Mormons begin exodus to Utah

The Mormons of Nauvoo, began a westward migration after their homes were attacked and their leader, Joseph Smith was assassinated; eventually they arrive in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been persecuted for their beliefs ever since Joseph Smith founded the church in New York in 1830. Smith claimed to be a modern-day prophet of God and his acceptance of polygamy was controversial wherever the Mormons settled. In 1839, Smith hoped his new spiritual colony of Nauvoo in Missouri would provide a permanent safe haven. Angry mobs murdered Smith and his brother in June 1844 and began burning homes and threatening the citizens of Nauvoo.

Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, made a decision: the Mormons would move to the still wild territories of the Mexican-controlled Southwest. Trusting in God, he began to prepare the people of Nauvoo for a mass exodus.

In 1846, Young abandoned Nauvoo and began leading 1,600 Mormons west across the frozen Mississippi in subzero temperatures to a temporary refuge in Iowa. Young planned to make the westward trek in stages. He sent out a reconnaissance team to plan the route across Iowa. The mass of Mormons made the journey to the Missouri River, and by the fall of 1846, the Winter Quarters were home to 12,000 Mormons.

After a hard journey across the western landscape, Young and his followers emerged out onto a valley where a giant lake shimmered in the distance. With his first glimpse of this Valley of the Great Salt Lake, Young reportedly said, “This is the place.” That year, some 1,600 Mormons arrived to begin building a new civilization in the valley. The next year, 2,500 more made the passage. By the time Young died in 1877, more than 100,000 people were living in the surrounding Great Basin, the majority of them Mormons.

By early 1848, the Mormons’ haven became a U.S. territory after the American victory in the Mexican War.

Source: Mormons begin exodus to Utah
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