Defending Zion

Defending Zion

George Q. Cannon and the California Mormon Newspaper Wars of 1856-1857

Book - 2002
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George Q. Cannon was the most able defender of Mormonism in the nineteenth century. By the time he was thirty, Cannon had been a printer's devil, a religious refugee, an 1847 Utah pioneer, a member of the great trek of 1849 across the southern Great Basin to California, a gold miner, a Latter-day Saint missionary to the Hawaiian Islands, and finally, editor and publisher of the San Francisco Western Standard. In an unequal contest, the eloquent young believer was the sole Mormon combatant in a fiery newspaper war in a day when media meant print.

The Contents: In a labor extending over several years, Roger Robin Ekins has collected Cannon's writings from the Western Standard and the editorials and articles of the opposition press, along with the young missionary's correspondence with Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Daniel H. Wells. Woven together with explanatory text, these documents paint a vivid picture of the heated debate that raged over the new religion as it approached one of its greatest crises, the Utah War of 1857-1858.

An Essential Source Work: Cannon traded editorial attacks with the other California papers, debating and denouncing each other on events in the West, particularly as they applied to controversies raging over the fledgling theocracy on the shores of Great Salt Lake. As a contribution to the documentary record of frontier Mormonism, Defending Zion presents the most cogent arguments of the religion's best nineteenth-century champion. To understand the passions that surrounded this new religious movement, such a perspective is more than desirable: it is essential.

Brigham Young: Young and Cannon exchanged letters regularly while the editor was in California. Reproduced in this volume, they illuminate a unique and highly personal relationship. Unlike other Mormon editors, officials, and propagandists, Cannon never advised Young to watch his words, and he handled the Mormon firebrand with a finesse and diplomacy that foretold the brilliance of his subsequent political career. Later appointed to the First Presidency by Young, he would go on to serve his church faithfully in the halls of Congress in the nation's capital.

Sheds light on the history of the wider West: Roger Robin Ekins has done a yeoman's work in rescuing Cannon's early writings from obscurity. They paint a vivid picture of the 1850s, an often-forgotten period in California's colorful past, and again reveal how obscure Mormon sources shed light on the history of the wider West. The editorials, articles, and letters collected in this volume deal with frontier justice, vigilantism, politics, journalism, religion, violence, overland emigration, "White Indians," Danites, and even sex. Polygamy inspired a host of scandalous tales of how "the crafty elders of Salt Lake" lured their young victims into sexual slavery.

The Utah War: More importantly, these primary accounts chronicle the bitter controversies that eventually led President James Buchanan to send a military expedition to Utah so costly that it almost bankrupted the republic on the eve of the Civil War.

The book is enhanced with notes, bibliography and index, portraits, illustrations. Printed on acid-free paper and bound in light blue linen cloth with two-color foil stamping on the spine and front cover to match other volumes in the series. Issued in a limited edition. Kingdom in the West Series, vol. 5.

Publisher: Spokane, Wash. : Arthur H. Clark Co., 2002.
ISBN: 9780870623219
Characteristics: 464 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Ekins, Roger Robin


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