Each year tens of thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints visit sites across the United States, like the recreated town of Nauvoo on the Mississippi River, or to “This is the Place” Heritage Park, just outside Salt Lake City. Thousands of young church members push handcarts across the plains, or up over the highest nearby hill, dressed in 19th century clothes. Sara Patterson argues that “as the Latter Day Saints community globalized in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, its relationship to space was transformed…Contemporary Mormons still want to touch and to feel [the principles of their early church], so they mark and claim the landscapes of the American West with versions of their history carved in stone.”
Sara Patterson is Professor of Theological Studies at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana. She is the author of Pioneers in the Attic: Place and Memory Along the Mormon Trail, which is the focus of our conversation today.