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Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Eric Yellin

Second Advisor

Dr. Sydney Watts


This study tells the story of U.S. government efforts to delegitimize the Mormon religion during Utah’s quest for statehood between 1887 and 1896. Through federal legislation and threats to disband the Church of` Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, U.S. congressmen such as Shelby Cullom, George Edmunds, Elijah Morse, and Joseph Rawlins sought to force the renouncement of central doctrines and assimilate Mormons into the American mainstream. For Mormons in the 1880s, polygamy was a sacred practice indispensable to one’s exaltation and to the construction of the Kingdom of God. It was central to Mormon identity. By dismissing polygamy as a barbaric practice on par with human sacrifice and slavery, among other methods, American leaders threatened the legitimacy of Mormonism’s doctrines and authority. For myriad reasons, congressmen attacked on the pretense that Mormonism was a false religion led by frauds, rather than a belief system adhered to by American citizens holding a different religious belief from their own. This study also seeks to explain the origins of the new course Mormon leaders’ took in efforts to prosper after 1890. In effect, my project aims to provide a historical account of how and why Mormonism’s new priorities, emphasized theology, and conceptions of its own history became centralized around the LDS Church as a holy institution at the turn of the nineteenth century.