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Wallace Stegner, writer about the American West, is famous mostly for his novel Angle of Repose This book is not famous, but it is worth reading Mormon Country is a travelogue centered on the areas settled by the Mormons basically Utah, of course, but also parts of Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, and New Mexico It is not a book about Mormons, though they appear prominently it is about the country, as it was in the 1930s Stegner did not write this book to make a point There is no id Wallace Stegner, writer about the American West, is famous mostly for his novel Angle of Repose This book is not famous, but it is worth reading Mormon Country is a travelogue centered on the areas settled by the Mormons basically Utah, of course, but also parts of Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, and New Mexico It is not a book about Mormons, though they appear prominently it is about the country, as it was in the 1930s Stegner did not write this book to make a point There is no ideological overlay, and Stegner is neither pushing nor denigrating Mormonism He was not Mormon, but he respects them and their culture Mormon Country draws a picture of the area and its history, as of the time of writing, and offers intriguing tales many of which have modern postscripts.The book is divided into a longer part covering Mormons and a shorter part covering non Mormons, Gentiles, who lived in Mormon territory Stegner sets the scene by describing in detail a ward house meeting in one of the innumerable small Mormon towns of the time apparently Koosharem, Utah His basic message is that Mormons have a unique bond of community, organized around actual participation, not passive sharing of culture from movies or the radio The resulting culture is a curious mixture of provincialism, parochialism, and cosmopolitanism The last comes from the requirement that Mormons engage in missionary work, as well as their successful aspirations to be a global religion Stegner mentions that the Mormons, when he wrote, had eight temples they now have 158, with one of the most recent opening two years ago down the road from my house Critically, there are many young people involved, then and now, and they are fully integrated into the community s life, largely through the vehicle of Mutual Improvement Associations, existing for both men and women Stegner wrote in the past, but all these things, as far as I can tell, still apply to Mormons.Stegner also describes other aspects of typical Mormon settlements, from widespread planting of Lombardy poplars to the use of what was originally a uniform platting system for Mormon towns, like a medieval village, a collection of farm houses in the midst of cultivable land That Mormons gravitated to medieval forms is, I suspect, no accident Of all American mass movements with proselytizing zeal that have had success, the Mormons are the only ones whose structures it appears to me, not being an expert on Mormons are tied to a pre Enlightenment, Burkean time, where community, rather than individual personal gain, is the highest good I have no idea whether such small Mormon towns still exist, in these days of internet and atomization, but if they do, they provide a model for what we should aspire to as a society.The physical landscape is a major player in this book Stegner loved the West, and it shows He also had an interest in Mormons twenty years after this book, he wrote another book about Mormons, The Gathering of Zion The Mormons modified the landscape, or at least the arable parts, and those modifications are also a focus This includes both the successful and unsuccessful modifications the Mormons, for example, did not have much luck in the mining industry, despite the richness of ores in this area, which Stegner chalks up to inadequate technology existing within the insular Mormon world Interspersed with discussions of the physical landscape is the history of the recent human presence Fascinating episodes are covered, such as the Deseret Alphabet a failed attempt to create a new system of writing and the Sons of Dan a shadowy vigilante group, used as the armed wing of the early Mormon leadership, to an extent still debated today Stegner also discusses variations within Mormonism, not so much of doctrine, but of degree such as the town of Orderville, the most prominent example of a Mormon attempt to live completely communally, which, like all such experiments, ultimately failed Many colorful characters appear, such as J Golden Kimball, member of the First Council of the Seventy, who swore constantly from the pulpit All through his life his friends warned him that the Church might cut him off if he didn t stop seasoning his tabernacle sermons with peppery talk His answer was invariable They can t cut me off, he squeaked I repent too damn fast The shorter second part of the book covers the Gentiles, including the explorer Jedediah Smith, killed young by Indians after being the first man to explore much of Mormon Country, and Robert LeRoy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy though Stegner gives his given name as George, in those days before the internet superseded, and erased, memory The most interesting account is of Rafael Lopez, a miner at the Bingham Canyon copper mine, who in the town of Bingham now swallowed by the mine killed an acquaintance named Juan Valdez but I don t think he hawked coffee , then killed five lawmen sent to bring him in, and disappeared into the mine, never being found even after the mine was smoked He faded into thin air In a fascinating footnote, after a little research, I learned that it is known today that Lopez, called Red Lopez, did escape, killing a total of thirty men over a life of crime, then fought in the Mexican Revolution, and was killed in a shootout with Texas Rangers in 1921 But Stegner could not have known that, since it was only years later, in 2003, that people realized the two men called Lopez were the same man The story of Red Lopez is not the only part of the book with a postscript For example, Stegner refers in passing to Whizzer White, a famous football player much later better known as a Supreme Court justice And he writes of how barren Nevada is, and mentions Las Vegas briefly as a dead end town, long before it became a famous attraction It is strange to think, sometimes, that the 1930s are now nearly a hundred years ago, and of all that has passed since then.One lesson of this book is that Mormon community, which has much in common with Rod Dreher s famous Benedict Option, has costs as well as benefits In today s world, we all want what the Mormons have, but few want to give up their independence Most of us, tutored in self sufficiency and autonomy, believing that every man s house is his castle, would be loath to pay the price The best example of that is the Mormon custom of block teachers today called home teachers , who are responsible for regularly visiting and sitting with each family in the ward, to give aid or counsel, discuss religious and economic problems, rebuke the ungodly Stegner sees that, especially if the block teachers had unbridled zeal, this could be a problem But on balance, he sees the teachers as angels of mercy the kind neighbor systematized and made efficient, able to offer food, opportunities, and, most importantly, the conviction that the Church cares about him, that he is among friends, that he is part of a great and good brotherhood I don t want people nosing around my house anythan the next person, but an honest analysis suggests that this system, if everyone is doing it, offersbenefit than harm And it is a clear way to regenerate the type of community that, as Robert Putnam has documented, has disappeared nearly entirely There is a reason that Mormons to this day have the only robust sense of community left in America, and a reason their religion is growing I suspect that if Dreher s vision is to gain traction, it will be through an overt alliance among his Benedict Option communities, the Mormons, and probably orthodox Muslims and Jews An odder grouping is harder to imagine, but I think that in the modern world, their common approach, and common needs for defense, will outweigh their differences.It is important to remember, though, that despite supposed American tolerance of religious belief, and the guarantee of free exercise of religion, those who fall too far outside the mainstream of American thought will be always persecuted, with violence if necessary, to make them conform With the Mormons, the major flash point was polygamy, and their solution was to move to largely unpopulated Mormon Country and make it flourish, and then to agree to abjure polygamy though they did not change the theology the dropping of polygamy was, and is, characterized as prudential, not theological This should be a lesson for those Dreher ite conservatives who think that they will be left alone to form communities of virtue, if they continue to oppose the new, non Christian, religious beliefs of our ruling class As Stegner says of Orderville, the fact remained that Orderville existed under the laws of the United States, and in the midst of a society increasingly imitative of the world outside Since the Benedict Optionees believe in Christian orthodoxy, and since Christian orthodoxy is today, to the rulers of our Cthulhu State, far worse than Mormon polygamy was to the 1850s, they will not be left alone For the Mormons, federal officers invaded their towns and homesteads to search for cohabs for Dreher s communities, federal officers will reduce any members to penury, invade to seize and remove children who are being taught the thought crime of Christian orthodoxy, especially in any matter involving supposed sexual autonomy, and, ultimately, take any action necessary to destroy the communities if they seem to be getting wider traction When, soon enough, it is a crime to think wrongly, as opposed to what it is now, merely a civil disability, the only solution will beguns and a new Sons of Dan, not justcommunity and potlucks This book is both an excellent reference guide to all things Desseret everything from Brigham s alphabet to the gathering of Zion, with plenty in between on dinosaurs, resurrection cults, and lost persons as well as a collection of masterful essays It may very well be my favorite of Stegner s work, if only for the massive amount of highlighting and cross referencing I ve done with this text Not until my uncle gave me Mormon Country as a present did I realize what a rich land of symbols I had This book is both an excellent reference guide to all things Desseret everything from Brigham s alphabet to the gathering of Zion, with plenty in between on dinosaurs, resurrection cults, and lost persons as well as a collection of masterful essays It may very well be my favorite of Stegner s work, if only for the massive amount of highlighting and cross referencing I ve done with this text Not until my uncle gave me Mormon Country as a present did I realize what a rich land of symbols I had been living in Any number of overlooked details of basin existance suddenly sprung to life with renewed importance as I pieced through these essays Subtle, even vanishing details like the line of Lombardy poplars by an old field or the irrigation ditches lining the streets of villages or even the broad span of those same streets were brought to my attention with all the reverence of icons and gothic archetecture Mormon Country is a kind of rubric for deciphering how Utah has become such a religiously significant state, and further why it appears to outsiders to still be a cultural backwater Mormon Country, first published in 1942, is my first Stegner work and I quite enjoyed it Being a jack Mormon in Utah, but with a strong sense of my heritage and love for my state, I was excited to delve into this respected look at the Mormon West by an inside outsider I also wanted to read it around Utah s unique state holiday, Pioneer Day celebrated annually on July 24 , which I did The book is a collection of mostly unrelated historical topics which help us to understand Mormon Country , Mormon Country, first published in 1942, is my first Stegner work and I quite enjoyed it Being a jack Mormon in Utah, but with a strong sense of my heritage and love for my state, I was excited to delve into this respected look at the Mormon West by an inside outsider I also wanted to read it around Utah s unique state holiday, Pioneer Day celebrated annually on July 24 , which I did The book is a collection of mostly unrelated historical topics which help us to understand Mormon Country , which can be loosely defined as Utah plus the parts of surrounding states that border it The topics, divided into those about Mormons and those about non Mormons, consisted of some I knew nothing about and others I had discovered before, but all the stories were told in an entertaining way that made them a joy to read As I travel around the state in the future, I think I will take Mormon Country along and share the relevant chapters with my family I can definitely say I am now better educated about my land and my people Stegner spent a lot of time in Utah during his formative years, and his grasp of Mormon culture and idiosyncrasies while still respecting their faith is, frankly, refreshing This was published in the early 1940 s and while there have been some big changes in many aspects of Mormon culture since then as the LDS church has grown exponentially, some of the idiosyncrasies are now just bigger issues, and some have disappeared completely.In addition to describing the people and culture of Utah, howev Stegner spent a lot of time in Utah during his formative years, and his grasp of Mormon culture and idiosyncrasies while still respecting their faith is, frankly, refreshing This was published in the early 1940 s and while there have been some big changes in many aspects of Mormon culture since then as the LDS church has grown exponentially, some of the idiosyncrasies are now just bigger issues, and some have disappeared completely.In addition to describing the people and culture of Utah, however, Stegner spends many chapters discussing the land, the settlement small agricultural towns based on community and irrigation, not the stand alone ranches of the Midwest , the working with the natural resources instead of exploiting them Mormons did not mine, despite settling in mineral and oil rich country , history of native tribes and people, history of battles actual and political with the federal government in the early days of the Utah Territory, Spanish explorers, Butch Cassidy s outlaws, legends and stories from the Colorado Strip, dinosaur hunters, and the colonizing Mormons who settled from Idaho to Mexico, from the Rockies to the Sierra and even outposts at San Francisco, San Bernadino, and San Diego, California Mostly, this book just made me homesick Stegner s descriptions of the wild places of the Wasatch Mountains and south eastern Utah s Red Rock Country made me long desperately for home Stegner s predictions for Utah have almost all came true, which was really interesting to read about [ Free ] ⚈ Mormon Country ☹ Where others saw only sage, a salt lake, and a great desert, the Mormons saw their lovely Deseret, a land of lilacs, honeycombs, poplars, and fruit trees Unwelcome in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, they migrated to the dry lands between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada to establish Mormon country, a wasteland made green Like the land the Mormons settled, their habits stood in stark contrast to the frenzied recklessness of the American West Opposed to the often prodigal individualism of the West, Mormons lived in closely knit some say ironclad communities The story of Mormon country is one of self sacrifice and labor spent in the search for an ideal in the most forbidding territory of the American West Richard W Etulain provides a new introduction to this edition I seriously loved this book Originally published in 1942 this is a short but fairly comprehensive history of Utah and Mormons as viewed from an outsider Mr Stegner was never a Mormon and lived in Utah for a short time.As a Mormon I found this little history to be, to be best of my knowledge, accurate I also did not find it offensive The story telling part was amusing and informative, and I found it very enjoyable.His off hand remarks were few and not completely out of line They have been le I seriously loved this book Originally published in 1942 this is a short but fairly comprehensive history of Utah and Mormons as viewed from an outsider Mr Stegner was never a Mormon and lived in Utah for a short time.As a Mormon I found this little history to be, to be best of my knowledge, accurate I also did not find it offensive The story telling part was amusing and informative, and I found it very enjoyable.His off hand remarks were few and not completely out of line They have been left out, but that would have denied his opinion which I didn t have a problem with He was not overly critical and certainly I ve heard worse about Utah and Mormons in recent years.Given the time it was written he had access to what was then fairly current history, and if not odd certainly unique I was thrilled to hear his version of the state of love and and call home And by default that includes the religion I also love Why is a vehemently anti Mormon, left wing, proudly gay man reading a book like Mormon Country My ancestors were among the first converts to the Mormon Church My paternal great great great grandparents knew Joseph Smith personally in the once Mormon Zion of Nauvoo, Ill., and they and their children and grandchildren followed Brigham Young to the Great Salt Lake Valley Despite my antipathy to the modern Mormon Church, I have a strong urge to know and understand where my ancestors came from, Why is a vehemently anti Mormon, left wing, proudly gay man reading a book like Mormon Country My ancestors were among the first converts to the Mormon Church My paternal great great great grandparents knew Joseph Smith personally in the once Mormon Zion of Nauvoo, Ill., and they and their children and grandchildren followed Brigham Young to the Great Salt Lake Valley Despite my antipathy to the modern Mormon Church, I have a strong urge to know and understand where my ancestors came from, the land they settled, and why they became Saints The history of the early Church appeals to the radical in me The book Mormon Country is a beautifully written and a fair and well balanced portrayal of the majestic land my ancestors settled in the 19th Century The contemporary Mormon Church repels me, but I find 19th and early 20th Century LDS history to be oddly compelling This book helped me get a better idea of the land and the people who settled in Mormon Country I loved reading this Wallace Stegner who taught Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Sandra Day O Connor, Edward Abbey and others writes about the land and people of Mormon Country the area settled by my ancestors which includes Utah obviously and parts of Wyoming, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada, California and Arizona, with a super interesting cameo from Hawaii I ve heard stories of many of the books topics like the 3 Nephites wandering the earth until the second coming , but Stegner colored them up qui I loved reading this Wallace Stegner who taught Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Sandra Day O Connor, Edward Abbey and others writes about the land and people of Mormon Country the area settled by my ancestors which includes Utah obviously and parts of Wyoming, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada, California and Arizona, with a super interesting cameo from Hawaii I ve heard stories of many of the books topics like the 3 Nephites wandering the earth until the second coming , but Stegner colored them up quite well and wrote about many things that were new to me like the god king of Hawaii with his letter of recommendation from Brigham Young This is a love letter to the last great wilderness in the western world and its peculiar people Mormon Country is not history, per se It s not literature either I think it pre dated the creative non fiction title that seems so popular now It reads like a series of short stories and it happens to be about a group of people and a landscape that I care deeply about I loved the breadth of the writing if not the depth I also loved the hearty assessment of a people from an outsider, but without the anger or resentment that comes from being an other. Loved this book about western Mormon culture, history, and landscape, written by a non Mormon author This is the third book I ve read by Wallace Stegner and I ve loved them all My kind of book.