Date of Award:

7-1-2015

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

Philip L. Barlow

Abstract

In the decades leading up to the twentieth century, social reformers and politicians, alarmed by Mormon political control (and polygamy) in Utah Territory, challenged Mormon whiteness and their competency for American citizenship. In re-examining Mormonism’s transition period, this study reveals how Mormon conformity to an encroaching American culture increased the movement’s exposure to discursive arguments on race-mixing, marriage, and eugenics that helped legitimize Mormon citizenship claims. Focusing on the themes of race, marriage, and citizenship, this thesis examines Mormonism’s racial transformation from not white to white as they assimilated and reified the racial ideology promoted by their Progressiveera contemporaries and asserted their own racial policies against peoples of African descent.

Beyond revealing the ways in which race influenced Mormon acceptance into American society, this thesis also features Mormons more prominently in the history of the American West by contextualizing the development of a racial bureaucracy in Utah tasked with enforcing the state’s 1888 miscegenation law. Utah’s miscegenation law, while creating enduring and often devastating consequences for couples whose choices and desires took them across the color line, also helped transform Utah into a western place in the twentieth century.

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