Immigration of Mormon converts from outside the United States was an important part of the building of the Mormon Church into an international organization. The immigration of tens of thousands who saw the United States as a “New Zion” is another example of immigrants seeking religious freedom in the United States.
One of the first major religious movements entirely indigenous to the United States, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–who are better known as Mormons–was founded in New York State by Joseph Smith in 1830. Almost immediately after the church was organized, Smith began sending
One of the first significant groups of European converts to come to North America were English immigrants who arrived on the British ship Britannia in 1840. Its passengers immediately went to the main Mormon settlement in Nauvoo, a booming
The peak years of Mormon immigration occurred between the 1850’s and 1890’s, during which tens of thousands of European converts came to the United States. Among these were more than 50,000
Most European converts reached North America by way of Liverpool, England, from which to they sailed to New Orleans, Louisiana. A Mormon agent in Liverpool helped converts to find ships and provided them with contacts in the United States. Some Mormon-chartered boats were also used for immigrants. New Orleans was the favored port of entry into the United States because it was on the mouth of the
Mormon immigrants moving west on the Oregon Trail. Some immigrants who were unable to afford draft animals crossed the plains pushing and pulling handcarts.
The Mormons’ success in settling and developing the Utah Territory may have had the ironic effect of harming their immigration efforts. Under Brigham Young’s leadership, many church members practiced
Eventually, however, the church officially abandoned its support for plural marriage, and Utah was admitted to the union as a state in 1896. During the twentieth century, the church continued an aggressive missionary program throughout the world but did not make a practice of encouraging new converts to immigrate to the United States.
More than a century after the great wave of Mormon immigration ended, the church created the Mormon Immigration Index, a list of more than 90,000 converts who came to the United States during the nineteenth century. The compilation of names includes the diaries and other writings of immigrants detailing their journeys to their new Zion.
Abanes, Richard. One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002. Well-documented book that covers the Mormon Church’s struggles with the U.S. government and its efforts to convert followers. Arrington, Leonard J. Brigham Young: American Moses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. Biography of one of the founding leaders of the Mormon Church. Includes details of Brigham Young’s efforts to spread the religion around the world. Mulder, William. Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Recounts stories of survival and tragedy as Mormons migrated from Scandinavia through the United States and into Utah. Roberts, David. Devil’s Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008. Account of the Mormon handcart migration from Iowa to Utah, a tragic trek across the inhospitable American West. Stegner, Wallace. The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964. Overview of the Mormon Church that includes sections on Mormon migration.
Immigrant aid organizations
Pacific Islander immigrants