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    12 MUST-SEE MORMON SITES
    America's largest homegrown religion might also be its most misunderstood. Parodied by South Park, the subject of a major Broadway hit—and always with an army of missionaries pedaling their bikes in a neighborhood near you—Mormons are, literally, all over the place.

    But dig beneath the surface and the Latter-Day Saints share a far more fascinating and complex history than your average restorationist, communitarian New World church. The real story of Mormonism is one of rare faith, frontier towns, religious migration, and the Old American West. Curious travelers would do well to check out the following.
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    SACRED GROVE

    Palmyra, New York

    This pretty patch of old-growth forest in upstate New York is the very spot where, according to the Book of Mormon, a 14-year-old Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ, a spiritual vision that gave rise to new religion. The summertime Hill Cumorah pageant tells the real story behind the Book of Mormon.

    PHOTO BY ALEX QUISTBERG/FLICKR

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    KIRTLAND TEMPLE

    Kirtland, Ohio

    An early Mormon settlement in today’s Cleveland suburbs, Kirtland is home to the very first Mormon temple, built in 1833. Informative tours take guests through every level, including the meeting room where the Mormon hymn, the “Spirit of God” was first sung.

    PHOTO BY ALLIE/FLICKR

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    ADAM-ONDI AHMAN

    Daviess County, Missouri

    Mormon prophet Joseph Smith taught that after being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived among these 3,000 acres of Midwestern farmland. Currently empty, this is where Mormons intend to build the New Jerusalem after the Second Coming of Christ.

    PHOTO BY TODDAND/FLICKR

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    JOSEPH'S RED BRICK STORE
    Nauvoo, Illinois

    While the entire old-timey town Nauvoo is well worth exploring, the little red brick store near the city center is Grand Central for Mormon History. Some of the more interesting aspects of Mormon doctrine and practice (including, yes, polygamy) originated in the upstairs room of Joseph’s General Store.

    PHOTO BY SFGAMCHICK/FLICKR
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    CARTHAGE HALL

    Carthage, Illinois

    The small stone jailhouse is where, in 1844, the prophet Joseph Smith and brother Hyrum were shot and killed by an angry mob of opponents in 1844. Some tours include a close-up view of the prophet’s permanent bloodstain on the oaken floorboards.

    PHOTO BY J.STEPHENCONN/FLICKR

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    MORMON PIONEER CEMETARY

    Omaha, Nebraska

    The Mormon Trail of pioneer wagons crossed Iowa and into Nebraska where they established their “Winter Quarters” during 1846-1847. Several hundred pioneers are buried in this cemetery, mostly victims of exposure and disease. A heartrending statue of a young pioneer couple laying their baby in a shallow grave remembers their sacrifice.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF MORMON TRAIL CENTER/FACEBOOK

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    BEEHIVE HOUSE

    Salt Lake City, Utah

    Just a short walk from the more obvious Temple Square, the historic Brigham Young home is open for tours. As the second prophet of the Latter-Day Saints, an ardent polygamist, and the father of 57 biological children, Brigham Young and his family outgrew this house and spilled over in the newer (and nearby) Lion House. For a time, the Beehive House was the official Utah Governor’s Residence.

    PHOTO BY ALLANHARRIS/FLICKR

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    MORMON BATTALION HISTORIC SITE

    San Diego, California

    Southernmost California marks the end of the historic 2,000-mile march by the only religion-based battalion in the United States Army ever, formed during the Mexican War of 1846. Over a thousand Mormon soldiers (and 4 women) completed the epic journey across the southwest. Today’s I-15 (San Diego to Salt Lake City) traces their footsteps.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF MORMON BATTALION HISTORIC SITE/FACEBOOK 

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    OLD MORMON FORT

    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Did you know that Mormon pioneers founded Sin City? They did, way back in 1855, as a watering hole at the halfway point between Salt Lake and Los Angeles. The original adobe fort is now part of a Nevada state park.

    PHOTO BY DAVIDSTANLEY/FLICKR

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    MORMONAPOLLUR

    Westmann Islands, Iceland

    On May 5, 1851, a group of Icelandic converts were baptized in a natural lagoon on the island of Heimaey, now dubbed the “Mormon Puddle”. A monument stands near the spot, dedicated to those early Saints who went on to settle the town of Spanish Fork, Utah.

    PHOTO BY STEVEFERNIE/FLICKR

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    ALBERT DOCKS

    Liverpool, England

    The earliest Mormon missionaries focused on the areas of northern England. The Legacy Sculpture commemorates the tens of thousands of Mormon converts who, during the 1840’s to 1860’s left these docks on ships bound for America from the 1840’s to 1860’s.

    PHOTO BY COLINTSOI/FLICKR

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    ORSON HYDE MEMORIAL GARDENS

    Jerusalem, Israel

    A quiet and leafy enclosure on the Mount of Olives, this is the spot where the early LDS Apostle and missionary Orson Hyde dedicated the Holy Land for the return of the Jews and the preaching of the restored gospel.

    PHOTO BY TAMARAH/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

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12 Fascinating Mormon Historical Sites

From Utah to Israel, these places will give you some perspective on this all-American religion.