Faith and Betrayal: A Pioneer Woman’s Passage in the American West
Jean Rio Baker found the message delivered by the missionaries from the Church of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) refreshing and in many ways the answer to her salvation. In 1850, she was forty years old, a widow, and the sole provider for her seven children. Along with this responsibility, she had a deep concern for the societal ills of the industrial world of mid-19th century England. Jean Rio accepted the Mormon millennial belief in the Second Coming of Christ and the concept that immigrating to America and to the new Mormon Zion would be the salvation for her and her family.
In 1851, her family left the comforts of her upper-class life in England. After their ship landed in New Orleans, Jean Rio had the means to buy and outfit four wagons to carry her family, which consisted of her children and her in-laws. Eventually the Mormon immigrants gathered in Council Bluffs, from where they headed across the Great Plains and the rugged mountains to the Great Basin of present-day Utah. What Jean Rio found in the new Zion was not what she was led to believe by the Mormon Missionaries. There was no secure future for a widow with substantial financial means in a utopian society where plural marriage was believed to be one of the religious tenets of the Church.
Journalist and the great-great-granddaughter of Jean Rio Baker, Sally Denton reconstructs the history of her ancestor’s life and conversion to Mormonism from the diary she left of her early life as a Mormon convert.