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The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail
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Wallace Stegner is one of the United States' most underappreciated men of letters. Born in Iowa, Stegner was raised and spent his youth in North Dakota, Washington, Montana, Utah, and Saskatchewan, and he lived most of his adult life in California. His knowledge of the American west was encylopedic, and he was a prolific writer of stories and novels, such as Angle of Repose, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1971. But, like Shelby Foote, the bard of the Civil War, Stegner wrote both fiction and nonfiction, and their oeuvre proves that the best popular history is informative, lively, and well written.
In The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail, Stegner does not ask the reader to accept Mormon theology or social doctrine, only to admire the courage and fortitude of the church's pioneers. After a mob in Carthage, Illinois, killed Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith, several thousand Mormons - as Stegner puts it, a "a whole people - grandparents, parents, children, flocks and herds, household goods and gods" - crossed the continent from Nauvoo, Illinois, to what became Salt Lake City in 1846 and 1847 on foot and in covered wagons under the most difficult conditions. Most of the book is devoted to recounting the travails of the Mormons, always tired, often hungry, and constantly at the mercy of the elements. The logistical requirements of the Mormon migration were staggering.Read more ›
Stegner clearly admired the Mormon Pioneers. His is an unbelieving but sympathetic viewpoint. This is demonstrated most clearly by his treatment of Brigham Young. Stegner's Young is volcanic, brilliant, powerful, and even empathetic; a truly Great Man with foibles.
A bonus of the paperback edition includes prints of Thomas Moran and Frederick Piercy watercolors and engravings showing the Mormon Trail as it was in the 1850s and 1860s. These illustrations start in Nauvoo with the ruins of the Temple, and end in the Salt Lake Valley.
The last chapter of the book is a modern-day (1960's) Pilgrim's guide to the trail. It describes how an auto tourist may visit important points on the path. There is an appendix with bibliographic notes (yes, this is a history), giving the interested reader a way to dig deeper. Of course, a lot of great Mormon literature has been written since the 1960's. Highly recommended are Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman and American Moses by Leanord Arrington. For a 5-star treatment of the Handcart Pioneers read The Price We Paid by Andrew Olsen.
I disagree with other reviewer's comments that Stegner was not a friend of the Mormon Church. He was a great admirer of these people and their accomplishments. One must grant that the unbeliever does not see a miracle in every event. Where the pioneers saw miracles, Stegner sees human strength and fortitude.Read more ›
In America, one can't write about the West without discussing two things-the California Gold Rush, and the Mormons. Stegner wrote several books about the Mormons, this is about the most colorful and dashing part of their history, their "trail" or movement from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Salt Lake in Utah.
The central thrust of the book is to lay bare the humanity of the original pioneers, their hopes, fears, and often intense frustrations. It makes for a very sympathetic study of the people and their time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
We have traveled along much of the route of the Mormon Trail and thus decided to learn more by reading this book. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Raymond Waugh
Stegner was not a Mormon; however, he spent many years in Salt Lake City and had respect for many of the values ( as distinguished from the religious beliefs) of the church. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Nemoman
Excellent historical account of the Mormon Trail experience, from beginning to end. I even discovered that one of my ancestors was the leader of the first push cart expedition. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Pam
Stegner was not a Mormon, but as a boy he was a member of a Mormon Boy Scout troop. In order to write this book at all, he had to get permission to see the manuscripts held by the... Read morePublished 20 months ago by othoniaboys
I picked this book up somewhere during my years of trucking out there, and it made the American West come alive for me. Stegner is a first-rate writer by any standard.Published 22 months ago by A Morgan
Wallace Stegner grew up in Utah as a non-Mormon. He had admiration for his Mormon friends and their history but didn't share their faith... Read morePublished 22 months ago by M.E.Anderson
ARIVED ON TIME, WAS IN VERY GOOD CONDITION, HAD A LOT OF GOOD INFORMATION IN IT. I ENJOYED READING IT.Published 23 months ago by Granny Smith
this book was well researched and comprehensive. I learned new things from it and it held my interest. I can recommend it to anyone interested in history.Published on October 10, 2013 by Kellly Heiner