Why did Italians come to Utah?

Italians came to Utah in response to the missionary activities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Europe. In fact, in 1849, Church President Brigham Young [June 1, 1801-August 29, 1877] specifically mentioned the importance of missions in Scandinavia, Italy, and France to mission organizers Erastus Fairbanks Snow [November 9, 1818-May 27, 1888], Lorenzo Snow [April 3, 1814-October 10, 1901], and John Taylor [November 1, 1808-July 25, 1887]. Missionaries indeed were sent the following year to Denmark, France, and Italy.

Of particular interest to the missionaries were the established Protestant communities of northwestern Italy, in three valleys of the Piedmont. These communities were made up of Waldensians whose ancestors had separated from the Catholic Church in the early 13th century. They were so called, to honor the memory of their founder, Peter Waldo [c. 1140-c. 1218].

The gentleman who recognized the future Utah as 'the place' likewise was astute in his choice of European missions. This was particularly true in the case of Italy. Missionaries succeeded in converting about 1% of the devout Waldensian faithful to the LDS Church. Of those converts, at least 70 ended up leaving their homeland to settle in Utah.

The happiness and successes of the Italian immigrants inspired those who had remained in Italy. The support for Mormons of Italian descent in Utah, and for Mormons in Italy, was key to further conversions and additional migrations. In fact, it was the support to those who left and to those who stayed that was the hallmark, and one of the reasons for the success, of Mormon missionaries in Italy, and elsewhere. For example, a young missionary in modern day Ireland completed his mission with the knowledge that he had achieved one conversion during his two years. But that one conversion was the spiritual force behind all of the subsequent conversions in Ireland.