• The Mormon Trail

  • The History and Legacy of the Trail that Brought the Mormons to Utah
  • By: Charles River Editors
  • Narrated by: Stephen Platt
  • Length: 2 hrs and 5 mins
  • 3.3 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Among all the various figures in 19th century America who left controversial legacies, it is hard to find one as influential as Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mormonism, and the Latter-Day Saint movement. Revered as a prophet on the level of Moses by some, reviled as a perpetrator of large-scale fraud by others, what everyone can agree on is that Joseph Smith founded a religious movement that played a crucial role in the settlement of the West, especially in Utah.

Smith’s dream of Zion would lead the way for the trials and the tribulations of the Mormons for the rest of the 19th century, including countless conflicts with local authorities and the U.S. government. Smith himself would be a casualty of the clashing, murdered by a mob in 1844 after being imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois near the settlement of Nauvoo, which Smith had painstakingly tried to create as a commune for his people.

Smith’s death was one of the catalysts for the Mormons’ great migration to Utah, and today that state and the Mormons are virtually synonymous. To this day, Mormons still form a majority of the population, and members of the Church have prominent political and economic roles. Both of Utah’s U.S. Senators, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, are Mormons, as is Governor Gary Herbert. The story of the Mormon pioneers and the trail they trod is one of the great stories of the westward expansion of the United States. Frenchman Hyppolite Taine wrote of the migration in romantic terms in the 1860's: “Since the exodus of the Israelites there is no example of so great a religious emigration executed across such great spaces in spite of such obstacles, by so great a number of men, with so much order, obedience, courage, patience, and devotion. But the mainsprings of this great will was faith. Without it men would not have done such things. These exiles thought that they were founding the city of God, the metropolis of mankind. They considered themselves the renovators of the world. Let us remember our youth, and with what force an idea...merely by the fact that it seems good and true to us hurls us forward despite natural egotism, daily weakness, habits that we have contracted, surrounding prejudices, and accumulated obstacles! We don’t know of what we are capable”.

Stanley Kimball pointed out the “curious fact” that the Mormons, “who did not want to go west in the first place, were among the most successful in doing so”. He noted, “Mormons, in as much as they did not go west for a new identity, missionary work, adventure, furs, land, health, or gold, but were driven beyond the frontier for their religious beliefs, were not typical westering Americans. While their trail experience was similar to other westering Americans, their motivation was different. It hardly seems necessary to document such a well known fact, but it will be helpful, in this respect, to refer to the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, itself. It was not a typical frontier community, nor did it resemble other frontier communities peopled by those pushing west. Nauvoo, rather, resembled an established New England city. It contained the many brick and substantial frame homes of people intending to remain, not the temporary log cabins of people on the move. The pioneer group was not concerned with just getting themselves safely settled, but with making the road easier for others of their faith to follow. Furthermore, the Mormons moved as villages on wheels, transplanting an entire people, rather than isolated, unrelated groups as was the case with the Oregon and California migrations..."

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Decent story, unbearable narrator

the story was interesting, although there were a few areas where incorrect or inaccurate things were said.

For example, when discussing Joseph Smith's gold plates, the author says that in Joseph's time he probably didn't show the plates to anyone because he worried about theft. however it's extremely well documented by Joseph himself that the reason for the secrecy was because the Lord said so. also, he did end up "showing" them to some witnesses. Joseph was quite obviously concerned about theft, but I doubt he had anything to fear from his wife Emma, or his scribes. if it was truly just about theft, why keep them on the table but covered with a cloth?

regarding the narrator, I had to turn off the book several times because the narrator became too unbearable. it sounds like he is trying to talk super quietly as though he is recording in a library and doesn't want to disturb other patrons. the volume is increased electronically so the volume of the speech itself is not a problem, but the effect of talking that way is an absurdly flat, uninterested in the material sound that is just very grating. it is so blatant that it has to be intentional. I suspect that the narrator thinks it sounds good, but it does not. on the plus side, if you are listening while trying to fall asleep, it will definitely help you sleep :-)

overall the book is interesting and worth a read. the same material is covered by other bigger books, but if you are interested in an overview or don't want to go for a big scholarly book like Richard bushman's rough Stone rolling, John g Turner's Brigham Young, or Laura Thatcher Ulrich's house full of females, this is a decent way to get the material.

one important note, is that the book also covers early Mormon history somewhat, such as the story of Joseph Smith and the translation of the gold plates into the book of Mormon. this is not necessarily a problem, but not something I expected in a book about the Mormon trail.