Acquired Book By: I received an enquiry from the (LDS) Church Historian Press regarding working with them on select non-fiction releases – which interested me as I have been reading LDS Fiction and Non-Fiction for the past two years. My interests in non-fiction (LDS or otherwise) tend to parallel through the historical past (as I love learning about History) and thread through biographical accounts of persons who lived. I love to seek out a variety of topics across different sub-interests of mine – including Science, Philosophy and Feminism as well. Being an ancestral sleuth in my family alongside my Mum, I love finding out the hidden histories not as well known as other aspects of the historical past, too. Therefore, when they approached me about reviewing for them, I was quite keen to find out more about their releases. This marks my first review with a second shortly following: ‘At the Pulpit’ a special overview of LDS Women.
I received a complimentary copy of “Saints at Devil’s Gate” direct from the publisher The Church Historian’s Press (in conjunction with The Church of Latter-day Saints) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I was keenly interested in this particular release:
Originally, I was meant to post my review on behalf of ‘Saints at Devil’s Gate’ in January – however, due to personal reasons (related to life after my father’s stroke) I haven’t been able to post as frequently as I had beforehand – I’ve been spending the past few months re-adjusting to my father’s recovery and being his main caregiver whilst my Mum works full-time in order to offset my father’s recovery. It hasn’t lended itself to feeling very readerly or in the mood to blog – I’ve had to make adjustments to my online life as I re-emerge into my reading life one story at a time. I admit, I haven’t quite found the balance I am seeking but throughout January & February, I can say, my family and I have found positive enroads moving forward with my father’s recovery, as well as keeping observant on how the after effects of his stroke’s are affecting his everyday life.
Having said this – I originally wanted to post this review far ahead of my second review for the LDS Church, however, sometimes in our lives things happen which upset the course we’re walking. The best we can do is try to make amends lateron and follow-up after the dust settles. I’ve been struggling to re-inspire myself forward in my readings – finding that whilst I feel more confident in what I’m doing offline to help my Dad, I haven’t quite transitioned through to finding down-time to focus on things outside our personal sphere. I’d like to find a way to read and blog more regularly similar to the pace I was starting to set forth as my ‘new regular norm’ last Autumn, as despite pairing down my commitments, I was finding reading several books a week to be quite enjoyable – especially with a more relaxed pace of deadlines.
I am hoping with each new post and book I consume now, will be one story closer to finding my bookish spirit renewed as I inch towards balancing being a caregiver and a hearty reader of stories – coming full circle since the fateful day I watched my father have a stroke before the paramedics and doctors were involved. Some events cause small ripples of changes and other times, our lives change in such distinctive ways, it takes us a bit of time to ‘catch-up’ to realising we’re not quite the same as we were but that doesn’t mean life won’t continue forward – it’s simply we need to allow ourselves a bit more breathing space to sort it all out. Find our way, and hope everyone along the way understands our absences where we cannot always pull things together.
The reason I wanted to accept receiving ‘Saints at Devil’s Gate’ is because it’s a photographically inspired art book – following in the footsteps of the Mormon Pioneers who went West in search of a new place to call home. Through my ancestral research – I have come to find out more about how all of our ancestors made their way in the world. Courtesy of the LDS Church for providing us with the best resource to seek out our ancestors: FamilySearch.org. I’ve mentioned this previously on my blog – how thankful I am to Family Search and the LDS Church for providing all of us a method of researching our family and ancestral lines.
Although I am non-LDS Protestant, part of what I researched led me to find I have Pioneers of the LDS Church in my ancestral past – where a marriage separated part of my ancestral family. The wife of one of my ancestors had to say ‘goodbye’ to her family as they moved West – taking the long road out to Utah, whilst staying behind to start her family, having been recently married. This is as much as I can pull together by what is left behind to be found. At least, I think this is what happened! There is always an error of caution when researching your ancestral heritage – are the pieces pulling together in the right way and are we interpreting the clues in the right way to understand the lives of our ancestors? I am unsure if I will find more at a later date or not, but for now, I thought it was keenly interesting on the fringes of finding out about this – a book about the Mormon Trail was available to be reviewed!
I also appreciated the Church Historian’s Press for being open to having a diverse group of reviewers and book bloggers receiving their releases from different backgrounds – as this highlights something I’ve been trying to understand better about why there is such a division of interest in INSPY Non-Fiction and Fiction releases. INSPY is the shortened word for Inspirational Fiction and Non-Fiction – the main umbrella of literature for faith-based literature – not limited to one religion nor branch of Christianity; as sometimes I think is wrongly perceived. I read INSPY Lit as it was intended – across cultural and religious backgrounds whilst finding inspiring stories in both fictional and realistic (non-fiction) settings of interest.
Saints at Devil's Gate
Subtitle: Landscapes along the Mormon Trail
The book showcases fifty-two landscapes paintings of the Mormon Trail, the 1,300 mile route from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City that some 70,000 Latter-day Saint pioneers travelled between 1846 and 1869. Each painting is paired with quotations from the original journals and reminiscences of pioneers who made the journey.
The paintings were created from 2011 to 2016 by award-winning Latter-day Saint landscape artists John Burton, Josh Clare, and Bryan Mark Taylor. Jean Stern, executive director of the Irvine Museum in Southern California, said that these artists are 'noted for their remarkable ability to paint beautiful and elegant works, filled with natural light and brilliant colour.' He added that the paints will 'appeal to all viewers, those who seek meaning and enlightenment in the historical background of the trail s well as those who seek beauty in art and nature'.
The pairings of the paintings with historical quotations allows modern-day readers to share in some of the feelings that Mormon pioneers experienced while travelling west. For example, Bryan Mark Taylor's Looking Back which depicts Nauvoo as seen from across the Mississippi River in Iowa is paired with a May 1846 excerpt from Wilford Woodruff's journal: 'I left Nauvoo for the last time perhaps in this life. I looked upon the temple & city of Nauvoo as I retired from it and felt to ask the Lord to preserve it as a monument of the sacrifice of his Saints'.
Laura Allred Hurtado, global acquistions art curator for the Church History Museum points out that 'not all the experiences of the Mormon pionners were tragic. Journal entries capture the mundane and practical toiling of daily life', such as finding places to wash clothes, picking flowers, and dancing and playing music.
Pioneeers also commented regularly, sometimes quite poetically, on the beauty and grandeur of the land they were traversing. Referencing bluffs she had passed in western Nebraska on the journey in summer 1853, English convert Hannah Tapfield King wrote, 'The Bluff ruins... are very beautiful - I should like to have an explanation about them - but I suppose none know their history - They stand out in bold relief with a silent eloquence that speaks trumpet-tongued to every thinking mind - They are looking eternally silent.'
The new book accompanies an exhibition of the same name that opened at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City on November 17. The free exhibition is open to the public and will run through August 2017. The exhibition is also available online via LDS Church History Department.
Places to find the book:
on November, 2016
Formats Available: Softcover
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