Recapturing the Mormon Trail

Artists Josh Clare, John Burton, and Bryan Mark Taylor worked for years on a project called Saints at Devil’s Gate. It consists of landscapes capturing the Mormon Trail, the 1,300-mile route from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah, that mid-19th century pioneers traveled on their migration west.

The artists’ intention was to pair their paintings with excerpts from historical trail journals by Mormon immigrants, which would allow them to construct a singular persona that could stand for the whole of the pioneer experience.

The paintings record the mundane trail that accompanied the pioneers’ daily wanderings. Practical activities are detailed such as washing clothes, picking wildflowers, and playing music and dancing together in the evenings.

Beyond picturesque beauty, the paintings also explore a sense of the sublime and also sometimes the horrific.

LDS Church History Museum Curator Laura Allred Hurtado discusses with Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast how researching the history for the book that accompanies the exhibit expanded her understanding of the experience of those who traveled the Mormon trail. For many, it was a rite of passage and the experience of a lifetime.

Join us as we seek a more nuanced glimpse into what the Mormon trail meant to those who traversed it and discuss what we can learn from reading their experiences.