebellion in China thwarted Hosea Stout’s work there. Labors in Australia and New Zealand bore some fruit, and a few immigrants came to Salt Lake City in the 1850s.

The greatest success in the Pacific was in the Hawaiian Mission, which was opened in 1850. George Q. Cannon felt impressed to take the gospel to the native islanders instead of only to the Europeans and Americans. Learning Hawaiian, Elder Cannon and the brethren who followed him found thousands of people ready to accept the gospel.

In the first years following the 1847 founding of a refuge in the West, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, under inspired leadership, achieved a remarkable work. It began to conquer a desert, establish a core of settlements, gather thousands of refugees to Deseret, and courageously take the gospel to many nations of the earth.