Despite his belligerent public posture, Brigham Young never intended to force a showdown with the U.S. Army. He and other leaders frequently spoke of putting homes to the torch and fleeing into the mountains rather than permitting their enemies to take over their property. Memories of earlier persecutions were invoked to build morale and prepare the people for possible further sacrifices. Early in 1858 exploring parties were sent to locate a place of refuge that Young believed to exist in the central Great Basin. By the time they returned with negative reports, the Utah War was over.
That Young hoped for a diplomatic solution is clear from his early appeal to Thomas L. Kane, the influential Pennsylvanian who had for ten years been a friend of the Mormons. Communications and personal problems delayed Kane's approach to Buchanan, and not until after Christmas did he receive permission to go to Utah as an unofficial emissary. He reached Salt Lake City late in February, via Panama and California, and found the Mormon leadership ready for peace but doubtful about its feasibility. When the first reports of Kane's Camp Scott contacts with general Johnston were discouraging, Young's pessimism was confirmed.