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Monday, January 06, 2014

Mormon Mentions: Eric Pierpoint

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture. 


It's pretty much impossible to write a book about the settling of the Western United States without mentioning the Mormon pioneers.  The Last Ride of Caleb O'Toole by Eric Pierpoint is no exception.  Here are several passages from the book:

"It's all right, they're Mormons.  Those men in the black coats are leaders.  Their wagons crossed over the river at Fort Laramie.  They've been trailing us.  They're all headed to Utah and the Mormon Trail" (164).

"The Mormon wagon train was just ahead, the leaders standing guard like military men while the travelers bought and traded goods for their journey west.  They kept apart from other pioneers, preferring not to engage ...

He watched as Julie began an animated conversation with the Mormon prairie doctor" (173-174).

"Mormons mainly took their wagons across the Oregon Trail on the northern Platte road to avoid conflict with others who did not approve of Mormons or their religious practices.  They crossed over near Fort Fetterman and continued west until they picked up the Mormon Trail to Utah" (291).

-- Before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints grew into a worldwide church, respected for its dedication to wholesome living, the preservation of the family and humanitarian causes across the globe, it was a small, struggling organization that drew a great deal of criticism and ridicule from outsiders.  Because the early Saints believed in things like a modern prophet (Joseph Smith), divine revelation, The Book of Mormon and polygamy, they were persecuted cruelly and continually.  Always in pursuit of the freedom to practice their religion, they moved from place to place, often driven out by angry mobs.  After the murder of Joseph Smith in 1844, the Saints were driven out of Illinois and begin the arduous journey west.  Eventually, around 70,000 Mormon pioneers would make their way to the Great Salt Lake Valley.  Along the way, they suffered greatly from hunger, thirst, extreme weather conditions, disease, and injury.  Led by their incredible faith, these early pioneers finally found refuge in what is now the state of Utah.  Read more about them here.    

(Images from Barnes & Noble and


  1. This book made it to my best reads 2013 list. I'm not Mormon, but I've read about the Oregon trail. I did not think he portrayed the Mormons in a bad light. It seems to me what he stated was factual. Is this what you're saying too?

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the book. I didn't love, love, love it, but I did enjoy it as well.

      Sorry I didn't make myself more clear about Pierpoint's depiction of Mormons. Yes, I do think he showed Mormons in a positive, accurate light. I just wanted to add a little more detail to his account.

  2. "It's all right, they're Mormons."
    I hope that's what they'll say about me!

    1. When we adopted our daughter, our lawyer told her birthmom: "They're not just good people, they're Mormons." Huge compliment -- I just hope we're living up to it :)

  3. I like this post. Mormons don't show up often in books so I like that you feature them when they do.


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