Joseph Smith and the West
by Hyrum L. Andrus
BYU Studies, Vols 1-2 (1959-1960) pgs 129-147
“I did not devise the great scheme of the Lord’s opening the way to send this people to these mountains. Joseph Smith contemplated the move for years before it took place, but he could not get here.”1 So spoke Brigham Young of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s vision of the West, a vision that occupied the Mormon leader’s mind as early as 1830. Before Joseph Smith moved Church headquarters from New York to Ohio, he declared that the Saints would colonize the West as part of the work of building up the New Jerusalem.
The Mormon view of colonizing the West was directly correlated with the effort the Saints made to build their New Jerusalem. While the Book of Mormon revealed that the city of Zion was to be established upon the western hemisphere,2 the precise location of the New Jerusalem was not immediately made known. In September, 1830, a Revelation declared that it would “be on the border by the Lamanites”–the western border of the United States, near Indian Territory.3 That same Revelation spoke of certain brethren going on a mission among the Indians, or Lamanites. When this mission–consisting of Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Richard Ziba Peterson–started westward from Fayette, New York, the following month, they went to preach the Gospel and to “rear up a pillar as a witness where the temple of God shall be built, in the glorious New Jerusalem.”4
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