Trail of Hope: The Story of the Mormon Trail
Michael Landon, William W. Slaughter
Shadow Mountain , 1997. Hardback.
Suggested retail price: $34.95 (US)
Genre: Companion book to the PBS documentary
I am probably the only person in the world who owns a copy of this book, but has not seen the PBS documentary. As a result, my comments are neccessarily going to be limited to the book only.
I'm not sure that any review of this book is really neccessary, actually. Folks pretty much own the thing already. The book completely sold out it's first print run and a second had to be hurriedly ordered from the Hong Kong printer. (You know a book's doing well when Deseret Book can't spare a review copy because the stock in their stores are bone dry; I had to wait months for the second printing to arrive before they could send me my copy.)
After reading this book, I can't say I'm surprised it's selling so well, with or without the video. It's a great book. Great pictures and captions, lots of interesting sidebars.
Most of all, it has a good sense of sweep. The recounting of the 1847 trek isn't just limited to the main body of Saints coming across from Winter Quarters. We also meet the Mississippi Saints and the sick Mormon Battalion detachment coming up from their Pueblo winter quarters, and the California Saints that sailed around the horn with Brannan.
I was happy to meet my old Trail of Dreams friends in more detail: Captain John Brown himself (he's the one Jim Bridger told he'd give a $1000 for the first ear of corn in the Valley), William Clayton (and son Wm. Adriel Benoni), Appleton Harmon, Levi Savage, "and more."
Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the book deals with the difference between the Saint's attitude and other western pioneers. One such example is in the hunting of buffalo and other game: the Saints were enjoined to hunt only what was needed and directly forbidden to participate in the type of slaughter of buffalo herds for "sport" that others made a pratice of. (And when some of the Saints disobeyed, boy! did Brigham give them what-for!)
I also enjoyed reading that the Saints, particularlly Brigham, knew at the time how very special this westward trek were:
He [Brigham], more than the others, understood theat this was the advance company of the host of Israel fleeing Babylon for the safety of the West. He firmly believed that fact should govern the behaviour of the camp, for they were on a sacred mission to save a people, not a leisurely pleasure trip in the country. [pg. 59]
When the advance party began to forget their special mission, an angry Brigham summoned them together:
"Give me the man of prayer; give me the man of faith; give me the man of discretion, a sober-minded man, and I would rather go among the savages with six or eight such men, than to trust myself with the whole of this camp with the spirit they now possess .& .& . We suppose that we are going to look out a home for the Saints, a resting place, a place of peace, where we can build up the Kingdom and bid the nations welcome, without a low, mean, dirty, trifling, covetous, wicked spirit dwelling in our bosoms .& .& . I am one of the last to ask my brethern to enter into a solemn covenant, but, if they will not enter into a solemn covenant to put away their iniquity, and turn to the Lord, and serve him, and acknowleged and honor His name, I want them to take their wagons and return back, for i shall not go any farther under this state of things." [pg. 60]
A subdued William Clayton notes after this that
".& .& . reflecting on what has passed today .& .& . It seemed as though we were just commencing on this important mission, and all realizing the responsibility resting upon us to conduct ourselves in such a manner that the journey may be an everlasting blessing to us, instead of an everlasting disgrace. No loud laughter was heard, no swearing, no profane language, no hard speeches to man or beast, and it truly seemed as though the cloud had burst and we had emerged into a new element, a new atmosphere, and a new society." [pg. 60f]
Trail of Hope brings these incidents, these pioneers and their journeys to life through pictures, well written and nicely flowing narratives, and interesting sidebars. It would make a great Christmas book -- for yourself or some other booklover.
I look forward to seeing the video now. (everal months ago asked Santa to leave one in my stocking. Let's hope Santa delivers!)
Lee Allred firstname.lastname@example.org www.leeallred.com
© 1997 Lee Allred < email@example.com >