Mormons: A Family Story

My father’s family are Mormons.  In the mid-eighteen hundreds they gave everything they owned to the church that Joseph Smith founded.  My paternal ancestors came from Sweden and England and most pulled handcarts from Independence, Missouri to the Great Salt Lake.  The church couldn’t afford oxen and wagons for everyone so this is what they pulled.

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Over trails like this.

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My Great-great-grandmother (I’m not sure how many greats) was a little girl when her family came over the Atlantic in steerage.  They weren’t coming to America, they were just passing through on their way to the independent state of Deseret.

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(I imagine that LA and Vegas would be quite different towns under Mormon rule).

My ancestors pulled, and walked alongside, their handcart from Independence to the Great Salt Lake along the Mormon Trail.  Nearing Fort Laramie they saw the first of a long string of mountains to come.

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They were part of the unfortunate Martin Party which got snowed in in Wyoming where many people died of exposure before a search party rescued them.

The Mormons (like any other large group of people) has some things in its past that it would rather not talk about.  The Mountain Meadows massacre among others.  The Mormons were brought into America, but not completely peacefully.  This period of history is termed The Utah Troubles.

The Mormons practiced polygamy which the United States government wanted to suppress.  My Great-Grandfather spent time in prison for not giving up his wives.  The old church’s polygamy was different than the current “Fundamentalist Mormons” who have been responsible for forcing young girls into marriages with much older men.  In my opinion the FLDS people are guilty of child abuse, but in the past arranged marriages were the norm.  That doesn’t mean it was right, or fair, just the way things were.  All of my ancestors married people near their own age.

This isn’t a Mormon bashing essay.  The followers of Joseph Smith make their own choices in life.  I’m not going to go into a lot about what they believe in this essay, but I will embed this clip I found of South Park which says about what I feel about this.

(It’s about 9 minutes long–the first 7 minutes is the part I’m talking about).

My grandfather moved the family from Utah to Idaho and bought a section of farmland (640 acres) near

Nampa.  By the way, Idaho has the second biggest Mormon population and Wyoming has a substantial population also.  My father went to college and with one semester to go toward his degree in Pharmacy he married my mother who came from a poor, Southern Baptist family (her family story here).  Exactly how this happened I’ve never heard, but they moved to California for a job and I was born there.

My 7 aunts made my mothers life hell.  Sometimes she would cry quietly during the drive home when one of them had put her down again.  It was never done in a systematic way; but, every once in a while, someone would start in on her.  My Grandmother had learned some delicious dishes from her Swedish mother.  One of my favorites was called something like “Saberducks” I don’t know the real spelling.  Once my mother asked for the recipe and an aunt piped in, “No, that only for family.”  Nice eh?  So, since mom wasn’t included in their family I don’t know how to make saberducks.

So, there are the two sides of my family. an Okie girl marries a Mormon boy and here I am.


Skip to comment form

    • Boise Lib on December 10, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    But, you’ve got to give them points for commitment.

    • oculus on December 10, 2007 at 7:45 pm


    • Tigana on December 11, 2007 at 1:05 am

    Please describe it for us.  

  1. I often visualized the Indian braves said to often walk across the continent coming upon the Grand Canyon.  Those hand carts the Mormons pushed across much of the continent didn’t face the Grand Canyon but it had to be one hell of a journey.

    I personally don’t see Mormon mythology any sillier than the usual Christian fairy tales.  I was always fond of the miracle of Cana when Jesus turned water into wine. I have no idea how fundamentalists of various stripes deal with that but I am sure they manage quite nicely.  Everybody here is probably familiar with the Two Great Non-Recognitions:

    1. The Church of England does not recognize the Pope as head of the Church.

    2. A Baptist in a liquor store never recognizes another Baptist in the same store.

    Best,  Terry  

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