Donald G. Godfrey, "Preface," in In Their Footsteps: Mormon Pioneers of Faith (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018), ix–xiv.

In Their Footsteps is the story of pioneers across four generations who lived in many communities and countries. These men and women lived from the early 1800s into the 1980s. They lived in Bristol and Liverpool, England; Nauvoo, Illinois; North Ogden and Logan, Utah; and Cardston, Alberta, Canada. This story reflects the foundations of the Mormon presence in Canada and LDS life in the small communities that spread their influence across the nations.

Authors today often write only about leadership and celebrity, but even in ordinary lives “extraordinary things begin to happen.”[1] Most people live outside of the limelight, but they often accomplish uncommon things. Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, noted that “history turns on small hinges, and so do our lives.”[2] For the past three decades, public historians have sought to link local historical perspectives together. “Based on the premise that people [and their environments] are active agents in creating history,”[3] public history works to bring historical studies of pioneering communities, cultures, and individuals together. Local and community history provides the framework and the contributions of these ordinary citizens. It examines the past and the fabric of individual life experiences from within the context of historic events.[4]

When public history began, there was a significant distinction between “amateur and professional historians.” The prevailing wisdom was that amateurs reworked people and local history while “professionals were more concerned with national and world history.”[5] Today, the public history approach to historical research works to change that perception. In a Grace A. Tanner Lecture in Human Values, British historian Asa Briggs suggested that “the greatest excitement for the historian is to bring back to life people of different centuries. . . . The historian restores life.” He suggested that historians “examine not only whole societies, but the intimate personalities of men and women.”[6] Like the traditional approach to history, LDS publications include biographies on all the prophets, but they have few accounts that reflect local people and history. Kent F. Richards provides insight with A Family of Faith: An Intimate View of Church History through the Journals of Three Generations of Apostles.[7] While it centers on a personal approach, the people are most certainly of leadership stature. The work covers about three generations similar to “families everywhere who are striving to live after the manner of happiness, ‘believing’ and passing the legacy of faith from generation to generation.”[8] Closer yet to the public history approach and the common Latter-day Saint, Four Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier chronicles four generations of women. Drawing from personal and family papers, their story provides a gendered history of women in their different environments.[9] The book reflects what Gordon B. Hinckley, former Church President, urged when he stated, “It is good to look back to the past to gain appreciation . . . for the future . . . for strength for whatever lies ahead . . . [for the] great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries.”[10] Similarly, Elder William R. Walker, formerly of the Quorum of the Seventy, echoed the same sentiment, emphasizing that it is through our ancestors and the personal lives of others the faith of all Saints is fortified.[11]

People are the foundation of history and community life. They offer inspiration and commanding motivations. The biographies of Church leaders provide some history, but unfortunately most histories of the common Latter-day Saints are anthologies of sorts; they are self-published collections of stories and photos, mixed with genealogical sheets. Their audience is limited. Yet they could be significant public histories if brought together, telling of the times, societies, and families of historical eras. Each family creates history one individual, one family, and one community at a time. These are the seeds from which public history and personal heritage grow. They are a magnifying glass through which we can acquire a personal glimpse of history. In Their Footsteps is one such history. It is the story of pioneering men and women from the Joseph Godfrey and Charles Ora Card families. The framework of this history began more than two hundred years ago in Charles Dickens’s England and leads into twenty-first-century America. Ancestors from Victorian England migrated to the New England colonies, moved on to Nauvoo, scattered into the Great Salt Lake Basin, and moved northward into Canada. This work tells the story of the men and women woven together by circumstance, with love for each other, a familiar faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a determination to “hold to the iron rod” no matter how many turns their lives took.[12] They crossed the Atlantic, rode wagons, and walked barefoot across the plains to Zion. Lives were lost. Families suffered the results of angry mobs. They knew the prophets—Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor—and contemporary Apostles N. Eldon Tanner and Hugh B. Brown. They endured the terrors of persecution. They hid in the Mormon Underground. They grew and flourished in the regions of the Salt Lake, Weber, and Cache Valleys in Utah; Star Valley, Wyoming; and the prairies of Alberta, Canada. They were the first settlers into southern Alberta. They were faithful Latter-day Saints contributing to their communities and their Church in common and uncommon ways.

In Their Footsteps draws on a rich collection of personal papers. These men and women saw the value in keeping journals, diaries, notebooks, handwritten autobiographies, reminiscences, photographs, and oral histories. The diaries of Charles Ora Card, from 1871 to 1903, and his letter copybooks portray life in Cache Valley and Canada at periods critical in history. The journals of Floyd and Clarice Godfrey detail the experiences of the first LDS couple missionaries in Taiwan, the Republic of China. The letters between Clarice Card, the oldest, and her youngest sister, Melva Card-Witbeck, chronicle decades. The family organization newsletters record family activities over four decades. Oral histories were conducted and preserved by more than a dozen living ancestors.

In addition to personal records, the research for In Their Footsteps utilized the LDS Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah; Brigham Young University’s L. Tom Perry Special Collections in Provo, Utah; the Courthouse Museum and Archives in Cardston, Alberta; the Town of Cardston public records; the Magrath Museum in Magrath, Alberta; the Galt Museum in Lethbridge, Alberta; the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta; the North Ogden Museum in Ogden, Utah; and the Utah State Archives in Ogden, Utah. Documentation from these archives provided detailed collaboration and contextualization.

The work is carefully framed within the time periods. National and local sources provide this framing, which is interwoven throughout the manuscript in narrative, at the head of each part of the manuscript and within extensively annotated footnoting. The primary national scholars include multiple texts from Leonard Arrington; F. Ross Peterson, A History of Cache Valley; Kenneth W. Godfrey, Logan Utah; Joel E. Ricks, ed., The History of a Valley; and Richard C. Roberts and Richard W. Sadler, A History of Weber County. Conway B. Sonne, Ships, Saints, and Mariners provided information on Atlantic Ocean crossing. Lowry Nelson’s The Mormon Village provided public history–styled patterns of early settlement techniques. Works of Canadian scholars such as Brigham Y. Card, The Mormon Presence in Canada; Hugh A. Dempsey, Red Crow: Warrior Chief; A. A. Den Ottor, Civilizing the West: The Galts and the Development of Western Canada; and Donald G. Wetherell and Irene R. A. Kmet, Town Life: Main Street and the Evolution of Small Town Alberta, 1800–1946 all provide Canadian framing to growing southern Alberta communities. Helpful community historical society publications included Magrath’s Irrigation Builders, vols. 1–2; Cardston and District, vols. 1–3; Floyd J. Woodfield, A History of North Ogden: Beginnings to 1985; and Jeanette Shaw Greenwell and Laura Chadwick Kump, Our North Ogden Pioneers, 1851–1900.

The research and writing were all accomplished within the standards of acceptable scholarship. The author’s traditional approach to history is grounded in the methodology of Arthur Marwick’s The Nature of History, and Allan Niven’s The Gateway to History. Personalizing this traditional approach, Earnest J. Wrage and Barnett Baskerville’s American Form and Contemporary Forum frame the historical questions that were debated from 1788 into the twentieth century. With Baskerville’s The People’s Voice, the issues and oratory advanced societal values and altitudes of the time. John Collier Jr. and Malcolm Collier’s Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method provided a methodology for examining the human values reflected in the visual technology of the times. Finally, David Kyvig’s Local and Community History and Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around provided insight into approaching the specializations of public history. Methods of research and documentation, which were guides for a traditional scholarly approach, followed the author’s own works in Methods of Historical Analysis in Electronic Media.


[1] Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2011), 12.

[2] Thomas S. Monson, “Follow the Prophets,” Ensign, January 2015, 5.

[3] Paul Ashton and Hilda Kean, eds., People and Their Pasts: Public History Today (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 1.

[4] D. Glassburg, Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 210. See also R. Samuel, Island Stories: Unraveling Britain (London: Servso, 1998), 223.

[5] David E. Kyvig and Myron A. Marty, Nearby History: Exploring the Past around You (Nashville: The American Association for State and Local History, 1892), ix–xx.

[6] Asa Briggs, Social History and Human Experience (Cedar City, UT: Grace A. Tanner Center for Human Values, 1984), 4–5.

[7] Kent F. Richards, A Family of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013), x.

[8] Richards, A Family of Faith, x.

[9] Martha Sonntag Bradley and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward, Four Zinas: The Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), vii–xxii.

[10] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Faith of the Pioneers,” Ensign, July 1984, 3.

[11] William R. Walker, “Fortifying Faith with Ancestors’ Stories,” Church News, 13 April 2014, 20.

[12] See 1 Nephi 15:23–24.