The American West prior to 1800 was relatively an obscure and unexplored region. However, by 1846, it had been traversed by no less than three government expeditions, and numerous mountain men and adventurers. There was an abundance of guides, maps, and books in print by 1846 for the homeseeker traveling west of the Mississippi River.
The Mormon knowledge and interest in the West began as early as 1832. Throughout the 1830's and early 1840's, as the saints moved West in the face of persecution, the Rocky Mountains were often spoken of as the future Zion of the Church. In 1842, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church, spoke of future Mormon settlements in the Rocky Mountains, and plans were formulated to begin a movement to that region. However, the death of the Mormon prophet in June, 1844, temporarily delayed that movement. Brigham Young continued to point the Church toward the West as planned by Joseph Smith. Under his direction, the Church made an extensive study of maps and books available on the West. As the first wagons crossed the Mississippi in February, 1846, the following plans had been determined: (1) The Great Basin was to be the main headquarters of the Church. (2) And there were to be Mormon colonies at several key locations in the West, especially along the Pacific Coast.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Christian, Lewis Clark, "A Study of Mormon Knowledge of the American Far West Prior to the Exodus (1830-February, 1846)" (1972). All Theses and Dissertations. 4596.