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Religious Settlers


Religion was one of the driving forces behind much of Idaho's settlement. Religious settlers faced unique challenges and discrimination as they tried to find their place in the state. Religious Settlers looks at their stories and the role of religion in Idaho's history today.


After viewing Religious Settlers, students will be able to:

  1. Understand why religion played an important role in the development of Idaho's history.
  2. Understand why certain religious settlers came into conflict with other settlers and how that changed the course of Idaho history.
  3. Understand what some religious groups are contributing to today's society.
  4. Be aware of the diversity of religion in Idaho, including the idea of a "church of nature."Cataldo Mission

The Mission of the Sacred Heart at Cataldo is the oldest standing building in Idaho, an appropriate place to begin exploring Religious Settlers. The host, Phyllis Edmondson, tells students that religion played an important part in the development of the state.

The video continues with the Native American story of the vision of the Black Robes and the first missionaries in the state, the Whitmans and the Spauldings. About the same time, Father Pierre Jean De Smet founded the mission at Cataldo. The video looks at De Smet's work and the expansion of religion into the Boise basin.

The video explores the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Idaho, and how the conflicts between Mormons and non Mormons, especially the issue of polygamy, shaped the state's history.

Religious organizations are making a positive contribution to the world and the video shows a few examples. It also reviews the decline of membership in organized religion and the number of Idahoans who take part in the "Church of Nature" as described by Bishop Sylvester Treinen.


(Before Viewing)

  1. Have students list some religious reasons why people came to Idaho.
  2. Locate on an Idaho map various missions and communities founded by religious groups.
  3. Prepare a list of all the different religions found in Idaho.


(During Viewing)

  1. Can you imagine never seeing a book or newspaper before or never being able to write anything down?

Mission - A place where missionaries work
Missionary - A person whose job it is to teach religious beliefs
Polygamy - Having more than one wife
Test Oath - A statement an individual must agree to before being allowed to vote
Vision - A dream of what may be the future


(After Viewing)

  1. Why would Native Americans be interested in learning more about the religion of the white people? Why would missionaries want to settle in Idaho?
  2. How did the coming of missionaries affect the lives of Native Americans?
  3. Why did Mormons face discrimination in the early history of Idaho?
  4. What is the "Church of Nature" that Bishop Treinen talked about?
  5. Why do religious settlers of today reach out to help others?
  1. Make a list of ways religious groups make the world better, i.e., encourage music, help the needy, etc.
  2. Discuss why religious groups faced discrimination. Discuss why others, i.e., minorities, seniors, women, faced discrimination.
  3. Have students research and write a report about life at a mission.
  4. Have students volunteer some time to help someone else in need.

Color a Stained Glass Window.

Select one of the symbols of Idaho and draw it on the window or create something entirely different.

Early Religion