A combination of Christian religious teachings, family and culture are the backbone of Mormonism. It is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which started with Joseph Smith, Jr. in the 1820s in New York in the United States. After Joseph Smith’s death, the Mormon followers were led to their promised land by Brigham Young. The name Mormon came from the 1830 Book of Mormon, a religious text. Not only a religious set of beliefs, but also a set of cultural behaviors was accepted by the Mormons, an essential part of Mormon genealogy.
Mormon pioneers to Utah originated from eastern states and had to continually move. Since their beginnings in 1830 they had been poorly treated by their neighbors, partially due to their religious beliefs. With ill treatment in Illinois, they realized they had to move to a new territory, separated from others. In 1846 plans for the migration of the large number of their members, their equipment and livestock were put together. It was their leader, Brigham Young, who had studied the little available information to determine that the Great Basin and the Great Salt Lake area would be the place for them.
The first wagon train of pioneers set out across the Great Plains. It was a rugged and hazardous journey, including negotiating the passes of the Rocky Mountains. They finally arrived by July 1847 and were very pleased with this Salt Lake Valley. By December 1847, more than two thousand Mormons had completed the journey to the Salt Lake Valley. Several hundred, including Brigham Young, returned east to gather and organize the companies or groups scheduled for following years.
Those Mormons living in Illinois and Missouri along with converts to the church in other areas in the United States and from Europe followed the initial trail to join the main body of the Church in Utah. Migration continued until about 1890, but those who came by railroad are not generally considered “Mormon pioneers.” In the years that followed, Mormons established other settlements in nearby locations. Several smaller groups of Mormons broke with the LDS Church over the issue of plural marriage, forming several denominations of the Mormon fundamentalism.
Mormons follow a special health code. They are prohibiting the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, coffee and tea and other addictive substances. They support the paying of tithing to the Church, participating in leadership in the Church, not working on Sunday, no tattoos and to be faithful to their spouse. Overall, personal honesty, integrity and obedience to law are most important. A significant tradition, especially important with Mormon genealogy, is a mandated doctrine for Church members to research their family tree and link all their ancestors together. This has produced the world’s largest reserve of family records of not only Mormons, but other people from around the world.