Sunday, January 10, 2010: 8:50 AM
Manchester Ballroom A (Hyatt)
While many accounts of Mormon politics under the presidency of Brigham Young emphasize the church's theocratic control of the Utah territorial government, Young's relationship with the federal government proved more determinative of the church's future political course. In this paper, I will explore three case studies of Young's interactions with the U.S. government: the exodus to Utah and creation of the Mormon Battalion; the 1857-58 Utah War; and the 1860s and 1870s conflicts over polygamy. Young sought to ensure the survival of the church and, as far as possible, its autonomy from outside control. Thus, in 1846 he shrewdly encouraged his men to enlist in the service of a hated government in order to further the move west. In 1857, as Young anticipated the end of the world – “The Closing Up Scene,” as he termed it– he temporarily embraced a futile conflict with the federal government. Pulling back from the brink and safeguarding the temporal future of his people, Young chose to negotiate space for the church to thrive amidst an often hostile government presence. In so doing, he put his Church on the path of accommodation it would haltingly embrace at the close of the nineteenth century. While Young and his successors fiercely resisted government anti-polygamy campaigns, Young -- a pragmatic theocrat -- had already planted the seeds of the church's future accommodation with the federal government over plural marriage.