Pioneers to the West

Church History in the Fulness of Times Teacher Manual, (2001), 52–53


  1. 1.

    In July 1846 the Mormon Battalion left families and loved ones behind and began what was to be a two-thousand-mile march.

  2. 2.

    The first group of Latter-day Saints to reach the west were those who traveled under the leadership of Samuel Brannan on the ship Brooklyn to San Francisco.

  3. 3.

    Early in April 1847 a vanguard company left Winter Quarters for the west under the leadership of President Brigham Young. They completed the thousand-mile journey to the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847.

  4. 4.

    After three and one-half years, the First Presidency was reorganized by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

    Suggested Approaches

  • Display a large map of the western hemisphere, and trace the routes of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, the Mormon Battalion, and the ship Brooklyn. Discuss the different hardships that each route entailed.

  • Copy several stories of the pioneers crossing the plains, and give these to students sometime before class. Have the students share the stories in their own words and tell what they learned about the pioneers.

  • Read Jeremiah 31:6–13 and have students look at the map in the student manual (p. 331). Discuss the similarities between the pioneer trek and the prophecy of Jeremiah.

  • Before class ask students if any of them have pioneer ancestors. Encourage them to find out about the journeys their ancestors made to the Salt Lake Valley, and ask them to share what they learn with the class.

  • Discuss how the migration of Church members was different from that of other immigrants to the west:

    1. 1.

      The Saints’ journey had a religious motivation.

    2. 2.

      The Saints went alone, without guides, and when possible chose not to travel on trails used by other immigrants. Instead, they blazed their own paths.

    3. 3.

      They were mainly a destitute people without many provisions.

    4. 4.

      Most of the pioneers were artisans, craftsmen, and so on rather than frontiersmen. They learned how to pioneer while they trekked across America.

    5. 5.

      There was a greater percentage of women and children with the Saints than with other groups going west. The men did not go west and leave their families in the east like many others were doing.

    6. 6.

      The Mormons made two-way roads as they traveled. Saints were constantly traveling back toward the east as missionaries and to help emigrating Saints.

    7. 7.

      They organized themselves into companies and called everyone together for prayer twice a day.

    Theme Sources

  • History of the Church, 7:604–30.

  • Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:25–39, 104–21, 160–320.

  • Readings in LDS Church History, 2:201–322.

  • Larry Christiansen, “The Mormon Battalion: An Acceptable Sacrifice,” Ensign, July 1979, pp. 53–56.

    Emphasizes the contribution of the Mormon Battalion to the Church of Jesus Christ.

  • Stanley B. Kimball, “The Mormon Battalion March, 1846–47,” Ensign, July 1979, pp. 57–61.

    Provides maps tracing the route of the battalion as well as commentary.

  • Ronald K. Esplin, “A ‘Place Prepared’ in the Rockies,” Ensign, July 1988, pp. 6–13.

    Details how the Saints were led to the Salt Lake Valley by revelation to a prophet of God.

    Additional Sources

  • Daniel Tyler, A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, 1846–1847 (Waynesboro, Va.: M & R Books, 1964).

    This reprint of the original 1881 history penned by Sergeant Daniel Tyler is a valuable source for detailing the battalion’s march.

  • John F. Yurtinus, “A Ram in the Thicket: The Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War,” 2 vols., Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1975.

    One of the most complete histories to date of the Mormon Battalion.

  • Leonard J. Arrington, “Mississippi Mormons,” Ensign, June 1977, pp. 46–51.

    Under the direction of President Brigham Young, John Brown was sent to gather the Saints in the southern states for the trek west. This article explains the fulfillment of that assignment.

  • William Clayton, William Clayton’s Journal: A Daily Record of the Journey of the Original Company of “Mormon” Pioneers from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1921).

    The day-by-day experiences of the pioneer band as recorded by the company clerk.

  • T. Edgar Lyon, “Some Uncommon Aspects of the Mormon Migration,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1969, pp. 33–40.

    Outlines ten unusual aspects of the Mormon migration.

  • Guy E. Stringham, “The Pioneer Roadometer,” Utah Historical Quarterly, Summer 1974, pp. 258–77.

    Discusses who invented, designed, and built the roadometer.