Mormons in California

More than 35 years ago, our renowned historian, Clyde Arbuckle, stood at Emigration Canyon, overlooking the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and repeated the words that Mormon leader Brigham Young uttered 130 years before: “This is the place.” But then, Clyde added something that is not listed in Mormon ideology: “This is the place, I cannot go any further.” The faithful were carrying the desperately ill Young on a bed, and it was there that he urged them to stop and build their “Kingdom of God.”

For years, I have thought about the missing words: “I cannot go any further.” Study has revealed that the Mormons were really heading to California, and once there, to wrest control from the Mexican government. In mid-September 1845, Brigham Young wrote to Mormon elder Sam Brannan:

“I wish you, together with your press, paper and ten thousand of the brethren, were now at the Bay of St. Francisco, and if you clear yourself and go there, do so and we will meet you there.”

Sam Brannan left in December of 1845 from New York City aboard the chartered ship “Brooklyn” with 230 Saints, headed for California, although the publicly announced destination was Oregon. This confirms that the Mormons were to come in two parties, Brannan leading the sea party and Young the overland group. Months later, Brannan’s party arrived in San Francisco, or Yerba Buena as it was known then. The Mormons outnumbered the previous residents about five to one. But before they could get established, U.S. Navy Commander Sloat sailed into Monterey, California’s Mexican capital. On July 7, 1846, he claimed California for the United States. Sloat’s arrival was just nine days before that of the British Pacific fleet under Admiral Seymour. Seeing the stars and stripes flying over Monterey, Seymour recognized the American occupation.

Thus, it was just over a period of days that the future of California was decided, becoming an American state instead of an independent Mormon territory. It was fortunate for the Mormons too, for John Marshall discovered gold in the California foothills soon afterwards. The Saints would have been overrun by the gold-seeking 49ers. Even this proved to be a blessing, for they were having a difficult time establishing themselves in Utah. Remnants of the Mormon Battalion of soldiers, originally recruited to fight Mexico, were sent to work in the California mines. With the profits from their labor, they sent financial resources to Utah to assist the Saints in saving their Rocky Mountain territory from collapse. And Sam Brannan became one of California’s first millionaires.


  1. Personally my family comes from a long line of LDS.  Actually, it’s a rather short line as the Momons were established in the 19th century by Joseph Smith.

    My great Granfather had two wives and my great, great uncle was the first President of BYU.

    As the joke goes, Brig—ham Young, bring ‘em often.  Young had 27 wives, he divorced one which is never talked about in the Church.  His official biography lists 26.

    The history of the Mormon Church is complex and there are still some disturbing sects located in remote areas of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

    The Mormons are the best prepared for the end of the world, many have stored up supplies for a year or more.

    The Book of Mormon is a great read, but it is just one of the doctrines of the Church, the other is the Doctrine of Covenants which commands the faithful to practice plural marriage.

    Indeed, it was a great selling point for the Church in their early days.  The need to follow American Law and to become a State forced the main body of the Church to abandon this “law”.  But some splinter groups, who really like the rule, still exist.

    The book “Under the Banner of Heaven” gives a pretty good accounting of the break away sects, who remain an embarrassment to main Church.

    Mormonism remains the fastest growing Christian Religion in the world, this despite the fact . the Book of Mormon has been thoroughly debunked by Science.

    As with many fundamentalist faiths the Mormons are hoping for the end of the world and are preparing for the day Jesus takes them—and no one else—to heaven.

    But they are not the only faith to claim an exclusive relationship with the almighty.  And unlike some other religious fanatics, even the most far out Mormon is unlikely to fly a plane into a large inhabited building or send a child to the disco, strapped with a bomb, with no intention to dance.

    Their door to door campaign may be annoying, but it is harmless.  They also make great neighbors.  They don’t drink, smoke, take drugs or bring down propery values in any way.

    But if you find a family with more than one Mrs. in the household, it is best to beat a hasty retreat.  As with all religions, there are some who become too fanatical, and those individuals can be dangerous.

    • As a practicing Mormon, I can tell you that Jesus lives and that he died to make ALL men free from death…you got some faulty information…

  2. Richard:

    Actually, I thought “Under the Banner of Heaven” was a great book for it’s thorough explanation and exploration of the history of the Mormon religion.  Not a book that I would normally read since I stay away from religious topics, it held my attention and kept my interest.  It also helped me really understand all the hoopla about the recent capture of Warren Jeffs.  I would highly recommend it.

  3. #2 RR
    How has the Book of Mormon been thoroughly been debunked by science?  I am not LDS and don’t know a whole lot about the religion.  I do know that they were saying that caffine, alcohol and smoking was bad for you long before popular science back them up.  They were also ahead of their time when they said that horses were in North America before the Spanish brought European horses here.  In recent years archaeologists have found remains from thousands of years prior that suport their claims.

  4. To all,

    No I am not a practicing Mormon, but I was baptized into the faith at the age of 8.  I don’t smoke, take drugs and very rarely do I drink—but I attribute that more to my Grandfather’s wisdom than religion.

    According to Under the Banner of Heaven, which is well-documented, the author claimed current archaeological evidence and DNA proves the claims made by Joe Smith in the Book of Mormon cannot be true—at least that is my recollection.

    In addition, the vernacular used in the Book of Mormon is a bit odd to say the least.  It’s as if 19th Century jargon was mingled with language from the King James Version of the Bible.

    Finally it seems to me if God wants to impress he/she wouldn’t use a burning bush or golden plates; in the 18th Century nothing would have been more impressive than a printer connected to an Apple Computer.

    In any case, I do believe one major tenet of the religion.  If you want to speak to God, do it directly, privately, and by yourself.  If God talks back—seek help immediately.

  5. Mr. RR I like your line about “going to a disco with no intention to dance.” It’s refreshing to be able to speak freely about other religions without fear of a deadly attack from an opposing view.

    I’m a Catholic, I know my religion is far from perfect. I don’t try to make others follow me, nor should anyone expect me to follow them. I ask only to be granted the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness, and I will not stand in anybody’s way if they wish to do the same. If someone can handle 26 wives and be happy, more power to them.

    Do you do stand up comedy in your spare time?

  6. The line actually belongs to George Carlin—I should have attibuted it earlier.

    I too am disturbed by the reaction around the world to the Pope’s comments.

    The radical Muslim community chooses every opportunity to be a victim, yet their radical clerics often denounce the Christian and Jewish Faiths with impunity.

    It seems to me if they want to burn flags, protest and get irate, they need only look to their own radical Mullahs who keep them in abject poverty to pursue a 12th Century religious agenda.

    Just an observation.

  7. Mormonism is an invented religion. There is absolutely no historical, archaeological or linguistic proof of its grand claims. I pity and pray for all naive people who are led away by it.

  8. First, let me disclose that I am one of those naive and thoroughly debunked mormons (practicing too!). I apologize for commenting so long after the original article was posted. I was on SJ Inside to check out the aftermath of the recent election and for obvious reasons the headline caught my eye.

    With all due respect to Mr. McKay and Mr. Arbuckle, I believe it is generally accepted that the actual quote by Brigham Young was “It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on.” However, you are correct in stating that the quote is generally shortened in mormon lore to “This is the place.” I only mention this because I haven’t been able to find any references to your version of the quote, and I think it carries unfair connotations.

    I must agree with Refugio Moreno (#7). It is nice to live in a region of the world where we can have open and civil discussions about religion.

  9. The Book of Mormon claims the North AMerican Natives were descended from a lost tribe of Isrealites. This has been proven to be false. THere is not a people better DNA processed than the Jews. THe Native North American tribes trace back to Asia period.
    I know the LDS church is spinning for all they are worth but that is the fact.
    Look one side of my family is LDS they are very nice people and yes great neighbors but their Book is a delusion if not a very elaborate con.

  10. The Book of Mormon a con?  Mormon beliefs nothing but deceit?  And the only reason given is “lack of proof”.  First of all, there is as much proof for the Book of Mormon as there ever was for the Koran or the Bible.  Second, simple statements such as “science has debunked the Book of Mormon” are made ignorantly.  Let me state, as someone who is currently studying to become a “scientist,” that the Book of Mormon is just what it purports to be.  It is true.  It is the most marvelous book to be published to the world in thousands of years.  Mormons are not ignorant followers- they are among the most highly educated of people.  They believe in science- (they are the ones that invented television and CD technology, for starters…)  There is enormous evidence in favor of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  Arguments made against the book are typically made by people who lack understanding on the topic- rather, they, because they are angry at Mormons or a Mormon, perhaps because of the clean, simple, and honest way of the Mormon people, find a few pieces of scientific theory and claim that they have “proof.”  They put themselves in the category with those people of Columbus’ day that said, “such and such a scientist has proven that the world is flat, therefore, you will die if you set sail beyond the edge of the map.”  The Book of Mormon, like the Bible, will not be proven false or true by scientific evidence until after the coming of the Messiah.  Now is the time to live by faith.  However, the Bible and the Book of Mormon do promise signs to those who exercise faith and who seek humbly to know the truth about God and who seek to obey his commandments.  It is my witness, as a scientist, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that it, like the Bible, has profound power to lead people to lead better lives.  I have read thousands of books in my lifetime and no book has been more powerful or influential in my life than the Book of Mormon (the Bible has had a similar effect on my mind).  The Book of Mormon is evidence of a miracle, and to those who would say Joseph Smith, a boy at the time of its translations, made up the Book of Mormon- to these people I would say what Jeffrey Holland said, “that would be a greater miracle than him having translated the Book by the power of God!”  In summary, as a scientist, can challenge you to read and study the Book of Mormon and the Bible before declaring that you know them to be frauds?  Can I assure you that thousands of this world’s best and most productive scientists feel the same way that I do about the Book of Mormon?  There is a reason why “Mormonism” is the fastest growing faith in the United States- it’s because it is a true and living faith and a perfect organization- though the people are far from perfect.

  11. We live in a world where people are getting pregnant and having abortions (including middle school young girls), taking drugs, committing crimes, showing disrespect towards others, including their parents and themselves, performing very low at schools, are lost among propaganda and TV commercials that emphasizes lust, sexuality, and looks, experience apathy and despair… and we are worried about the doctrines of churches?

    My gosh, I welcome any church that guides people to be better today than they were yesterday, to perform better, to respect others and themselves, to care about their families, others,  and their environment. I welcome any church that teaches their young to be honorable human beings who show respect, are goal-minded and want to work to make this a better planet.

    I don’t mind if people believe their church is the chosen one as long as they show love, respect, and acceptance for others. I don’t mind if I/others think their beliefs are erroneous as long I/we can show love, respect, and acceptance.

    As things are in today’s world… Do I really care if The Book of Mormon, The Bible or any other religious book is supported by science? I care that there are people who believe that there is something out there that gives them faith and hope, and guides them to try be a better person. They are doing something most people are not: searching for guidance. I can’t believe is easy to get up early in the morning on a Sunday to go to church (and I think Mormons meetings are three hours long) instead of cuddling in the sofa watching a movie.

    Thank you to all of you Goodness-seeking people, whether you go to church to pray, to a Buddhist center to meditate, to hike and commune with Nature, to take your kids to the park to create a greater family bond… It’s all good

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