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Cover image: “Ever Onward” by Joseph Brickey.

Surprisingly, the end of the “Little Ice Age,” a more than 500 year-long cold climatic period and the start of a much warmer modern climatic period are closely synchronized with the Pioneer Trek to the Great Salt Lake Basin under the leadership of the Prophet Brigham Young. The pioneers considered being able to plant, grow, and harvest sufficient food for the 4,400 saints in 1848 in the valley a miracle. This miracle included the remarkable battle between the “Mormon Crickets” and the Seagulls. [1]

Restoration Adventures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A dramatic panorama is unfolding. The Latter-day Saints have been driven out of their Beautiful Nauvoo. Joseph and Hyrum Smith have been killed. The enemies of the Church are sure of the looming demise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Brigham Young is leading the pioneers to the Salt lake Valley in the Great Basin of the Rocky Mountains. He, as well as the Prophet Joseph Smith before him, has received revelations that tens of thousands of saints will be able to settle in that area and then colonize other larger areas of the west, which eventually would extend into even Mexico and Canada.[2]

Brigham Young prophesied that the Latter-day Saints would prosper and that the Lord would “temper the elements” so that the formerly barren and cold desert would be able to raise abundant crops and livestock to feed both members and non-members and that the land would “blossom as the rose.” (Isaiah 35:1)[3]

The fulfillment of these prophesies would require the ending of a worldwide climatic period called the Little Ice Age (LIA) and the beginning of another climatic period that is warmer.[4]

Brigham Young: Pioneers to Settle the Barren Great Basin

The Salt Lake Valley had no permanent settlements outside of a few Indian camps when the pioneers arrived. There is a very good reason. The famous trapper, Jim Bridger, met with Brigham Young in 1847 on the way to Salt Lake. Bridger gave Brigham Young his longstanding challenge that he, Bridger, was willing to pay $1,000 for a bushel of corn grown in the Salt Lake Valley.

Bridger was fully confident that no one would be able to grow that bushel of corn. This challenge was not just that the yields on crops would be very low, but that nothing at all would survive the spring and summer hard freezes in this inhospitable desert in the Rocky Mountains. It does sound like a Little Ice Age.[5]  

Jim Bridger

Great Faith was Required to Follow Brigham Young

The winter of 1847-48 was harsh for the saints, many of whom were still living in their wagons. The winter was mild enough; however, to harvest and then replant the 2,000 acres of winter wheat that they had planted soon after they entered the valley on July 24, 1847.

This was an initial encouragement for the saints who didn’t have any knowledge of when and how to successfully plant, grow and harvest crops in the valley. No one was doing any farming there and could teach them how to not end up with a crop failure. They were essentially “flying blind” with no mistakes allowed.

They had their seeds and fruit trees ready to plant in the spring of 1848. But, there was no backup plan, nor any second chance if food did not grow in abundance in this valley. They were just guessing as to when, what, and how to plant and harvest.

And the spring and early summer hard freezes for which the valley was famous were still waiting in the wings to destroy their crops. “Having so many dependent on first harvests from an untried land with an unknown growing season produced concern.” [6]

Men from the Mormon Battalion had returned after their discharge in California with news that gold had been discovered. Some men from the battalion participated in that discovery and brought gold with them. There were certainly many reasons to go further west, ignoring the heretofore sterile valleys of the Great Basin.

With all of the insanity that gold fever has been documented to cause, hindsight would say it would be a miracle if anyone was still there listening to Brigham Young after news of the gold discovery.[7]

All of the formidable arguments notwithstanding, Brigham Young reiterated: “God will rebuke the frost and the sterility of the soil, and the land shall become fruitful. Brethren, go, now, and plant your seeds.”[8]

And they did! 

The pioneer saints followed their prophetic leader and these valleys were positively, permanently changed in numerous ways.[9]

Brigham Young received revelation as did Joseph Smith before him that the Latter-day Saints would find a sanctuary in the Great Basin, starting with the Salt Lake Valley, and would become a mighty people in the west.

New Climate Period Begins as Pioneers Enter Salt Lake Valley

When I first read about the Little Ice Age while writing an article five years ago on climate change and global warming, I used it as evidence of the difficulty of humans making any real difference in the world’s climate. Climatic periods oscillate up and down seemingly on their own.[10]

But then I realized just this year (2019) that while the beginning of the Little Ice Age was believed to be about 700 years ago plus or minus a century or so that the ending of the Little Ice Age was believed by many sources to be 1850. The three minimum temperature levels in the LIA are in the years 1650, 1770 and 1850. And, 1850 was not just a nebulous range of dates but was right in the vicinity of the time of the arrival of the pioneers in Salt Lake Valley in 1847.[11] [12]

With the two dates, 1847 and 1850, so close together, I then wondered whether a second witness of the hand of God in the Pioneers’ success might be derived from our modern study of the earth’s climate. The data that we have more recently learned about the Little Ice Age has led to easier to understand explanations of what happens as the climate changes.

Faith of Pioneers: Tried and Blessed with Prosperity

The faith of the pioneers increased as they followed Brigham Young and then did everything possible themselves even as they relied on the blessings of the Lord.

Remember this quote from Brigham Young: “Pray as though everything depended on the Lord and work as though everything depended on you.”[13]

They were able to plant and harvest 2,000 acres of winter wheat in 1847. They planted more wheat in 1848 and planted “another 3,000 to 4,000 acres in corn and garden vegetables by spring.” In spite of frosts in April and May that destroyed part of the crops, it looked like they were going to easily prove Jim Bridger wrong on growing a bushel of corn in this valley. Then, hordes of “Mormon crickets” began to destroy their crops.[14]

As the pioneers battled the crickets unsuccessfully, it looked like they would get through the early spring and summer deep freezes yet still lose their crops.

Then– drumroll please–the seagulls came to their rescue later in May and ate, drank water and then regurgitated crickets for three weeks. Amazingly, enough of their crops were saved to feed the 4,400 saints who were in the valley by the end of 1848. [15]  

“Mormon Crickets”
Seagulls to the rescue.

I believe that the tempering of the elements did begin in about 1847 with the arrival of the first pioneers. If crops really could easily grow contrary to Jim Bridger’s experience and his challenge, I think that the Salt Lake area would have already been settled by at least a few brave souls before the Saints arrived.

This would also be the case for the 400+ Latter-day Saint settlements from Canada to Mexico. The climate was tempered gradually, I believe, and so the Saints were already securely in possession of these settlements when competition came from non-Mormon pioneers on the trails going to the west who then decided to settle in the beautiful mountain west instead.

Every time before in their history, the Latter-day Saints ended up in the middle of severe persecution wherever they settled. This time, however, the Saints had a respite from persecution for at least a good while.

New Graph Display for Depicting Climate Periods

Another surprising piece of information I discovered this year was a new graph (new for me at any rate), a “Reconstructed Temperature” graph. I think this graph better depicts the climate of the Medieval Warming Period, the Little Ice Age, and the amazing flurry of changes happening in about 1850 starting another climatic period. Yet, there is little evidence of fossil fuel use or other human activity being the root cause of this warming period, even as the Reconstructed Temperature graph goes up like a rocket in the 1850 to 1900 period. [16]

Notice at the far right in the graph that everything in the climate model seems to be in flux and a new period is beginning, a much warmer period.

graph of LIA

The next figure is a better sizing and cropping for displaying this graph.

Wow, that looks like a roller coaster ride!

Enlarged and cropped graph of LIA.

The Hand of God in the Latter-day Saints’ Settlement of the Mountain West.

If the last minimum temperature point of the Little Ice Age is in the year 1850, I would say being able to grow anything in these valleys at this low point in the Little Ice Age continuum to be a testimony of the hand of God in fulfilling Brigham Young’s prophesies.

Brigham Young boldly led the Latter-day Saints to valleys with such a poor climate that no one wanted to settle there. Jim Bridger confidently gave his challenge that, worse than the Salt Lake Valley just having a poor climate, that he would pay $1,000 for a single bushel of corn grown in the Salt Lake valley.

Brigham Young confidently prophesied that God would miraculously “temper the elements” and that, far from being uninhabitable, the desert valleys would “blossom as the rose.” Many consider the pioneer success in the Mountain West to be remarkable.

Many also consider this history, of boldly taking many thousands of followers west to the settlement of a large portion of the mountain west to be more than remarkable, but rather the inspired works of this Prophet of God, Brigham Young.

Appendix: “[1101] [110] [01]    [0] [1111] [ ? ] [ ? ] [ ? ] [ ? ]  to Do”

For some fun and learning look at this youtube video about the importance of the axial tilt of the earth’s orbit in understanding the fascinating world of the earth’s climate.

Video #1:

Caption: Axial Tilt 101 – great learning video ]

And, here is a simulation of the solar system.

js based Simulation #1
Caption: jsOrrery Javascript Solar System Simulator ]

[1] Matt Williams, “What is the Earth’s Axial Tilt?” July 27, 2016. picture #0]

[2]  Jeffrey Marsh, “Joseph Smith’s Prophetic Visions of the Saints settling in the Salt Lake Valley,” Meridian Magazine, May 29, 2019. ]

“‘Now,’ said [Joseph Smith], ‘I will show you the travels of this people.’ He then showed our travels thru Iowa, and said, ‘Here you will make a place for the winter; and here you will travel west until you come to the valley of the Great Salt Lake! You will build cities to the North and to the South, and to the East and to the West; and you will become a great and wealthy people in that land.’”

[3]  Kurt Neumiller, “The Desert Shall Rejoice, and Blossom as the Rose,” September 20, 2001.  blossom as the rose]

The quotation in the title comes from Isaiah 35:1. “Isaiah 35 discusses what will happen when the Lord redeems Israel and how much He will bless the Zion they will dwell in.” See Also, D&C 1:33. Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, LeGrand Richards and Joseph Fielding Smith quotes are in this source document.

“It was the spring of the year; the fields were green with the grain of the summer’s harvest; the fruit trees along the way were in full bloom, and everywhere, in a land of great fertility, appeared the glorious prospect of an abundant yield. Such remarks are often made by those who hurriedly pass through our State and see conditions as they are today. How very little do they know of the early history of our State, and the almost superhuman struggle of the pioneers to make “the wilderness and the solitary place… glad for them,” and “the desert…rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, page 346)

[4]  Jennie Cohen, “Little Ice Age, Big Consequences,” August 29, 2018. ]

“Explore some of the numerous events scholars have linked to the Little Ice Age, which new research suggests was caused by volcanic eruptions.”

“Great Famine: Beginning in the spring of 1315, cold weather and torrential rains decimated crops and livestock across Europe. Class warfare and political strife destabilized formerly prosperous countries as millions of people starved, setting the stage for the crises of the Late Middle Ages. According to reports, some desperate Europeans resorted to cannibalism during the so-called Great Famine, which persisted until the early 1320s.”

See other natural events in this document including the “black death” plague that depopulated much of Europe and wars such as the Thirty Years War.

[5]  LeRoy W. Hooton, Jr., “Pioneer Days Remembrance,” August 20, 2010. ]

“In the vast wilderness of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Bridger was the gateway to the westward expansion during the mid-1800s. Between 1847 to 1869, over 70,000 Mormon emigrants had traveled over the Mormon Trail to the Salt Lake Valley.

“On June 28, 1847 Brigham Young encountered mountain man Jim Bridger near his trading post (Fort Bridger) located about 120 miles east of the Mormon pioneers’ Great Salt Lake Valley destination. Brigham Young was anxious to learn as much as possible about the little known Great Basin.  He ordered the wagon masters to set up camp and spent the afternoon into the evening quizzing Jim Bridger. Pioneer Erastus Snow was privy to their conversation and wrote in his journal that Bridger told President Young that he considered it imprudent to bring a large population into the Great Basin and he’d “give $1,000 for a bushel of corn raised in the basin.”  According to Snow, Brigham Young replied, “Wait a little, and we will show you.”

In google: If you had $1,000 in the year 1850, how much money would that equal in today’s dollars? Answer: $32,763.

“Jim Bridger,”, retrieved 6/4/2019. ]

[6] Richard W. Sadler, “Seagulls, Miracle of,” “Encyclopedia of Mormonism,” 1992.,_Miracle_of ]

“The first LDS pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847 (see Pioneer Day). Nearly 2,000 made the journey that year, with another 2,400 emigrants arriving in 1848. From the beginning, having so many dependent on first harvests from an untried land with an unknown growing season produced concern. That first summer, pioneers observed Indians harvesting “millions” of crickets for winter food. The crickets were driven into fires and roasted, and then stored in baskets and bags. Survival–individual and group—survival was clearly on the minds of these first Mormon settlers as they watched the Indians prepare to endure the winter.”

“Through the summer and fall of 1847, they planted 2,000 acres of winter wheat near the main settlement. A mild winter and thaw permitted plowing in early 1848, making it possible to plant more wheat and another 3,000 to 4,000 acres in corn and garden vegetables by spring.”

“As spring arrived, pioneer farmers reported with pride that their crops appeared to be doing very well. But April and May frosts leveled some of the crops, and late May brought another devastation–hordes of insects began to destroy the crops. These insects, later dubbed “Mormon crickets,” were as large as a man’s thumb. Not a true cricket but a member of the katydid family, the Mormon cricket has only small wings and cannot fly. Pioneer diarists reported the invaders in the fields as early as May 22. Some described them as numbering in the millions; John Steele wrote that they appeared by the “thousands of tons.” For more than a month, the crickets devastated the fields, devouring the new corn, beans, wheat, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, melons, and other crops. Farmers battled the crickets with a variety of defensive measures but had little success.”

“By early June, relief arrived in the form of the seagull. The appearance of gulls was described in a letter of June 9 to Brigham Young in the following manner: “The sea gulls have come in large flocks from the lake and sweep the crickets as they go; it seems the hand of the Lord is in our favor” (Hartley, p. 230). For the next three weeks, gulls appeared daily. They fed on the crickets, drank water, and then regurgitated before eating more crickets. There would be a harvest that year, after all.

“Some 1848 pioneer journals mention the problems of frost, crickets, and drought without mentioning the gulls. However, several autumn accounts credited the counter-invasion by the gulls for the scanty crops that survived and acknowledged the hand of God in the event.

“In the Salt Lake Valley, crickets, frost, and lack of water played havoc on the harvest of 1848, and crop losses were severe. But the losses would have been much worse without the appearance of the gulls, which was thus a significant factor in the survival of Utah’s pioneer settlers.”

[7] Twilia Van Leer, “Mormons among first gold rush prospectors,” September 9, 1997. ]

“(James Stephens Brown made the historic march across the southwestern United States and Mexico with the Mormon Battalion and was at Sutter’s Fort, Calif., when gold was discovered, setting off the 1849 rush. He later recounted his experiences in a book, “The Life of a Pioneer: Being the Autobiography of James S. Brown.”)”

Brandon J. Metcalf, “Four Things to Know about the Journey of the Mormon Battalion,” January 24, 2018.  ]

[8]  Kevin R. Duncan, “Our Very Survival,” October 2010 General Conference.  ]

“[This valley] is the place God has appointed for His people.

“We have been kicked out of the frying-pan into the fire, out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and here we are and here we will stay. God has shown me that this is the spot to locate His people, and here is where they will prosper; He will temper the elements for the good of His Saints; He will rebuke the frost and the sterility of the soil, and the land shall become fruitful. Brethren, go, now, and plant … your … seeds.”

[9]  Earl C. Tingey,”Prophets—Pioneer and Modern Day,” April 2007 General Conference.

 [ ]

“God has shown me, that this is the spot to locate his people, and here is where they will prosper; he will temper the elements to the good of the Saints; he will rebuke the frost and the sterility of the soil, and the land shall become fruitful, … and we shall build a city and a temple to the most high God in this place.”

“Today, we can all attest to the truth of this prophecy. Truly, the desert land and the valleys of the Rocky Mountains are a fruitful and a productive land of promise and prophecy.

“He was one of America’s greatest colonizers. By the time of his death, nearly 400 colonies had been established.]

“Brigham Young,”, retrieved 6/4/2019. ]

[10]  Ronald P. Millett, “Calamities Show that Ultimately God Controls the Climate.” Meridian Magazine, September 15, 2014. ] main article

[11]  K. Jan Oosthoek, “Little Ice Age,” ]

“The Little Ice Age was a period of regionally cold conditions between roughly AD 1300 and 1850.”

[12] “Little Ice Age facts for kids,”“Kids Encyclopedia Facts” Retrieved 6/5/2019. ]

“Beginning around 1850, the climate began warming and the Little Ice Age ended.”

“It is generally agreed that there were three minima, one beginning about 1650, one about 1770, the last one about 1850. Each of these three minimum [cold] temperatures was separated by slight warming intervals.”

And, the last minimum temperature in 1850 is generally considered to be the border line of the LIA and the start of a new climate period, this one much warmer than these minimum temperatures within the LIA.

[13]  ”Brigham Young quotes,”, retrieved 6/8/2019. ]

Collection of some of Brigham Young’s quotes: ]

[14]  Richard W. Sadler, “Seagulls, Miracle of,” “Encyclopedia of Mormonism,” 1992.,_Miracle_of ]

[15] Hailey Ross and Katy Moeeller, “Mormon crickets are back — 3 inches long and wreaking havoc in Idaho,” Idaho Statesman,  Jul 17, 2017. cricket]

“California Gull,”, retrieved 6/7/2019. ]

[16]  “Little Ice Age,”, retrieved 6/5/2019. ]

“… from about 1300 to about 1850.”

With “Reconstructed Temperature” graph.