Here's a second post based on The American West: A New Interpretive History (see the first post), another attempt to link LDS history with Western History in three paragraphs or less. I'll summarize the material from Chapter 12, "A Search For Community," that shows how singularly successful Mormons in Utah were at building community in the West. It was a much different approach than that of the stereotypical pioneer family: "Rural life in the great open spaces of the trans-Mississippi West was filled with hard work, monotony, and often stultifying isolation." Not for the Mormons, who embraced hard work but not monotony or isolation. The resulting sense of community carried through to the extended Church of the 20th and 21st centuries.
After noting how establishing a school and a church were invariably the focus of efforts made by frontier settlements to create their own sense of community, the authors comment on the LDS experience:
The strongest example of a covenanted community in the trans-Mississippi West was ... the Mormons. ... They were strongly driven by a theological principle they knew as "the Gathering," the imperative to build a new Zion, a communal utopia, in the American wilderness. ... By 1880, some one hundred thousand Mormons were living in more than 350 communities scattered across the inland desert.
While many pioneer families were "movers" rather than "stickers" (i.e., they wouldn't put down roots and become permanent parts of a community) and were quick to pick up their stakes and move on to greener pastures, the Mormons were able to stay put (finally) in Utah. The sense of being a community under seige during the closing decades of the 19th century certainly heightened the Saints' sense of identity, but it was plainly there prior to that period of adversity. This seems like a theme that sets the Mormon experience in the West apart from what everyone else out West experienced — and, I would argue, carried over into the organizational and institutional culture of fellowship and trust we now associate with membership in the Church.
That's pretty much the point to be made. Maybe it's an obvious one we overlook, but it does set the Mormons in Utah apart from their pioneer peers elsewhere in the West. Combined with my first post, a composite description of the Mormons (with no reference to their religious identity) could be expressed as: A frontier people with a strong sense of community.