Saturday, January 28, 2017

Book Review: Saints at Devil's Gate: Landscapes Along the Mormon Trail

Saints at Devil's Gate: Landscapes Along the Mormon Trail, by Laura Allred Hurtado and Bryon C. Andreasen; Featuring the Artwork of John Burton, Josh Clare and Bryan Mark Taylor
2016, 143p, LDS Non-fiction
My Rating=5 Stars
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way

A beautiful art book from the Church Historian's Press, publisher of The Joseph Smith Papers.

From 1846 to 1869, some 70,000 Mormon pioneers traveled the Mormon Trail, the 1,300-mile route from Illinois and Iowa to Salt Lake City. In 2011, three award-winning Mormon painters decided to visit sites all along the historic route and capture the landscapes in oil. This full-color art book, featuring 52 landscape paintings, presents the fruit of their five-year project. Each painting is paired with journal entries or reminiscences from pioneers who made the journey. Essays by the authors and an artist interview illuminate both the art and the history of the trail.

The book gives written and visual context to the pioneers’ experience of the trail, bears witness to the land as it exists today, and links the experience of pioneers to the challenges of today.

Note: This book was published to accompany an exhibition of the same name at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. Therefore, distribution of the book has been limited. Copies are available at the museum gift store, at, and at some independent bookstores in Utah.

I enjoy reading books about the pioneers and learning more about them. This book is beautifully done! In 2011, three artists visited sites along the Mormon Trail and painted landscapes for this compilation. Each of the landscapes have a title and quotes by pioneers who made the journey. As I read them, I felt the sadness, grief, despair, hope, praise and faith of these amazing people. I laughed when I read the quote of the woman who talked about how pretty the scenery was, but couldn't write any more because the mosquitoes were driving her mad. Tears filled my eyes as I read one man's description of the devastating effects of cholera. He said they saw many graves, as well as wagons, tires, clothing, guns, bedding, boots and shoes scattered along the road.

The book starts with the Curator's Essay (Laura Allred Hurtado) and then the Historian's Essay (Bryon C. Andreasen) which gives background and insight into this project. Then at the end there's an interview with the three artists conducted by Laura Allred Hurtado. I enjoyed learning about why they got involved with this project and what we can learn from the pioneers to help us in our lives today. This is a fantastic faith-promoting book that I will keep on display and look at often!

Purchase a copy at

There is an exhibition that is available at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, UT and runs through August 2017. It's also available online here.


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