Friendly Horses2

Special Conference IV: A lot of Horses

Special Conference, Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA August 28-29, 1852

Mostly poor mariners, farmers, and tradesmen, Mormons gathered to the territory of the Great Salt Lake, Utah beginning in 1847 as refugees leaving the states of Illinois and Missouri.  Many suddenly became missionaries at this conference.  What did it look like?

About 2,000 elders and a few women attended


A lot of horses?  How many of those elders walked?  Does that mean the 2,000 men parked 2,000 horses and/or carriages outside?  Did they ride together?  Let’s imagine then that 3/4 of the men walked or road with someone else, that would mean approximately 300-500 horses and/or carriages needed a space.  I imagine it like a sporting event.  Horses crowding the tabernacle and horses left at friends’ homes.

Update (6/17/2013): I walked the distance from Elam’s city ward (12th ward Great Salt Lake) to where the tabernacle was located (located where the Assembly Hall is currently standing).  It took me 13:22 minutes.  From that information I believe that more people may have walked than I previously thought although we estimated very conservatively above saying that 3/4 walked and only 1/4 rode horses.   Even if we estimated closer to 300 horses for those coming from out of the immediate area, that would still be quite a lot of horses.

Who scooped up the droppings?


Smelling the Poop

Where do we get the number “2,000 elders and a few women”?  The approximate number 2,000 is from Reid Neilson, LDS Church History Department, in his talk “Errand to the World: 1852 Mormon Missionary Conference”.  “A few women” came from a conversation I had on the phone with some Church History professors at Brigham Young University.  If anyone has an original source for this information, please comment.

[Update: 3/23/13 – I found the original source for the ‘2,000’ figure.  It comes from the Minutes of the Special Conference of Aug 28, 1852 which is already cited below.  Page 1 states the names of all present including, “about two thousand elders.”  A passage on page 2 reads: “[A literal forest of hands was the result of this call, and the spacious hall trembled when a symultaneous aye burst from the mouths of over 2,000 persons.]”]


It is likely a few women did attend.  According to the Deseret News on August 21st an announcement read,

The Ladies department of the Council will meet at the Tabernacle, the 28th inst., 1 p.m., when Ladies of all ages, who desire information relative to restoring and preserving life and health are invited to attend.

Some of the women attending this meeting may have stayed for the next meeting in the Tabernacle at 2pm.  The topic of the August 29th meeting must also have drawn female attention.  The Church officially announced plural marriage as doctrine.


Did the elders all fit in the building?  What did the crowd look like?  According to the minutes and journals 2,500 people attended the previous April conference.  People filled every seat and stood in the aisles.  Some did not make it into the building.  In August with 500 less people in attendance, they may all have fit into the building.  Some of them still may have stood in the aisles, however.


Space for Women?  Remember that women’s skirts generally took up larger floor space than men.  For every woman in attendance, they likely took up the same amount of space as 1.5-2 men.


Children?  Remember that the public notice specifically called for elders to attend.  Therefore we’re not sure how many women attended.  I haven’t found information as to whether children then attended but I am inclined to say they didn’t unless they played outside or were carried in a mother’s arms.  Victorian England still carried a children ‘seen not heard’ philosophy in the English speaking world.


To find out a bit about the building they met in see Special Conference III: Called without Warning.


Source: Grow, Stewart L. “Buildings on the Temple Block Preceding the Tabernacle” in The Tabernacle: “An Old and Wonderful Friend,” ed. Scott C. Esplin (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2007), 107-136. Accessed at: on 6 March 2013.
Source: Jensen, Emily W. “An ‘Errand to the World’: the historic 1852 missionary conference”. Deseret News, July 2, 2012. Accessed at: on 3/9/2013
Source: Deseret News. Vol 2. Saturday, August 21, 1852, No. 21 Pg 3 Digitized by Utah Digital Newspapers. Accessed at: on 3/9/2013
Source: Deseret News, –Extra. Great Salt Lake City, U.T., September 14, 1852. pg 10. Digitized by the Internet Archive. “Minutes of conference a special conference of the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, assembled in the…” Accessed at: on 3/9/2013.
Source: Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. Vintage, 2007.

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