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Mormon Country (Second Edition) Paperback – September 1, 2003
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From the Inside Flap
"Stegner combines a great amount of information and lively comment with fine description of one of the most beautiful and least known regions of the United States."Boston Globe.
Where others saw only sage, a salt lake, and a great desert, the Mormons saw their "lovely Deseret," a land of lilacs, honeycombs, poplars, and fruit trees. Unwelcome in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, they migrated to the dry lands between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada to establish Mormon country, a wasteland made green. Like the land the Mormons settled, their habits stood in stark contrast to the frenzied recklessness of the American West. Opposed to the often prodigal individualism of the West, Mormons lived in closely knitsome say ironcladcommunities. The story of Mormon country is one of self-sacrifice and labor spent in the search for an ideal in the most forbidding territory of the American West. Richard W. Etulain provides a new introduction to this edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Stegner, a Gentile, seems to have considerable affection for the Mormons and their accomplishments as well as the ruggedly beautiful landscape of Utah. Although the book was originally published in 1942, it is still fascinating reading for anybody traveling around or living in Mormon country who would like not only a better understanding of the history and culture of the people who managed to tame a desert that most settlers only grudgingly trudged through on their way to greener points much further west, but of the many others attracted to that same desert for fortune-making, exploration, crime, science, and glorious solitude.
The author touches on the interesting Deseret alphabet--a bizarre, phonetic alphabet that Mormon leader Brigham Young tried to get all Mormons to learn--on missing artist-explorer Everett Ruess, on the settlements along the Colorado River, and on the effects Mormon culture had on local Indian tribes.
Stegner seems to really like and admire the Mormons, though he was never one himself, and his book is almost always fair, and at times even loving, to them.
This is an enjoyable read for anyone interested in these parts of the West, particularly in Utah and the Colorado Plateau. It's also well indexed and can be easily used as a reference. It's one of Stegner's best, for sure.
Since the book is now over sixty years old, it reflects a time that has been lost. It tells stories that may well have been first or second hand accounts of the founding of the Mormon Country. The writing is crisp and moves easily. This is interesting reading for anyone interested in getting a basic understanding of wh the Mormons are and how they live.
Stegner discusses my great-grandfather Thomas Chamberlain. Chamberlain was my father's mother's father. It is evident that Stegner has done his homework.
Beginning on page 118, Stegner writes of Orderville and my great-grandfather, Bishop Chamberlain. Orderville was a communal living arrangement in Southern Utah. My grandmother spoke of it frequently, as she grew up not long after Orderville ceased operation.
"Orderville was more than a hundred miles from a railroad then. The terminal of the Denver and Western branch of the Rio Grande line -- called the ''Wooden Shoe line'' because the Scandinavian peasants working the fields in their sabots -- was at Marysvale. But it was not mere isolation from the world that let the communal village thrive where so many similar experiments in towns nearby failed miserably...
"No one could say that one got more than another, because skilled and unskilled labor were paid alike. There were no plutocrats and no charity cases, and for a long time, no bad feelings of any kind between members. When they founded their town, they were earnest for cooperation, so earnest that most of them were baptized into it. A new member was carefully quizzed by the board. Did he believe that the Lord had advised him to join this co-operative life?Read more ›
The book is hard to classify. It's not a traditional history, and certainly not an academic one because there are no sources or footnotes. Significant parts rely on oral history, while other chapters pass on anecdotes about famous people with wide circulation in the area. It's anthropological in some ways, but an anthropologist probably wouldn't recognize it as such.
Stegner was a novelist before he wrote history, and he knows how to tell a story. He's not a Saint but he's sympathetic to them as people. When he says something critical about their beliefs or culture, he qualifies it by pointing out parallels in Gentile society.
The overwhelmingly rural, agricultural society that he emphasizes has passed with urbanization. Yet one indication of his perceptiveness is that he identifies two small towns - - St. George and Moab - - as likely tourist destinations if they were ever discovered. The changes to those towns, and to Mormon Country and the United States, are a measure of the changes that have occurred since 1942. Even so, the book reads well and provides a great window into this cultural region.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A Mormon friend said that for a non-Mormon, Stegner did a good job of portraying the times and the culture. I loved the book and could re-read it. I recommend it highly.Published 9 months ago by Judith N. Alger
This is one of my favorite of Stegner's books. It strikes a wonderful balance between history, lyrical prose, musings, and narrative. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
While this book is somewhat dated, many of the themes or traits Stegner explores in "Mormon Country" are still evident today, albeit in a more muted form. Read morePublished 14 months ago by M. Eddington
Wallace Stegner was a fine writer and a fair historian; his best work nearly rivals DeVoto for excitement, for commitment to historical truth, for poetry. Read morePublished on May 19, 2014 by alisonsbed
I loved the historical information. There was a lot that I found out about Utah and the Mormons. I didn't know before this why Utah was named the Beehive State.Published on November 20, 2013 by Inquiring Mind
Mormon Country, first published in 1942, is my first Stegner work and I quite enjoyed it. Being a jack-Mormon in Utah, but with a strong sense of my heritage and love for my state,... Read morePublished on July 31, 2013 by Iosephus Bibliothecarius
This book first written in 1942 would have been still fairly current history and that is what this book. An outsiders look at how Utah became. Read morePublished on July 7, 2013 by Shellie Drage