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[Detail] Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, ca. 1890's

Chronological Thinking: Mormon Migration

In the early spring of 1846, Brigham Young led the Mormon community of Nauvoo, Illinois, into the West to establish a settlement where they could practice their religion free from persecution. The following spring, Young and the first company of emigrants stepped out of a dark canyon into the Great Salt Lake Valley in present day Utah and decided to settle there. Over the next twenty years, more than 60,000 Mormons made the same journey across the Great Plains to join the Mormon community in Great Salt Lake City. Use this collection to create a timeline tracing the Mormon immigration from 1846 to 1869, when the completion of a cross-continental railroad changed the Mormon migration experience forever.

Use "Where the Prophets of God Live": A Brief Overview of the Mormon Trail Experience (external link), to learn how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encouraged Mormons throughout the world to immigrate to the Salt Lake basin through the doctrine of gathering and through a series of emigration programs. Use the Trail Name Index heading Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, to access diaries, letters, maps, photographs, and illustrations that provide information about the twenty years of migration on this trail. Refer to the Special Presentation of Interactive Maps (external link) for visual representations of the trail. Compare and contrast the experiences of the first wave of Mormon immigrants to those that followed nearly a generation later and depict historical continuity and change on your timeline. Illustrate your timeline with images and excerpts of text from the collection.

  • What was The Church of Latter-day Saints' doctrine of gathering?
  • What steps did the Church take to help Mormons immigrate to Great Salt Lake City?
  • What were the different immigration programs that the Church sponsored and how did they work?
  • What routes did Latter-day Saints follow in their westward migration?
  • How long did it take to make the overland journey at different periods between the 1840s and 1869?
  • To what extent did travel across the continent improve between 1846 and 1869?