DESERT SAINTS: The Mormon Frontier in Utah by Nels Anderson

DESERT SAINTS: The Mormon Frontier in Utah

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In the last issue we reviewed two novels dealing with the Missouri and Illinois periods in Mormon history (see page 127), Now comes this history of Mormonism, not -- as the subtitle would indicate -- confined to the Utah frontier, but covering the whole span of their dramatic history. Written by a man who was a convert to Mormonism, a trained sociologist who spent ten years living in Utah and eight years of research among sources, many of them unpublished and not available to non-Hormons. Feeling that the smaller communities reflected more accurately the way of Mormon life, his survey was particularly directed to the outlying Utah communities, St. George, Dixie, etc. He studied the long-span effect of polygamy on political and social development; he traced the history and biography (to a lesser degree) of the leading Mormons. He included enough anecdotal material to keep the record from being merely a dry statistical thesis. I found myself expecting more blood and thunder, more recriminations against the Gentiles, but found it amazingly objective, often critical of both sides, appraising the strengths and weaknesses of the Mormon faith, society and way of thought and life. Certain high points -- and low points -- of Mormon history and the long struggle against intolerance and misunderstanding and attack from outside are viewed dispassionately:- one example -- the Mountain Meadow Massacre is treated historically, with facts drawn from actual records. This should prove a competent and useful source book on Mormon history.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1942
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago