Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia

Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia

Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia

Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia

Excerpt

America in 1830 could have taken Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon as portent and symbol. Itself the narrative of an ancient religious migration, the book begot a greater wandering, an epic ingathering of believers from Europe and the States seeking New Jerusalem on the American frontier. Every Mormon proselyte knew by heart and in his own tongue the words of Father Lehi, refugee from Babylon, American immigrant circa 600 B.C.: “We have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands.… Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.” That was the book’s portent, big with history and promise. America, it said, had always been a land of promise.

A nation seized with a conviction of manifest destiny should have rejoiced in the book as symbol. It was so very national. It was, in fact, aboriginal. It gave the young country the immemorial past its poets yearned for. With its central theme of the continent as a favored land providentially preserved for the gathering of a righteous people, it improved the American dream with scripture and endowed it with sacred legend. More faithfully than the Prophet’s neighbors in New England and western New York ever realized, his revelation reflected their most cherished myth. Descendants of Puritans and Patriots should have recognized the doctrine.

Having given America its primeval migration story, Mormonism proceeded to make migration history—in two directions, both stemming from the same impulse to establish Zion: pioneering in the West and proselyting in Europe. In secular terms, call it building America.

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