Photo Essay

Mormonism in Pictures: History of Ship Brooklyn Celebrated in California

The history of the Mormon pioneers in California was celebrated with a new musical about the passengers of the ship Brooklyn who sailed from New York to California in 1846 to escape religious persecution.


Several free performances of “Ship Brooklyn” were held in the Oakland Temple Hill Auditorium in Oakland, California, Friday and Saturday, July 27–28, 2018.

                          All members of the cast and crew were volunteers.

“The pioneer history of the Church did not stop in Salt Lake,” said Keith Bond, executive secretary of the Living History Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in California, who is one of the group’s pioneer reenactors.


“It was a journey of treachery, a journey of faith, a journey of hope,” said event organizer Rick Kopf.


The ship Brooklyn was carrying 238 passengers and many provisions when it left New York City on February 4, 1846, the same day that another group of Mormon pioneers left Nauvoo, Illinois, for the Salt Lake Valley. “One hundred were children,” explained Kopf. “They sailed from New York Harbor and went around the tip of South America, which is a treacherous voyage for a sailing ship.”


The voyage was led by Latter-day Saint Sam Brannan, a printer by trade, under the direction of Church President Brigham Young. The ship stopped in Hawaii to deliver some freight to help pay for passage before it arrived in Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, at the end of July 1846.


The Saints were glad to reach land after six months in crowded cabins to help colonize the territory.


They also brought a printing press, farming implements and books that allowed the pioneers to establish a school, the first library and the first newspaper, called the “California Star,” that would announce the Gold Rush.


The weekend event attended by more than 4,000 people included exhibits, children’s crafts, games and music.


Visitors also participated in free pioneer activities in the courtyard at the Oakland Interstake Center and Oakland California Temple Visitors’ Center prior to the shows.


Activities included instruction by volunteers on making rope and rag dolls.


Full-size berths were also on display to give people a sense of how small the sleeping quarters were for the pioneers.


“We get to approach people to come unto Christ through the history of the pioneers and touch them in their ancestral heritage,” said Bond.


He said there are currently about 200 service missionaries in the Living History Mission in California, but there’s a need for more volunteers.


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