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Liberal Democracy and Mormon Culture

Liberal Democracy And Mormon Culture

Mormon Scholarship

The obstacles confronting one to write about Mormon culture, specifically its religion and its relationship to liberal democracy are enormous: the conceptualization of liberal democracy and Mormon culture, the unique origins and nature of the Mormon religion, and the either adversarial and conspiratorial or apologetic and self-congratulatory accounts of Mormon history. These difficulties are compounded by the fact that Mormons themselves are acutely consciousness of their own narrative as sacred history, which forces one to ask whether religious claims are true in and of themselves. Those claims for the Mormons, according to Leone are changeable and fluid rather than fixed and absolute.[i] With this understanding of truth, Leone remarks that “it is no wonder that the church has discouraged any intellectual tradition that would interfere with disguising historical factors or with maintaining much of the social reality through the uncritical way lay history is done.”[ii]

To preclude such critical approaches to Mormon history, Apostle Boyd Packer in his 1981 speech at the Church Educational System Religious Educator’s Symposium outlined four principles from which Mormon history should be interpreted: 1) “There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work”; 2) There are “Some things that are true are not very useful” to promote to non-Mormons; 3) “In an effort to be objective, impartial, and scholarly, a writer or a teacher may unwittingly be giving equal time to the adversary . . . In the Church we are not neutral. We are one-sided. There is a war going on, and we are engaged in it”; and 4) There should be an attempt to prevent the spread of potentially damaging material.[iii]

The result is two schools of thought on Mormon history and scholarship: those who advocate an objective and neutral approach to the subject, and those who contend such an approach is illusionary and the proper method to understand Mormon culture is to be conditioned by faith. Michael Quinn is representative of the first approach:

“[If] omission of relevant evidence is inadvertent, the author is careless. If the omission is an intentional effort to conceal or avoid presenting the reader with evidence that contradicts the preferred view of the writer, that is fraud . . . Traditional Mormon apologists discuss such “sensitive evidence” only when this evidence is so well known that ignoring it is impossible.”[iv]

The other school of thought argue that Mormon history can only be understood within a religious context, specifically acknowledging that God is a force that moves within history. Attempts at objectivity or neutrality at best will miss the essential features and aspects of Mormon culture and at worst will lead to a secular-biased and prejudiced account.

I propose an alternative interpretative framework to analyze Mormon history and culture. By adopting Tocqueville’s account of religion in the United States, I hope to avoid the entrenched debate between these two schools of thought. For Tocqueville, the ultimate truth or falsehood of Christian claims was immaterial to the subject that he was studying: the nature of liberal democracy. As he wrote, “If it be of the highest importance to man, as an individual, that his religion should be truth,” he maintained, “it is not so to society. Society has no future life to hope for or to fear; and provided the citizens profess a religion, the peculiar tenets of that religion are of little importance to its interests” (I: 314).[v] With respect to religion, Tocqueville was interested in the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy: whether the two mutually supported each other or were antagonists. The conclusion that he reached was that in order to create an alliance between liberal democracy and Christianity, Christianity would have to be willing to be altered to fit “the natural state of democratic men” (I: 323).

Today no one would doubt that liberal democracy exists in the state of Utah. However, with nearly 70% of the population Mormon, Utah culture is characterized as one committed to family life, a clean and healthy lifestyle, and social conservative values. As Grant Underwood wrote, one only needs to look “at the size of the Mormon family, at the Mormons’ health code, at their participation in a church wide welfare system, and at contemporary politics in Utah to see that Latter-day Saints (LDS) continue to be a ‘peculiar people’”; or as Richard Poll describes it: “Despite their education status and relative affluence, the Mormon birth rate is now twice the national average. The LDS death rate and low incidence of a variety of diseases appear to be linked to their now strict adherence to the ‘World of Wisdom’ which, among other things, proscribes tobacco and prescribes temperance.” [vi] The current description of Utah culture seems to reflect and coincide with the all-American image of social conservative values of family, religion, and work. But when one examines the origins of Mormonism and the problems that Utah encountered in its attempts at statehood, we rediscover the unique nature of the Mormon religion as it was perceived by Americans as a threat to liberal democracy.

How the Mormon religion transformed itself from a threat to liberal democracy to a supporter of the regime already has been examined. Rather, what I want to study is whether the Mormon religion supports Tocqueville’s account of religion altering itself to fit “the natural state of democratic men.”[vii] Clearly the Mormon religion did alter itself in its attempts at statehood; whether it was divinely-revealed, a calculation of political realities, or a rationalization of power, does not matter in this analysis. What does the adaptation of the religion tell us about liberal democracy? Does the Mormon religion support Tocqueville’s conclusions about the relationship between religion and democracy, or suggest something else?

Tocqueville on Religion and Democracy

The defining characteristic of American liberal democracy for Tocqueville is “the general equality of condition among the people,” a force so pervasive that:

“I soon perceived that the influence of this fact extends far beyond the political character and the laws of the country, and that it has no less effect on civil society than on government; it creates opinions, gives birth to new sentiments, founds novel customs, and modifies whatever it does not produce. The more I advanced in the study of American society, the more I perceived that this equality of condition is the fundamental fact from which all others seem to be derived and the central point at which all my observations constantly terminated.” (I: 3)

This equality of condition has manifested itself most fully in the New World, although it inevitably will reach Europe, as Tocqueville retraced the history of western civilization as one long march towards democracy (I: 14). What motivates men towards social equality is the belief that the “exercise of a power which they believe to be illegitimate, and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped and oppressive” (I: 9). With the Christian belief of spiritual equality and the Enlightenment dogma of political equality, the previous awe and wonder citizens had felt towards their rulers dissipated into collegial contempt: “The spell of royalty is broken,” and has been replaced by democratic self-rule (I: 10).

Tocqueville believed that religion was essential to liberal democracy in order to protect liberty from the despotic tendencies that result from the principle of equality. As he wrote, “Religious nations are . . . naturally strong on the very point on which democratic nations are weak; this shows of what importance it is for men to preserve their religion as their conditions become more equals” (II: 352). The basic purpose of religion in liberal democracies was to provide a moral code of behavior in the absence of political control: “How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed?”; and the strength of religious morality was that it affected both the private and public spheres of democratic life (I: 318). Specifically, religion mitigates the democratic tendencies of individualism and materialism caused by the principle of equality and directs democratic citizens to spiritual values for the betterment of themselves and society.

The dominant passion of democracy is a “cowardly love of present enjoyment” and a “brutal indifference to futurity.” If citizens do not learn the value of public duties through education or the experience of free institutions, they will become indifferent to public affairs and allow a tyrant to seize political power. When citizens have lost their noblest faculties, they lose their desire to preserve their freedom: as long as the tyrant would permit every individual to pursue his private interests, nobody would challenge the tyrant’s authority. The passion of “present enjoyment” is the material pursuit of pleasure and well-being, a passion that is exacerbated in democracies because the absence of fixed income forces citizens to work in order to maintain a livelihood. Continually concerned about poverty, citizens must work to increase their property and consequently see physical satisfaction and comfort—materialism—as the greatest value in life—a value that enervates human’s spiritual capacities to transcend self-interest and private pursuits (II: 141, 164, 266–67).

However, materialism is not the greatest threat to democracy for Tocqueville: individualism, the mature and calm feeling which leads members of society to withdraw themselves from it in order to attend to private affairs, is the greatest opponent to liberty. In aristocratic societies, social and class structure bind people together by making them dependent upon each other for the necessities of life, thereby creating a sense of obligation and loyalty among them. But in democratic societies, social and class structure is eliminated (at least psychologically among the citizenry) and therefore severs the bond which held people together. Large numbers of citizens become economically independent and believe that they are masters of their own destiny. This erroneous sense of independence transforms sentiments of obligation and loyalty into independence and self-interest (II: 104–106). Combined with materialism, the democratic citizen is characterized by self-interest and independence.

This sense of independence among the democratic citizenry for Tocqueville was illusionary, for all citizens must accept authority of some opinions on trust and without discussion in order to function as a single society (II: 9–10). In democratic societies, this authority resides in the majority (public opinion): “By whatever political laws men are governed in the age of equality,” he asserted, “it may be foreseen that faith in public opinion will become for them a species of religion, and the majority its ministering prophet” (II: 12). The justification for majority rule is the principle of equality, since democratic citizens believe all are endowed with an equal capacity for judging the truth. Thus, “the greater truth should go with the greater number” (II: 11).

These tendencies in democratic societies can lead to administrative despotic government. Since each citizen is equal, no one can be certain whether their political opinion is correct; consequently, he looks to the majority of citizens for validation of his own view. The majority view is reflected in the government, which is a first among equals, and does not create envy among its citizens, since all are treated equally by it. But as the government becomes more powerful, the individual correspondingly becomes less so. This government, as dictated by the will of the majority, soon dictates and instructs the people in all incidents of their lives, resulting in citizens losing their faculties of thinking and acting for themselves. Citizens are reduced to “timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd” (II: 310, 313, 337, 345).

Tocqueville thought religion would be able to combat these undesirable tendencies of individualism and materialism in democratic citizens. The general ideas about God and human nature for Tocqueville create the basis of almost every human action. Despite the need for certainty about these matters, the achievement of theological certainty is the most difficult of all the intellectual pursuits and is beyond the capacity of most people. With the exception of the profoundest thinkers, most citizens could attain this certainly only through religious faith. By accepting religious faith, citizens receive a set of authoritative principles about God and human nature that enable them to act in a moral and rational manner (II: 21–22).

Some of the crucial principles that religion espouse are the ideas of equity and moral right. Christianity, in particular, instructs its followers to respect equal liberty and the dignity of each individual, and a liberal democracy, subject to Christian morality, can transform these ideas into political rights that can act as a bulwark against the despotic tendencies of democracies. The majority in the United States was “checked from time to time by barriers” that it could not surmount, with religion being one of the most important ones. As Toqueville noted, “While the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust’ (I: 315–316).

One of the most important ideas of Christianity is the immortality of the soul. The notion of eternal happiness (or damnation) trains citizens to resist “the selfish passion of the hour.” By conducting themselves with a “view to eternity,” democratic citizens learn to manage their affairs beyond their self-interest and material pursuits. This belief of the immortality of the soul also lifts citizens’ aspirations toward political and spiritual concerns, such as a love for liberty. With this belief, along with the injunction of loving thy neighbor, Christianity is able to draw citizens away from their individualism into the public sphere of cooperation and good government (II: 154–155, 158–160).

But in order for religion to exist in liberal democracy, Tocqueville suggested that it must adapt to this “nature of democratic men”:

“The more the conditions of men are equalized and assimilated to each other, the more important it is for religion, while it carefully abstains from the daily turmoil of secular affairs, not needlessly to run counter to the ideas that generally prevail or to the permanent interests that exist in the mass of the people. For as public opinion grows to be more and more the first and most irresistible of existing powers, the religious principle has no external support strong enough to enable it long to resist its attack (II.32–33).”

Christianity was able to protect itself against secular tendencies in the United States by recognizing “the intellectual supremacy exercised by the majority” and never engaging “any but necessary conflicts with it.” In matters that did not touch upon the essence of their religious faith, American clergypersons “adopt[ed] the general opinions of their country and their age.” By accommodating itself to majority rule, American Christianity was able to gain the support and protection of the majority (II: 29).

Tocqueville also believed that Christianity should be altered in accordance with democratic psychology. Since democratic citizens have a passion for unity and simplicity and a dislike for diversity and details, the Christian God should be portrayed as a “single and all-powerful Being, dispensing equal laws in the same manner to every man” (II: 26). Furthermore, Christianity should remove all external observances and artifice that are not necessary to the religious faith. As he wrote, “I have seen no country in which Christianity is clothed with fewer forms, figures, and observances than in the United States, or where it presents more distinct, simple, and general notions to the mind” (II: 24, 26–28).

Therefore, religion for Tocqueville is one of the main remedies to preclude the democratic tendencies of individualism and materialism. With its teachings and doctrines, religion acts as a counterweight to these threats to democracy. It is an instrument of moral education and training for the citizens to transcend their self-interest and material pursuits; but it must do so at a cost of adapting itself to the will of the majority. It must be selective in its engagements with the government, refusing to enter the daily turmoil of secular affairs, and stress doctrine and behavior that stress simplicity and uniformity over detail and diversity. If religion is able to make these accommodations, it will be given a privileged place in the United States as the teacher of a moral code that will help preserve political rights and liberty.

Mormon Beliefs as Democratic Equality

Mormonism emerged in a period of rapid population growth, evangelical Christianity, and populist political sentiments in the first half of nineteenth-century America. The combination of these social and ideological movements provided the context of Joseph Smith’s religious vision that was “intensely populists in its rejection of the religious conventions of his day and in its hostility to the orthodox clergy, its distrust of reason as an exclusive guide, and its rage at the oppression of the poor.”[viii] Smith believed the path from this poverty and oppression was a restoration of God’s will—a condition that the Smith family continually experienced with bankruptcies and being victims of fraud throughout their lives.[ix]

With respect to religion, Smith thought God had withdrawn His presence from the churches, therefore, Smith turned to his own dreams, visions, folk magic, and occult sciences for answers to the questions about God and human nature.[x] He recorded his disillusionment about what the current churches offered about these questions:

“For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy . . . it was seen that the seemingly good feeling on both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feelings ensured; priests contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinion.[xi]

In 1827, Smith claimed that he had gained possession of a set of gold plates and stone instruments (Urim and Thummim) that informed him about God’s role in the United States. In 1830, he published his translation of these gold plates known as the Book of Mormon, which provided a new account of salvation history with America’s role as the fifth or American Gospel: a drama that indicted current American churches as blind to the real meaning of their own history and prophesized the “latter days”—a restoration of the true Christian church—which was soon approaching.[xii]

In the Book of Mormon, God is portrayed as both good and terrible, with the usual atrocities of famine, pestilence, earthquakes, etc. With respect to America, the Book recalls the prophet Mormon who founded his own Nephite civilization in the fourth century A.D. and who had prophesized the final judgment. But what is perhaps most striking throughout the Book is the theme of divine punishment of the rich, proud, and learned who often are economically successful and oppress the poor. The message of Jacob to the Hebrews in America is representative of this theme:

“But woe unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their God. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also” (2 Nephi 9:30).

The prophet Nephi also speaks of this theme in his indictment of the churches:

“Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrines, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.”

“They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”

“They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.”

“O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell” (2 Nephi 28: 12–15)![xiii]

Later the resurrected Christ appears in America and establishes a two-hundred year reign of happiness and bliss; but this declines into apostasy because of the advent of new churches with their pride and materialism (4 Nephi 1: 24–27). The oppression of the poor will lead the world into the end times—some time which Moroni, the survivor of the Nephite civilization, predicted: the evils of pride and materialism will result in the end times when a new prophet will discover the golden plates and proclaim the reopening of the heavens (Mormon 8:39–41). The end times will be characterized as an age of miracles, revelation, and when other churches will deny the religion of the Bible (Mormon 8:2, 9:7–11, 15–20; 3 Nephi 29:6).

Some Mormon historians have been interested in demonstrating the revelatory character of the Book, often pointing out how it transcends the provincial opinions of Joseph Smith. While Mormon detractors interpret the Book as a reflection of the social, cultural, and political concerns of early nineteenth-century America or focus on its magical, alchemy, and occult elements.[xiv] Others, like Richard Bushman, have emphasized how Mormonism is a radical critique of American society, with its calm premillenialist disillusionment of society rather than identifying itself with American optimism and Calvinist determinism.[xv] However, from a Tocquevillian perspective, we see that Mormon belief is actually reflective of the democratic principle of equality of condition, especially with its indictments of economic and educational inequity among the social classes in the United States.

The theme in the Book of divine punishment of the rich, proud, and learned shows how the principle of equality already had been distorted by the 1820s; and the Book calls for a return to the principle of equality is in accordance with the will of the majority. The indictment of other churches as bastions for the rich, proud, and learned also suggests that mainline religion in the United States no longer could provide the moral code of behavior required for the protection of political rights and liberty. It should come as no surprise that Mormonism arose in an age of evangelical Christianity and populist political sentiment: democratic citizens were searching for a new authority to provide them guidance in their behavior and ideas. By aligning itself with the economically oppressed, Mormonism would seem to be able to protect itself against the majority as it expanded across the United States.

Required Democratic Alteration

Unfortunately, the Mormons were not tolerated in New York or the Midwest and they were forced to flee to what became known by 1850 as the Territory of Utah. The Mormons found themselves in conflict with the majority of Americans over their social and economic practices, with the most prominent conflict being polygamy.[xvi] The attempts of the Mormons to gain statehood is reflective of Tocqueville’s observation that religion, when in conflict with the state, will alter in order to accommodate itself with the will of the majority. A brief look at this controversy will be instructive to our understanding of the relationship between religion and democracy in the United States.

The U.S. Constitution determines the relationship between church and state with its principles of “free exercise” and “no establishment” clauses. The idea was that the nation would not be committed to any particular religion, as first applied to the national government and later the state governments via the Fourteenth Amendment. The Mormon encounter with the American legal system over the issue of polygamy started in 1852, when the Mormons announced that they were practicing plural marriages. Previously, in 1850, Utah was organized as a territory and thereby became subject to the authority of the U.S. Congress. With Republican ascendancy in national politics, polygamy and slavery were two practices that became targeted by the federal government for elimination. After the Civil War, with the matter of slavery resolved, polygamy became subject to national scrutiny.

In 1879, the Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. United States that the Morrill Act, which was an anti-bigamy statute passed in 1862, was constitutional. George Reynolds, who was a secretary to Brigham Young, argued that his practice of polygamy was an exercise of rights protected under the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment and was violated by the Morrill Act. The Court ruled against Reynolds, citing that the Morrill Act was within the legislative power of Congress, since it was “left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order. . . . To permit this would be to make the professed doctrine of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.”[xvii] Although there were other attempts to preserve the religious practice of polygamy, such as in Davis v. Beason (1890) and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. United States (1899), it faced continual defeat by the majority of the American citizenry. The will of the majority, as reflective in the Congress and the Supreme Court, had decided that the question of polygamy as a practice had to be eliminated.

With polygamy defeated, serial polygamy soon became familiar: a pattern of marriage, divorce, and subsequent remarriage. The difficulty of proving serial polygamy, as well as the lack of a national consensus on divorce, did not immediately result in a campaign against serial polygamy. However, Congress continued to pass enactments to the original anti-bigamy statutes, with the last one calling for the dis-incorporation of the Mormon Church by confiscating its property. This threat to the Church’s existence led to a formal declaration by William Woodruff, president of the Mormon Church on September 25, 1890, that officially abandoned polygamy:

“We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice. . . . Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise. . . . And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.”[xviii]

With this abandonment of polygamy, the Mormons were able to reduce their conflict with the state and achieve statehood as proclaimed by President Grover Cleveland on January 4, 1896.[xix] Utah’s Constitution protected religious freedom and rejected polygamy, stating that “[P]erfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and . . . no inhabitant of said State shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship: Provided, That polygamous or plural marriage are forever prohibited.”[xx]

Whether the Mormon Church changed its position on polygamy because of divine revelation, political calculation, or both, is not the subject of inquiry here; rather, from a Tocquevillian perspective, we see that religion had to alter its behavior to conform to the will of the majority. When the Church was threatened with the federal government confiscating its property, it adapted itself to the political environment in order to survive. The practice of polygamy ran contrary to the social and religious practice of marriage of the majority of Americans; consequently, the practice of polygamy had to be abandoned in order for the Mormon Church to exist. Regardless of the truth or social scientific claims of polygamy, the fact that the will of the majority is not to be resisted by any religion—or any—group that wishes to exist in a liberal democratic society.


The conclusions we can reach about the relationship between democracy and religion is that the will of the majority is to be accommodated. Liberal democracy, with its principle of equality of condition, makes possible the authority of the will of the majority, which in turn can potentially threaten individual political rights and liberty. Religion can preclude these negative tendencies in democratic citizens, with its teachings on spiritual matters and social fraternity to transcend individualism and materialism; but it must accommodate itself to the will of the majority in order to exist.

The origins of Mormonism accommodate the will of the majority in pointing out the oppression of the poor by the rich, learned, and proud. It also showed that mainline churches were accomplices to this oppression; and that a new code of moral behavior was required for democratic society. Irrespective of the truth claims of its religion, Mormonism can be understood in this sense as supportive of Tocqueville’s account of liberal democracy: the principle of equality of condition and the will of the majority. However, when confronted by the federal government on the issue of polygamy, the Mormon Church was forced to adapt to the will of the majority. For most Mormons, the practice of polygamy is not an essential tenet to their faith and could be given up for the right to exist in the United States. But the power of the will of the majority in this case demonstrates the price that groups must pay in order to exist in a liberal democracy.

I hope that the use of Tocqueville’s insights into the nature of liberal democracy will point to a new direction in Mormon scholarship, transcending the debate between the two schools of thought on this subject. By focusing on the will of the majority and other such phenomena, like the role of civil society in liberal democracies, Tocqueville provides scholars a paradigm to understand Mormon culture and history without having to be involved in theological or religious truth claims and still provides us insight into the nature of Mormonism. It is my hope that this chapter can serve as an example for other projects on Mormonism in the future.



[i]. Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1985).

[ii]. Mark P. Leone, The Roots of Modern Mormonism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), 204, 211.

[iii]. Boyd Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” BYU Studies 21, no. 3 (1981): 259–77.

[iv]. Michael Quinn, The New Mormon History, ed. by Davis Bitton and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, 363–86 (Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 1987), vii–xx, xiii. Other scholars who have adopted this approach and encountered problems with the LDS Church are Fawn Brodie, Juanita Brooks, Linda King Newell, and Valeen Tippetts Avery.

[v]. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2 vols., ed. by Phillips Bradley (New York: Vintage Books, 1945). Hereafter I will cite volume one as I and volume two as II with the page number(s) following.

[vi]. Grant Underwood, “Revisioning Mormon History,” Pacific Historical Review 55 (1986): 413; Richard Poll quoted in Ibid., 414; also refer to Grant Underwood, The Early Millenarian World of Early Mormonism (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1993).

[vii]. For more about how the Mormon religion transformed itself from its origins to today, refer to A. Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994); Carol Weisbrod, Emblems of Pluralism Cultural Difference and the State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002); and Ethan R. Yorgason, The Transformation of the Mormon Culture Region (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2003).

[viii]. Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1989), 120; also refer to Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: 1971); Gordon S. Wood, “Evangelical America and the Early Mormons,” New York History 61 (1980): 359–86.

[ix]. On Joseph Smith, refer to Klaus J. Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginning of Mormonism (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1984); Shipps, Mormonism.

[x]. Shipps, Mormonism, 10; Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1987).

[xi]. Brigham H. Roberts, ed., A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vol. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News Press, 1932–1951), 1:3.

[xii]. Quoted in Bushman, Joseph Smith, 140.

[xiii]. Some other passages that reflect this theme can be found in Alma 4:6–12; 2 Nephi 26:20, 29; 3 Nephi 16:10, 30:2.

[xiv]. Richard L. Bushman, “The Book of Mormon and the American Revolution,” BYU Studies 17 (1976): 3–20; Timothy L. Smith, “The Book of Mormon in a Biblical Culture,” Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 3–21; Shipps, Mormonism, 32–33. A helpful view of the content of the Book of Mormon is Thomas F. O’Dea, The Mormons (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), 22–40.

[xv]. Bushman, “Book of Mormon”; O’Dea, The Mormons, 31–35; Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience, 68–83.

[xvi]. Brigham Young, “Exodus Announced, October 8, 1845,” in A Documentary History of Religion in America, Edward S. Gaustad, ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1982–83), 1:359–60. For nineteenth-century Mormonism and anti-Mormonism, refer to Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Onedia Community (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981).

[xvii]. Reynolds v. U.S. 98 U.S. 164, 166 (1878); also refer to Ray Jay Davis, “Plural Marriage and Religious Freedom: The Impact of Reynolds v. United States,” Arizona Law Review 15 (1973): 287, 291; and Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and the Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

[xviii]. Edwin Firmage and R. Collin Mangrum, Zion in the Courts: A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988).

[xix]. Refer to Chapter 7, “The Transformation from Theocracy to Democracy in Utah” by Wayne K. Hinton, in this book for more about Utah’s attempts at statehood.

[xx]. Utah Constitution, Article 1, section 4.


See LDS in USA: Mormonism and the Making of Mormon Culture (Baylor University Press, 2012) and our review of it as well as How Mormonism Shaped America,” An American Marriage: Mormons, Polygamy, and Federalism,”Mormons in the American Imagination,” Mormon Authority and Identity in America,” and “The Transformation From Theocracy to Democracy in Utah.”

This excerpt is from Utah, Pluralism, and Democracy, Lee Trepanier, ed. (Southern Utah University Press, 2007).

Lee Trepanier

Lee Trepanier is a Professor of Political Science and University Pre-Law Advisor at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. He is author and editor of several books and also is the editor of VoegelinView (2016-present) and editor of Lexington Books series Politics, Literature, and Film (2013-present).

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