Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects

Department

History

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

American religion and politics have always been closely intertwined. Though America was founded on ideals of religious pluralism and tolerance, the actual landscape of American religion often resembled the opposite of these ideas. As a religious majority, Protestants in the nineteenth-century believed in a specific American identity—one which championed the “virtuous” family and a capitalist market system. Yet, some religious organizations challenged these norms, making them the object of intense persecution. One of the most famous of these examples is the Mormons. From their “peculiar” beliefs to their separatist goals, Mormons presented the American people with a religious group which defied cultural norms and advocated a disparate interpretation of the American identity. Two ideas central to the Mormon identity, Theodemocracy and polygamy, directed challenged Protestant ideas of virtue and capitalism. The Mormons’ direct efforts at obtaining political power and creating a separate state presented a serious threat to the Protestant American identity and sparked a fifty-year battle between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the United States Government. From a physical war in 1857 to the legal battle that followed, the Latter-day Saints discovered that the only way to exist and thrive in the United States was to embrace its norms and create an identity that would smoothly propel it into the twentieth century.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Tamara Van Dyken, Dr. Alexander Olson

Disciplines

American Politics | Mormon Studies | United States History

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