History of the United States
Utah
Mormonism

Why did the Mormons move west?

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2012-02-10 17:34:52
2012-02-10 17:34:52

The short answer is that the Mormons kept moving in an attempt to find somewhere they could live in peace. From the very moment that Joseph revealed he had seen God, persecution against the Saints was almost incessant and became, at times, unbearable. This forms the prime reason for every major move made by the Saints, despite that there may have been other incidental accompanying factors.

Therefore, some of the other circumstances regarding each move were slightly different, despite the essence of generally, mounting persecution for a 'people different':

  1. The Mormons moved first from Palmyra, New York to Kirtland, Ohio.
  2. Before abandoning Kirtland, they established a second center in Independence, Missouri. The Mormons were forcibly driven from the homes in Independence (in the dead of winter) primarily because of the Mormon opposition to slavery. Missouri was a slave state, and the Mormons being primarily from New England were abolitionists, and the kept voting for abolitionist representatives in the local elections. This was VERY unpopular. The governor actually issued a decree stating that no Mormon should LIVE in Missouri, in effect, making it legal to shoot and kill Mormons on sight.
  3. The Mormons abandoned Kirtland, Ohio primarily for financial reasons. Joseph Smith had tried his hand at establishing a bank. When it failed ...
  4. From Missouri the Mormons established a new center in Nauvoo, Illinois. This settlement was abandoned following the death the Joseph Smith and continuous, anti-Mormon persecution generally. The controversy at this time was sparked primarily by rumors that Joseph was marrying multiple young girls.

There were several factors behind the exodus of the Mormons to the western territories of the United States in the mid 1800s. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the nicknamed "Mormon Church" is officially known, was organized on April 6, 1830, by a man named Joseph Smith. Latter-day Saints believe Joseph Smith was called as a prophet of God in our day to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which had been lost from the earth.

Joseph Smith was persecuted heavily for declaring that he had seen a vision of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Those who believed him and joined the young church were also heavily persecuted. Over the course of about 15 years, the early Saints were driven from their homes multiple times. They moved states several times as well. An extermination order was issued by Governor Boggs in Missouri given other citizens the right to expel the Mormons from the state by whatever means they found necessary.

The Saints eventually thought they had found a safe haven in Nauvoo, Illinois, a city they had literally drained from the swamp and built up with their own hands and industry. Persecution continued to plague them, however, and angry mobs murdered Joseph Smith on June 27, 1844, in Carthage, Illinois, at the age of 38. Joseph Smith had been in the Carthage Jail on false charges waiting for his trial.

The situation the Saints found themselves in was unbearable. Before Joseph's murder, he shared with other church leaders that he had received revelation that the Saints should move West. Brigham Young was the next prophet called to lead the church. He and other church leaders organized a massive exodus which lasted several years. The first Saints left by covered wagon, later Saints used handcarts, and even later, other Saints travelled by train. Thousands of individuals trekked West seeking protection from the isolation the territory had to offer.

The first group of Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley in July of 1847. Though persecution continued to find them, they were much more protected and able to defend themselves once they settled in the Utah Territory.

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