Interest in Exodus transcends religion

Interest in the Nauvoo exodus and westward trek transcends religious denominational lines, particularly in Iowa.

A major participant in the Exodus Commemoration was Dr. Loren N. Horton, Iowa's senior historian, who presented a lecture containing eyewitness accounts of the trek across Iowa.In a Church News interview, he said, "I think that in the 12 counties the trail goes through, there are more non-Mormons interested in the trail in those counties than Mormons, because there isn't a large LDS population in the counties. Yet this Iowa Mormon Trails Association has just blossomed and bloomed. There are literally hundreds of people who belong to it. They're re-enacting, they're marking, they're doing research. It's just amazing."

Typical, he said are Paul and Karla Gunzenhauser, who own the land on which the Saints' Garden Grove campsite is located. They attended a meeting he held in 1978, became more and more interested in the Mormon Trail, and now it has become a consuming interest for them.

"They're farmers; I don't believe they farm anymore, they do research all the time," he joked.

Finding physical evidence of historical events is a fascinating pursuit, even for non-professionals he said.

"Every day I bless the LDS Church and the Friends Church, the Quakers, because they keep records so we can find out what happened and what people thought about what happened," he said. "The keeping of records from the very beginning makes historians' jobs so much easier."

Bob Schulze, president of the Iowa Mormon Trails Association, estimates that the membership of his group is not more than 2 to 5 percent LDS.

"The fact that here's a significant historical trail and the event of the exodus right here at our front door is exciting and interesting to us," he said. "I don't really see that as unique or out of the ordinary."

To Iowans, he said, it is part of their historical legacy.

"That a very strong-willed, dedicated people could come through here and make something out of this prairie, that captures the imagination of Iowans, as we are an agricultural state," he explained.

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