Date of Award

5-1991

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

Political Science

Abstract

FROM 1896 until the early 1930's, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormon), executed what was in my opinion a quest to regain and establish it's own political legitimacy as an institution. Since early in the Church's comparatively brief history, the very mention of their religion in the majority of modern societies carries negative connotations. I hypothesize that the quest to eliminate or at least "back seat" this stereo type was the primary motivating factor behind many of the decisions made by leaders of the Church during that time period. I will focus on the national level rather than local or regional (but these could be aptly argued individually), and it is in this arena that many decisions were made which affect church policy and official position to this day.

It is true that Mormons have gone from viewing the United States as "the mother of all enemies" (excuse the vernacular), to seeing themselves as one of the most politically involved and loyal groups in America. Not only this, but the Mormons also teach that the founding of this country was inspired, the drafters of the constitution being recipients of divine guidance. This change is what interests me most, mainly because it didn't occur in a single day but, rather, evolved. Nor in any way was the evolution a response to changing conditions outside of the church, but rather took place from within.

I hypothesize that many decisions made by the LDS Church leaders were politically motivated, but not in the sense that other historians have portrayed them. Many have tried to draw the conclusion that these were the specific instances that ushered in a new era in the church and thus began the polarization from a theocratic organization to one with more political interests. This notion I refute. I believe that the church, by making these clearly political moves, tried and succeeded in removing road blocks that threatened the growth and well-being of the church and it's progress, and it's goals as an organization. I believe that it was the leaders' intentions all along that once the dust settled from their road-block demolition, they would resume building the Kingdom of God where they had left off.

I approach this thesis hypothetically because of the difficulty of obtaining primary sources to support my conclusions, and although I use peripheral sources in my documentation I welcome critique. I feel confident in this invitation because a responsible would-be critic needs these same, virtually inaccessible sources, (namely First Presidency Minutes, found in LDS Church archives) to prove any inaccuracies. Though it is possible that the conclusions drawn may be off mark, the paper will be a success if it encourages one person to prove me wrong and obtain loftier heights of more accurate historical understanding. Although I have relied heavily on the scholarship of others and their documentation on specific topics, so far as I know, the macro approach which I will be taking is original and only implied if at all intended by other authors.

I think the specific issues refered to are related in so much that at the time the individual decisions were made, leaders of the church recognized each conscientious move as a piece in the puzzle entitled "Quest For Political Legitimacy."

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