Speak Your Piece | Sojourners to the Mormon West: Historian Michael Homer on Seeing Mormonism and Utah through European Eyes

Date: 08.02.2021 (Season 3, Episode 9, 01:03:32 min.) To read the complete Utah Dept. of Culture & Community Engagement show notes for this episode (including topics in time, photos and recommended readings) click hereInterested in other episodes of Speak Your Piece? Click here for more episodes.

Podcast Content:

In this episode of Speak Your Piece, Michael W. Homer speaks of the deeply influential published accounts about Utah by European travelers during the 19th and early 20th centuries who largely visited Utah while “on the way to somewhere else.” Many European travelers had encounters with the famous 2nd Mormon prophet, and with numerous others, inside and outside the faith. While these accounts have been documented and found in Europe, their influence was and is vast, not just in Europe, but around the world, inspiring other works of opinion and fiction, including movies, plays and television programs, even to the present.

With the increased literacy levels, and advances in printing technology, information hungry Europeans “ate up” periodicals, novels, guide books and travel accounts, especially about North America. European travelers sojourned to the USA, and marveled at such popular landscapes as Niagara Falls, the Hudson River, Shenandoah Valley, the Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes. The appeal of the Western Frontier was equally as strong, first into the Transappalachian West, and thereafter towards the Transpacific world of California at mid-century. Frequently the Mormons were a topic of interest, as they moved from New England to the interior West, eventually locating in, as Brigham Young described in 1854, as the “natural great central depot…” and the “natural diverging point or crossing place” for the West (letter, BY to Thomas Kane, 01.31.1854).

Michael Homer’s publication, On the Way to Somewhere Else: European Sojourners in the Mormon West, 1834 – 1930 is a collection of first person printed sources, some never published before, offering fascinating new evidence of European perspectives on Mormonism and the American West. This engaging conversation between Michael Homer and Brad Westwood, will help modern Utahns understand how deeply entrenched perspectives and biases continue to influence contemporary views of Utah.

Bio: Michael W. Homer is a Salt Lake City attorney, longtime past chair of the Utah Board of State History, Honorary Italian Vice Consul and board chair and member for the University of Utah’s Willard Marriott Library. Mr. Homer is a well known proponent of Utah history, an avid collector of Mormon historical materials, and among other publications, the of Joseph’s Temples: The Dynamic Relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism

Do you have a question or comment, or a proposed guest for “Speak Your Piece?” Write us at “ask a historian” – askahistorian@utah.gov

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