Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
Faith in Every Footstep
The Lord instructed the Saints regarding their physical preparations for
The Lord instructed the Saints regarding their conduct.
Under the direction of President Brigham Young, the Saints journeyed to
the Salt Lake Valley.
A study of this lesson will help us understand how the pioneers’ journey to
the Salt Lake Valley parallels our journey back to our Heavenly Father and to
help us appreciate the sacrifices made by the pioneers.
Scripture references for study:
Our Heritage,pages 71–77
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 34 Handout (PDF)
The Exodus From the Eastern States
November 8, 1845: Orson Pratt, who was presiding over the eastern
and middle states, issued a message to the Saints of that area calling
upon them to join the exodus west the following spring.
Elder Pratt: "We do not want one saint to
be left in the United States after that time. Let every branch in the east,
west, north and south be determined to flee out of 'Babylon,' either by land or
sea, as soon as then." (CHC, 3:71)
Those who could get teams during the winter were advised to go by land.
Elder Pratt also announced that Elder Samuel Brannan had been appointed
to take charge of a company that would go by sea.
The ship Brooklyn was chartered by Brannan to carry East Coast Saints to
238 Saints took passage on the ship: 70 men, 68 women, and 100 children.
The ship cleared New York harbor on February 4, 1846, and turned southward.
This was the same day the Saints began their exodus from Nauvoo.
The trip was mostly a pleasant one, except for two severe storms, one in
the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
They arrived in Honolulu on June 20, where they remained ten days.
The ship arrived at Yerba Buena (San Francisco) on July 29, 1846. The journey had been made in under six months.
Three weeks prior to their arrival this part of California had been taken
by the United States in the Mexican American War.
Not all had been perfect during the voyage. Four members were excommunicated
for improper views and conduct. Three more were excommunicated after
their arrival in California.
The passengers from the Brooklyn were quartered in tents and in the old Spanish
barracks of the fort making San Francisco, for a short time, "largely a
Mormon town." (History of California, 5:551)
Later they began a colony called New Hope on the Stanislaus River. The
included a log house, a sawmill, and 80 acres of land, fenced and seeded.
The colony broke up due to the uncertainty of the main body of Saints
proceeding to the west coast. Evidently, Brannan finally took possession
of the land himself.
About 140 members of the Brooklyn company found their way to the Salt Lake
valley between 1848 and 1850. The rest remained in California.
Samuel Brannan also remained in California and left the Church.
Brannan became a pioneer in California. He was there to take advantage
of the discovery of gold. He was involved in speculations in San
Francisco real estate, the organizer of milling and railway companies,
and purchased a great distillery. For a time he was known as the
richest man in California.
The historian Bancroft said that Brannan "probably did more for San
Francisco and for other places [in California] than was effected by the
combined efforts of scores of better men; and, indeed, in many respects,
he was not a bad man." (History of California, 2:728)
Parley Pratt said that Brannan was a "corrupt and wicked man" (Autobiography,
p300). Brannan acquired habits of intemperance and eventually lost
his vast fortune. According to Bancroft, in the years prior to his
death, he was "a sorry wreck, physically and financially."
The Mississippi Company of Saints.
This company of saints originally consisted of fourteen families from Monroe
County, Mississippi, led by William Crosby and John Brown.
John Brown had previously served as a missionary in the southern states
and had success in baptizing a large number of persons and organized several
branches. Among those was a group in Monroe County, Mississippi.
Brother Brown married one of the Mississippi converts, Elizabeth Crosby
As the Saints were preparing to leave Nauvoo, Brother Brown left Nauvoo
for Mississippi to assist in outfitting a company to head west.
They left Mississippi on April 8, 1846 hoping to meet up with the Saints
They arrived at Independence, Missouri in the latter part of May. They were joined there by Robert Crow and his family, and William Kartchner,
members of the Church.
They formed an emigrant company with a small group of non-members who were
heading for the Oregon Territory. The united companies had a total
of 25 wagons.
Being in Missouri, the members did not announce the fact that they were
Mormons, and traveled west without non-members knowing that they were
The Oregon emigrants did not discover that they were traveling with Mormons
until they reached Indian country along the south bank of the Platte River. At that point, those headed for Oregon decided that their Mormon friends
were not traveling fast enough, so they parted company and went on ahead.
The Mississippi company now numbered nineteen wagons.
The company traveled to within a few miles of Fort Laramie. They were unable
to obtain any information on the advanced companies of the Saints. The main body of the Saints had progressed no further than Winter Quarters.
At the recommendation of a Mr. Kershaw, they decided to go south to Pueblo
and winter there, reaching Pueblo on August 7, 1846.
They learned there that the main body of the Saints had stopped to winter
on the Missouri. They also learned of the Mormon Battalion.
Eight men from the Mississippi company, including John Brown, left Pueblo
on September 1, to return to Monroe County to bring the rest of their families
After arriving back in Mississippi, they received a message from Brigham
Young that they leave their families in their old homes for another year,
but send all the men that could be spared to go west.
A small group of men left, fitted out with two wagons, under the leadership
of John Brown, arriving in Council Bluffs, a few days before the pioneer
company left Winter Quarters. Five of the Mississippi company joined
the vanguard pioneer company, including John Brown and two black servants.
Part of the Mississippi company that had wintered in Pueblo met the vanguard
pioneer company near Fort Laramie. They said that the remainder of
the Mississippi company and the detachments from the Mormon Battalion would
leave Pueblo on June 1st and follow the vanguard company into the mountains.
The Mormon Battalion
Organization of the Mormon Battalion.
One of the misconceptions that many have regarding the trek west is that
the Mormon Battalion was an initiative forced upon the Church by the federal
government. Such was not the case.
The Church was in extreme poverty at this time and needed help. Brigham
Young commissioned Jesse C. Little, president of the Eastern States mission,
to do what he could to get assistance from the federal government to assist
the Saints in their trek westward.
With the assistance of Thomas Kane, a man sympathetic to the Saints, a
deal was worked out with President Polk to enlist 500 soldiers to march
to California under the command of General Stephen Kearny to aid the American
effort in the Mexican-American War.
On June 26, 1846, Captain James Allen of the U.S. army arrived a Mount Pisgah,
Iowa. Not all were aware of President Young's initiative and there was fear that
the United States had acted to stop the migration of the Church west.
Brigham Young became an army recruiter and went from camp to camp talking
to the men about joining the battalion.
Five hundred of the brethren volunteered to join and become a part of Kearny's
July 20, 1846: The Mormon Battalion left Council Bluffs for Fort Leavenworth where they would be outfitted for the trip west.
WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE BRIGHAM YOUNG SACRIFICED FIVE HUNDRED OF THE MOST ABLE
BODIED MEN TO THE ARMY AT THIS TIME OF GREAT NEED?
He must have felt that there would be sufficient men remaining behind to
conduct the journey westward.
The battalion wages would be an indispensable source of hard cash, which
was desperately needed.
More than $50,000 was paid to the Battalion members, most of which was
paid into the common fund of the Church. (Great Basin Kingdom, p21)
This cash was utilized to purchase supplies and build a gristmill on the
It would assure Mormon prominence in the new territory (for once the Mormons
would be the old settlers).
It displayed the loyalty of the Church to the United States, which was
questioned at that time.
Brigham Young, "The Mormon Battalion was organized
from our camp to allay the prejudices of the people, prove our loyalty
to the government of the United States, and for the present and temporal
salvation of Israel." (Great Basin Kingdom, p21)
The March of the Mormon Battalion.
The battalion assembled at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where they were outfitted
for the journey.
While drawing checks for their clothing, paid one year in advance, the
paymaster was surprised that every man was able to sign his own name.
Lieutenant Colonel James Allen ordered the battalion
to start its march on August 12, 1846. He had taken ill and remained
behind a few days to recuperate, but became worse and died.
The agreement with Brigham Young was that the only regular Army person
to command the battalion was Colonel Allen. When he died, there was
a question as to who would succeed the Colonel.
The battalion troops elected a leader from their own ranks, Captain Jefferson
Hunt. Lieutenant A. J. Smith of the regular army was sent to take
command of the troops. After some discussion, Smith was accepted
in his position as commander after he agreed to honor Colonel Allen's agreements
with the battalion.
After the battalion made it's last crossing of the Arkansas River, Lieutenant
Smith ordered the families that had traveled with the battalion, but not
actually enrolled, to be detached and sent under guard of ten men up the
Arkansas to Pueblo.
There were protests from the battalion because this was in violation of
Colonel Allen's promise that these families could travel with the troops
This detachment, and about fifteen families, marched up the Arkansas to
Pueblo where they camped for the winter.
The battalion arrived in Santa Fe by October 12. Upon their arrival
they received a 100 gun salute ordered by Colonel Alexander Doniphan, who
was in command in New Mexico at the time.
General Kearny designated Colonel P. St. George Cooke to take command of
the battalion on their march from Santa Fe. This disappointed the
Mormon volunteers who had hoped to march from Santa Fe under command of
one of their own, which would have been in harmony with Colonel Allen's
Before leaving Santa Fe, a contingent of the sick, along with the remaining
women and children, were escorted to Pueblo to spend the winter. This group then joined up with the Saints heading west the following year. 86 men were detached at this time. An additional 55 men were detached
and sent to Pueblo after leaving Santa Fe.
The Battle of the Bulls.
The only armed engagement of the battalion was on December 11, 1846 when
a number of wild cattle stampeded into the rear companies, upsetting wagons
and scaring the pack animals.
Several of the battalion opened fire on the wild cattle killing 10 to 15
Three men were wounded in the skirmish.
The battalion arrived in San Diego on January 29, 1847, completing
the six month desert march to California.
340 men, four wives of officers, and a few children completed the march.
Accomplishments of the Mormon Battalion.
The longest march of infantry in U.S. history.
Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, "History may be searched in vain for
an equal march of infantry. Half of it has been through a wilderness, where
nothing but savages and wild beasts are found, or deserts where, for want
of water, there is no living creature. There, with almost hopeless labor,
we have dug deep wells, which the future traveler will enjoy. Without a
guide who had traversed them we have ventured into trackless tablelands
where water was not found for several marches. With crowbar and pick and
axe in hand, we have worked our way over mountains, which seemed to defy
aught save the wild goat, and hewed a pass through a chasm of living rock
more narrow than our wagons. Thus, marching half naked and half fed, and
living upon wild animals, we have discovered and made a road of great value
to our country." (CHC, 3:119)
They cleared the first wagon road across the southern desert to California.
Established a U.S. presence in Tucson which paved the way for the Gadsden
Purchase from Mexico.
Some battalion members were present when gold was discovered at Sutter's
Blazed a wagon pass over Cajon Pass and the route east from California
to Salt Lake City.
Word & Will of the Lord Concerning the Camp of
Doctrine and Covenants,
Section 136, was given by the Lord through his
prophet, Brigham Young, on January 14, 1847, at Winter Quarters.
It is the Lord's directions for the Saints regarding their migration into the wilderness.
This is the only revelation received by Brigham Young that is recorded
in the Doctrine and Covenants.
D&C 136:1-4. Let the Saints be organized
and keep the commandments.
The Lord's house is a house of order. These instructions were
to assist the Saints in traveling most efficiently through the wilderness.
D&C 136:8. Each company to bear an
equal portion of the burden.
It was not just the elite that were moving west, but all faithful Saints, no
matter their position.
D&C 136:17-18. The promise that Zion
will be redeemed.
If the Saints heed the counsel of the Lord, they need not fear their enemies. This is the work of the Lord and it cannot be stopped.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "Because the saints
were 'hindered by the hands of their enemies, and by oppression,' the Lord
withdrew the time limitation (D&C 124:49-54), and the command now in
force is : 'Zion shall be redeemed in mine own due time.' (D&C 136:18.)
When that is to be remains to be seen, but that it will surely come to
pass, as part of the preparation of the Lord's people for his glorious
return, is as certain as that the sun shines or that the Great God is Lord
of all. When the appointed time comes, the Lord will reveal it to his servants
who preside over his kingdom from Salt Lake City, and then the great work
will go forward." (Millennial Messiah, p281)
D&C 136:19-25. Important counsel from
the Lord for those heading west.
These are principles and practices necessary for a successful trek west and
beginning the establishment of homes in the Great Basin.
"My people must be tried in all things, that they
may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory
of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom."
Had not the Saints been tried sufficiently? Yet the Lord issues this
warning again. It is up to each individual to be prepared for the
testing that will come.
DOES THIS WARNING APPLY TO US, THE MODERN SAINTS?
The Trek West
Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton wrote the following summation of
the trek west: "Historians have called the
Mormon migration the best-organized movement of people in American history.
Unlike other contemporary journeys to the Far West, it was religiously
motivated. The Mormons went without guides and professional outfitters
employed by most westering emigrants. A poverty-stricken band of people,
in many cases unable to outfit themselves properly, the Saints were not
frontiersmen; they were artisans, farmers, businessmen, and clerks. The
organization and cohesion of the Mormons was in marked contrast to 'the
process of disruption that prevailed so generally' in overland trail movements.
Unique to the Mormons were the planting and building for the benefit of
those to come later, sending back from Salt Lake City relief and supply
parties to aid others on the last and toughest part of the route, and establishing
a Perpetual Emigrating Fund to finance the poverty-stricken so that they
could make the journey and pay later. The entire community of Nauvoo, a
whole culture, was transported to a completely uninhabited location. Other
frontier communities either drew slowly, adding a few families at a time
until local government and trade became possible, or materialized overnight
in the boom-bust syndrome of the mining exploitation of the West. In contrast,
Salt Lake Valley was, within three months of settlement, home to nearly
two thousand people and was well organized for trade and government."
(Mormon Experience, p101)
Personal Thoughts: For me, the trek west has always held a particular
fascination. It is a story of adventure, courage, faith, and
the story of my ancestors.
I grew up in the Salt Lake and Utah valleys where
we always celebrated Brigham Young's arrival in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th. I recall
the Primary block parades to celebrate this occasion. My parents
were proud of their pioneer heritage and often talked of it. As a
boy, I recall going up to my Grandma Beardall's home on 23rd East in Salt
Lake City. Stepping into her home was a step into the past. Old fashioned furniture and rugs. She heated and cooked using coal. Hanging on the wall of her
parlor was a large framed map that depicted
the pioneer trail from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City. I was always fascinated
by that map. After my grandmother died, my dad obtained possession of the map, refinished
the frame and it hung above the fireplace of my parent's home for many years, reminding
additional generations of their proud heritage. I was lucky enough to inherit
this map upon the passing of my parents. It is now proudly displayed in my
Map of the pioneer trek from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City
Much of the following account is from the perspective of apostle Heber C. Kimball.
Leaving Winter Quarters.
Sunday, March 21, 1847: Heber called his last family meeting before
the trek - about 50 members, including 11 infants. Instructions were
given to those that would follow.
Of his family, only one wife, Ellen Sanders, went in the first company. He
was also joined by his son-in-law, nephew, and five adopted sons.
Originally, 144 men were to be assembled in the first company. They were to pattern themselves after ancient Israel, twelve men for each
of the twelve tribes of Israel.
There were a few non-Mormons selected along with three black slaves of
southern members. After the addition of three women and two children,
and a few other changes along the way, the final group consisted of 159
April 5: Under instructions from Brigham Young, Heber moved six of
his companies' wagons out of Winter Quarters four miles to the west to
a place known as Cuttler's Park.
Other wagons joined Heber's as soon as they could get ready and continued to move
west, about 35 miles to the banks of the Elkhorn River. The advanced divisions
built a ferry boat and moved the camp across as soon as it arrived.
Heber returned to meet with John Taylor who had just returned from England
with specially ordered scientific instruments to be used by Orson Pratt. They would be charting a road that would be used by the Saints for more
than 20 years.
April 14: Brigham and Heber left Winter Quarters and joined the main
camp already 47 miles to the west.
Brigham had previously left on April 7, but returned to Winter Quarters
to meet with Parley P. Pratt, who had returned from his mission to England.
On the early part of the trek Brigham and Heber occupied the same wagon. By May, Heber was in a private wagon with his wife Ellen. The following
February Ellen bore a son.
April 15: Brigham spoke to the assembled vanguard camp, "I
called the Pioneer camp together and addressed the brethren on the necessity
of being faithful, humble and prayerful on the journey. Exhorted the camp
to vigilance in guarding, and informed the brethren that I had intimations
that the Pawnee Indians were advised to rob us. Said we should go in such
a manner as to claim the blessings of heaven." (CHC, 3:162-163)
April 16: In the afternoon, the pioneer camp made its final start
westward. Only four miles were traveled that day and eight the next.
During these two days, the camp was getting organized and putting procedures
into place for the ongoing trek westward.
There were 73 wagons in the camp; 93 horses; 52 mules; 66 oxen; 19 cows;
17 dogs, and some chickens.
5:00 AM: Reveille.
7:30 AM: Departure.
One hour for lunch.
8:30 PM: Evening prayer.
9:00 PM: Taps.
The Pioneer Company Moves West.
April 19: The first day of serious travel. The camp moved forward
under its new organization and regulations. They traveled 20 miles.
The Mormons traveled on the north side of the Platte River, which they
followed to Fort Laramie. The Oregon Trail ran along the south side
of the river.
WHY DID THE LEADERSHIP CHOOSE THE INCONVENIENCE OF MAKING A NEW TRAIL OVER
USING A GOOD ROAD?
The new road was preferable to contact with western emigration, much of which was
from western Missouri and contained old enemies of the Saints. The consideration
was more for the thousands of Saints that would follow, than for the present
Of the early crossing over the plains Heber wrote: "It
was pretty hard and laborious, I admit; but it was one of the pleasantest
journeys I ever performed." (JD, 5:132)
Before crossing Loupe Fork the camp was visited by Shefmolan, the grand chief of
the Pawnee tribe.
He was not satisfied with the presents from the company. He said
that the whites would drive away their buffalo and that the camp should
go back and not go on.
This caused the company to increase their guard, with fifty standing on
duty each half of the night. The cannon was prepared for action.
At times, when wood for fuel was scarce the pioneers tried using dried
buffalo dung which they called meadow muffins or chips. The main
objection, other than the aesthetic one, was that they burned to fast.
Heber invented a ground oven for burning the chips more slowly.
May 1: The company saw their first herd of buffalo. A hunt
was organized and Heber decided to test his skills. When Heber shot
his heavily loaded gun, his horse sprang and flew down the bluff like lighting. If he hadn't been a good horseman he would have been thrown.
Brigham Young was concerned about the unnecessary slaughter of buffalo. Wrote Erastus Snow: "This morning President
Young gave some good instructions to the camp, and sharp admonitions to
some for being wasteful of flesh; to the hunters for killing more than
was really needed." (CHC, 3: footnote to Chapter 78).
Communication with the pioneers that would follow:
The pioneers would erect posts at points along the trail with a message
written on it.
On May 8th, the following message was left: "From Winter Quarters,
295 Miles, May 8th, '47. Camp, all well. W. Clayton" (CHC, 3:176).
Another method was to take a piece of board, about 6x18 inches, saw it
deeply enough to place a letter in the track. Cleats were nailed on the
sides and top to protect it. The board was nailed to a pole. The letter of May 10th contained an account of the journey up to that point.
They also often left messages on the whitened
skull of a buffalo.
Orson Pratt kept a record of detail scientific observations.
By use of the equipment he carried with him, at each day's encampment he
ascertained the latitude and longitude, altitude, and the state of the
He also kept a record of the flora and fauna and the geological formation
of the country they passed through.
Elder Pratt's entry for May 25: "A hard frost
last night, and at 5 1/2 o'clock the barometer stood 26:350, attached thermometer
40 deg., detached thermometer 35.8 deg. The morning is calm with a beautiful
clear sky. * * * We traveled five and a quarter miles, when I halted a
minutes to take the sun's meridian which gave the latitude 41 deg. 41 min.
46 sec. * * * I here took a luna distance for the longitude; also by an
imperfect trigonometrical measurement with the sextant at the distance
of three miles, Chimney Rock appeared to be about 260 feet in altitude.
* * * On account of the late rains the ground has been quite wet during
the day. The soil being of soft marly formation causes the water to stand
in ponds and pools, which have been numerous for 15 or 20 miles."
May 28: Heber walked around the wagons of his division and was disturbed
by the levity, gambling, and profane language.
Elder B.H. Roberts wrote in his history: "There
was at times much merriment in camp. There were musical instruments brought
along and those who could play them. There was dancing, too, occasionally,
notwithstanding the absence of ladies; the games of quoits, of checkers,
some card-playing for amusement, scuffling, wrestling, the telling of humorous
stories of doubtful propriety, loud laughter, the playing of practical
jokes and the like were indulged. If these things were an offense in a
company made up of churchmen engaged in a New Dispensation of the gospel
of the Christ, and seeking then a home for the exiles of a religious persecution,
it should be remembered that in the main the company was composed of young
men, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were then forty-six years old,
respectively; Willard Richards forty-three, These were the recognized leaders
of the camp; the rest of the personnel of the Pioneers, with very few exceptions,
ranged below this age, and many of them far below it; and they were possessed
of the exuberance natural to youth, and that youth alive in a new atmosphere
of freedom open plains and boundless physical prospects, to which environment
their souls were unconsciously expanding." (CHC, 3:182-183)
Heber met with Brigham and the following day the two of them called upon
the camp to repent, cease their folly, and turn to the Lord their God with
full purpose of heart to serve him.
- Brigham Young: "I had rather risk myself
among the savages with ten men that are men of faith, men of mighty prayer,
men of God, than to be with this whole camp when they forget God and turn
their hearts to folly and wickedness. Yes, I had rather be alone; and I
am now resolved not to go any further with the camp unless you will covenant
to humble yourselves before the Lord and serve him and quit your folly
and wickedness. For a week past nearly the whole camp has been card-playing,
and checkers and dominoes have occupied the attention of the brethren,
and dancing and `hoeing down'--all this has been the act continually. Now,
it is quite time to quit it. And there has been trials of law suits upon
every nonsensical thing; and if those things are suffered to go on, it
will be but a short time before you will be fighting, knocking each other
down and taking life. It is high time it was stopped." (CHC,
- From that time on a more saintly attitude prevailed in camp.
The following day, Sunday, Brigham convened a meeting of the members of
the Council of 50 that were present on the trek. They went out on
the bluffs, clothed themselves in their temple robes, and held a prayer
circle to pray for guidance.
June 1: The company arrived across the river from Ft. Laramie. On the
journey thus far there had been little sickness and no deaths. They
had lost four horses - two to the Indians.
Joined here by an advanced company of 17 Mississippi Saints. They
learned that the rest of the Southern Saints and sick members of the Mormon
battalion were south at Fort Pueblo. Brigham sent four men to assist
this group in getting to the valley.
From Ft. Laramie they joined the Oregon trail for the next month.
The Oregon Trail was a busy road in 1847. While at Fort Laramie,
a party of four men arrived from St. Joseph, Missouri. They reported
that they had passed 2,000 wagons in various companies enroute to the west.
Over this part of the trip, the Saints passed and were passed by pioneer
companies headed to Oregon or California.
At a crossing of the Platte, the Saints remained five days while they made
various experiments in ferrying over their wagons.
While there, they found that Oregon emigrants were willing to pay from
$1.50 to $2.50 per wagon to be ferried over, a profitable venture.
A company of ten men were left to run the ferry.
June 27: They met mountain man Moses Harris near South Pass. He
said that the great Salt Lake country was barren, sandy, and destitute
of timber and vegetation. He provided a lot of useful information
to the Saints.
Heber said that he learned to approach mountain men upwind, as they generally
considered cleanliness as bad as godliness.
The company met another mountain man by the name of Thomas L. Smith, who
had a trading post on the Bear River. He described the Bear Lake,
Cache, and Marsh Valleys. Said Erastus Snow of his encounter, "He
earnestly advised us to direct our course northwestward from Bridger, and
make our way into Cache valley; and he so far made an impression upon the
camp, that we were induced to enter into an engagement with him to meet
us at a certain time and place some two weeks afterwards to pilot our company
into that country. But for some reason, which to this day has never
to my knowledge been explained, he failed to meet us; and I have ever recognized
his failure to do it as a providence of the Allwise God. The impressions
of the Spirit signified that we should bear rather to the south of west
from Bridger than to the north of west." (CHC, 3:200)
June 28: The company met Jim Bridger where they learned more about
the Great Basin country.
They camped early that day in order to learn what they could from Bridger. He provided valuable information on roads, streams, and the country in
This was when the challenge was given where Bridger offered a $1000 for
the first bushel of corn to be grown in the valley. Brigham's reply,
a little, and we will show you." (CHC, 3:201)
June 30: At Green River, the company met up with Samuel Brannan coming
from the west. He brought news that his company had arrived in California,
was settling in the San Joaquin Valley, and that the Battalion had also
reached the Pacific coast.
Brannan gave a strong sales pitch for California: good soil, favorable
climate, it was now part of the United States. Brannan did not receive a favorable
A few days later, five men were sent back east along the trail, with one
wagon, to meet the emigrating companies of Saints now en route from Winter
Quarters and to act as their guides to the Green River.
July 9: The pioneers quit the Oregon Trail and followed the Hastings
Cutoff, the barely visible track left by the Reed-Donner party of 1846.
Erastus Snow wrote, "We took a blind trail, the
general course of which is a little south of west, leading in the direction
of the southern extremity of the Salt Lake, which is the region we wish
to explore. Fortunately for us a party of emigrants bound for the coast
of California passed this way last fall, though their trail is in many
places, scarcely discernable." (CHC 3:204-205)
Fortunately for the Saints, the Donner party blazed the trail into the Salt Lake Valley. Even yet it took the
pioneer company sixteen days to traverse the last 116 miles between
Ft. Bridger and Salt Lake Valley.
July 10: The pioneers met Miles Goodyear accompanied by a small company
from the San Francisco area returning back to the States. Goodyear
had a farm in the Weber Valley.
When questioned about the Salt Lake Valley, Erastus Snow reported that
he "was unable to give us any hope; on the contrary,
he told us of hard frosts, cold climate; [that it was] difficult to produce
grain and vegetables in any of this mountain region." (CHC,
July 12: Brigham Young struck with tick fever and remained sick for
nearly two weeks. Heber took over direction of the camp. The
camp split into three groups - the vanguard blazing the trail headed by
Orson Pratt, the main company, and a rear guard that stayed with Brigham
The Pratt company stopped to work on the road as they progressed along
the path cut the previous year by the Donner party.
July 19: Orson Pratt and John Brown started out after sunrise to
scout the Donner road ahead. They ascended the road for about four
miles when they came to a dividing ridge and caught a glimpse of the valley. They climbed a mountain several hundred feet to get a better view of the
July 21: Pratt's company passed over "Little Mountain" and came upon
a swift running creek now known as Emigration Creek.
At the direction of George A. Smith, Erastus Snow left the main company
and followed Pratt's route, catching up with the vanguard company.
Elder Snow and Elder Pratt left the vanguard company and proceeded down
the canyon. Orson Pratt wrote: "Mr. Snow
and myself ascended this hill, from the top of which a broad open valley,
about twenty miles wide and thirty long, lay stretched out before us, at
the north end of which the broad water of Great Salt Lake glistened in
the sunbeams, containing high mountainous islands from twenty-five to thirty
miles in extent. After issuing from the mountains among which we had been
shut up for many days, and beholding in a moment such an extensive scenery
open before us, we could not refrain from a shout of joy which almost involuntarily
escaped from our lips the moment this grand and lovely scenery was within
our view." (CHC, 3:216)
Pratt and Snow descended into the valley. Orson reported the temperature
at 96 degrees. They returned to their encampment in the canyon at
about 9:00 PM that evening.
July 22: A party of nine, headed by Orson Pratt and George A. Smith,
rode into the valley to explore it. The remainder of the vanguard
and main camps were directed to work on the road into the valley.
July 23: The main group entered the valley and camped on the banks
of City Creek.
An attempt to plow the land was made, but the ground was so hard and dry
that several plows were broken in the effort. The company set to
work to dam the creek and flood the land, thus beginning modern irrigation.
Brigham and Heber's company cross Big Mountain and get their first sight
of the valley.
July 24: William Clayton wrote of President Young's company:
24. We started early this morning and found the road very rough and uneven
to the mouth of the Kanion which is 4 3/4 miles from where we started...we
beheld the Great Valley of the Salt Lake spreading before us...we arrived
amongst the brethren at a quarter pas 12 having traveled today 12 1/4 miles...we
found the brethren very busy stocking and preparing plows, and several
plows to work."
Brigham Young made the following brief entry into his journal: "July
24th: I started early this morning and after crossing Emigration Canon
Creek eighteen times, emerged from the canon. Encamped with the main body
at 2 p. m. About noon, the five-acre potato patch was plowed, when the
brethren commenced planting their seed potatoes. At five, a light shower
accompanied by thunder and a stiff breeze." (CHC, 3:224)
Wilford Woodruff wrote that upon entering the valley Brigham Young
enwrapped in vision for several minutes. He had seen the Valley before
in vision, and upon this occasion he saw the future glory of Zion and of
Israel, as they would be, planted in the valleys of these mountains. When
the vision had passed, he said: 'It is enough. This is the right place,
drive on'." (CHC, 3: footnote to Chapter 79)
Not all felt the same as Brigham. One Saint wrote: "Weak
and weary as I am, I would rather go a thousand miles further."
Only a few Saints had arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, but
they had laid the foundation for thousands of Saints to come to the Intermountain
West. These few Saints, who had been persecuted and driven from their
homes, would settle down and build a civilization and strengthen the Church
so that its great mission of spreading the gospel of salvation could go
forward in an way unparalleled in the history of the world.
Faith In Every Footstep.
We have only scratched the surface in telling the remarkable stories of
the pioneers that traveled to Salt Lake City prior to the establishment
of the railroad two decades later. It is difficult to imagine, in
our day and time, the challenge of leaving established homes and moving
into the wilderness. We think it is an adventure to load up a U-Haul
truck and drive a thousand miles over a couple days. These pioneers
and their dedication to following the counsel of a living prophet should
be a inspiration to each one of us in our journey through life.
Elder M. Russell Ballard: "We are the
inheritors of a tremendous heritage. Now it is our privilege and responsibility
to be part of the Restoration’s continuing drama, and there are great and
heroic stories of faith to be written in our day. It will require
every bit of our strength, wisdom, and energy to overcome the obstacles
that will confront us. But even that will not be enough. We will learn,
as did our pioneer ancestors, that it is only in faith—real faith, whole-souled,
tested and tried—that we will find safety and confidence as we walk our
own perilous pathways through life." (Ensign, May 1997, p61)
For additional information see
This Shall Be Our Covenant at LDS.org.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the pioneer trek to Utah. What lessons
can you apply to your life?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.
Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints by B.H. Roberts (CHC).
Great Basin Kingdom by Leonard J. Arrington.
History of California by Hubert Howe Bancroft.
Journal of Discourses (JD).
Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney.
The Millennial Messiah by Bruce R. McConkie.
The Mormon Experience by Leonard J. Arrington
and Davis Bitton.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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