"BUILDING ZION: The Material World of Mormon Settlement," by Thomas Carter, University of Minnesota Press, $37.50, 330 pages (nf)
Thomas Carter, a professor emeritus of architectural history at the University of Utah, explores the history of architecture and building styles in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as members settled Utah. Specifically, he looks at Sanpete County as a microcosm of the larger areas Mormon pioneers settled.
Carter doesn’t look just at buildings, town layouts, settling patterns and floor plans, but also at the context of the community and different influences, including religious ones, in the book “Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement.”
He also does some comparisons to other Western settlements outside of the Mormon corridor — Brigham Young sent pioneers to settle different communities, from southern Idaho and extending into northern Arizona, rather than stay in the Salt Lake Valley.
Among the chapters are ones on the layout and formation of the towns in the central Utah county, architecture of homes, businesses, meetinghouses, temples and polygamy.
The Manti area was initially laid out in a grid and had a fort that surrounded the central nine blocks to guard against Indians. The Indian threat also impacted the settlement and resettlement of the surrounding cities.
In short, LDS-centric communities were laid out on a grid pattern that had many of the homes and businesses in the central blocks and surrounded by farms of varying sizes. The church leaders determined who was assigned where based on several factors, including need. Also, in the Manti area, the temple was moved to a spot on a hill and not in the center of the community.
Carter, who says his ancestors were Mormon but left the church, uses quotes from early LDS Church leaders, including Brigham Young, along with census data, journals of residents and other sources as he explores the architecture and culture. Carter also went knocking on the doors of homes he wanted to see the floor plans of and measure.
He also includes drawings, floor plans, diagrams, maps and photos as he shares his observations and experiences regarding the early settlers in the area.
It’s an interesting take on the history and building of a community where many have the same faith and where church and government leaders were initially one and the same.
His more academic handling of some aspects of LDS Church history may feel rougher and more pointed than other historical accounts, as Carter notes the failure of the United Order, attempts at the “City of Zion” in Missouri and Nauvoo, how not all of the pioneer settlers precisely followed their leaders’ instructions and some doctrinal points and political leanings.
There is no swearing, sexual content or descriptive violence.
If you go ...
What: Thomas Carter book signing
When: Thursday, April 2, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.
Email: [email protected], Twitter: CTRappleye