|Released:||July 20th, 1998|
"The story of the Mormon Trail is a story of people, no better and no worse than other people, probably, but certainly as sternly tested as any, and with a right to their pride in the way they have born the testing."
-- Wallace Stegner
In 1847 the Mormon pioneers began a migration across the heartland of America in search of religious refuge. For the next twenty years, tens of thousands of Mormon converts gathered together in the Great Salt Lake valley. Plagued by persecution, challenged by the harshness of the plains, faced with mountains piled on mountains in every direction, these hearty pioneers pushed on to find refuge where they could worship as they pleased. Their story -- a story of hardship and hope -- is a singular saga in the settlement of the American West.
Multiple Emmy-Award winner Hal Holbrook hosts the original documentary Trail of Hope: The Story of the Mormon Trail, in which an American people triumph over adversity and find religious freedom by making an arduous, 1,300-mile journey across the plains to Utah. KUED airs the two-hour program in honor of the 150th anniversary of the first emigrant arrivals in the Great Basin.
Produced by award-winning independent filmmaker Lee Groberg, Trail of Hope is told through the poignant narration of Holbrook and first-hand accounts of the pioneers gleaned from diaries and journals that they kept while making the westward exodus. The documentary features period photographs, sketches, and artwork, as well as stylized recreations of select events that set this American experience apart as one of the truly heroic events of the 19th century. Filmed in England, New York, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah, Trail of Hope visits actual Mormon Trail locations.
Just as the Spanish Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the Trail of Tears mark rich periods in American history, the Mormon Trail tells another chapter in the settlement of the West with this story of a courageous group of pioneers seeking religious freedom at all costs. Over a period of 20 years, beginning in the winter of 1846, more than 70,000 men, women, and children trekked to the Salt Lake Valley along the Mormon Trail. Led by Brigham Young, most of the emigrants walked the incredible 1,300-mile distance, carrying their possessions in covered wagons and handcarts as they traveled across Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming into Utah. The first group arrived at the Great Basin on July 24, 1847.
Trail of Hope traces the history of the Mormons, starting with the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830 by Joseph Smith. A persecuted group of people, the Mormons relocated from upstate New York, to Ohio, Missouri, and to Nauvoo, Illinois before being driven West.
In 1845, Brigham Young convened a conference in Nauvoo, Illinois, in which he established detailed plans and a timetable for the exodus. Called the "Nauvoo Covenant," the conference was a prerequisite to the successful completion of the group's departure plans, which included the idea of caring for all members. Young asked the heads of households to pledge their properties, possessions, and energies to the church and to care for their own families as well as the many widowed, infirm, and destitute travelers.
Once the trek had begun, Mormons faced countless hardships brought on by the weather. When their spirits were low and infighting common, Young gave his followers a tongue lashing: "I will go no farther with the spirit this company possesses. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I hear is some of the brethren jawing at each other and quarreling...Do you suppose that we are going to look out a home for the Saints...with a low, mean, dirty, trifling, covetous, wicked spirit dwelling in our bosoms?"
Trail of Hope also tells the story of additional companies traveling West to Zion, including many European immigrants who dragged their handcart across the continent to where they would establish their new homes. With the joining of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, a new means of migration to Salt Lake was possible for converts.
While the two-decade-long migration saw over 3,000 people perish due to sickness, harsh weather, and the elements, the Mormon journey is seen as a tremendous success and a testament to human endurance.
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