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Teaching Guide: Exploring the Mormon Migration

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Mormon Migration, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Using the report from Thomas Ford, the letter from Eliza R. Snow, and the trail diary of William Snow, explain what compelled the Latter-day Saints to head west as a group in 1846. How might Mormon motivations have been similar to or different from those of other Anglo-American migrants who moved into the American West?
  2. Consider the plan of Winter Quarters, Nebraska, the roster for Company A of the Mormon Battalion, and the “The Latter-day Saints’ Emigrants’ Guide”. How did Mormons structure their journey during the initial relocation from Nauvoo to the Great Salt Lake Valley from 1846 to 1848? How did the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints help thousands of others to make the same journey to the territory of Deseret from 1848 to 1869?
  3. Compare the 1846 map by Augustus Mitchell, the 1897 map of the route of the Mormon pioneers, and the color lithograph from 1866 to explore how and why Mormons traversed the plains and Rocky Mountains to their particular destination and whom they encountered in the region.
  4. This primary source set contains two material culture objects, Eliza Kittleman’s shawl and William Clayton’s roadometer. What might these objects reveal about different kinds of Mormon migration experiences? How does gender inform your interpretation of these objects and their significance to the Mormon migration?
  5. Using the illustration showing the Utah Valley in 1850, the printed page showing the Deseret Alphabet, and the photograph of Zion’s Commercial Mercantile Institution, describe communities in the Utah territory between 1847 and 1897. Who lived in them, and what were some of their economic and cultural features?
  6. Use the trail diary of William Snow, Eliza Kittleman’s shawl, the 1897 map of the route of the Mormon pioneers, the “The Latter-day Saints’ Emigrants’ Guide,” the color lithograph from 1866, the photograph of Zion’s Commercial Mercantile Institution, and/or the photograph of the transcontinental railroad to compare modes of travel in the American West used between 1845 and 1900. How did travel options change over time? What effect did these developments in transportation have on immigration into the region and how might they have impacted relations between Native Americans and newer settlers?

Classroom activities

  1. For students: Imagine that you are a Mormon leader tasked with locating a place to which twenty to sixty thousand Latter-day Saints could safely relocate. Using maps, documents, and resources that would have been available to you in the 1840s, design a favorable route and destination and represent it either visually or in writing. What pros and cons arise as you consider various options? What challenges would be presented by the place you select, and how would you overcome them? Compare your own findings with the actual choices made and challenges faced by Mormon pioneers.
  2. For students: Select one document, image, or object in this primary source set and transform it into a different genre. For example: make a map or drawing from a trail description; write a fictionalized letter, newspaper article, or story about the places or people shown in a photograph or map; craft a timeline from a route map or document; or transcribe a sentence using the Deseret Alphabet. Present your transformed object and reflect, in writing or orally, about how this activity deepened your understanding of the Mormon Migration in its historical context.

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