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dc.date.accessioned2018-08-22T21:53:50Z
dc.date.available2018-08-22T21:53:50Z
dc.date.created2004
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dc.description[MD] ###Summary Rarely has a religious practice been as closely identified with the faith that inspired it as polygamy was with Mormonism in the late 19th century. For Americans who lived during that time, "Mormon" and "polygamist" were nearly synonymous. For Mormons, polygamy was never a majority practice, but the correctness of the practice was a matter of religious faith. Mormon settlers in Utah, who lived in relative autonomy, were able to construct a legal, social, and economic structure that allowed polygamy to flourish. Everything, including the law, was subservient to their religious beliefs. This religious basis for polygamy made the practice dangerous in the eyes of the federal government. The Mormon effort to reorganize society smacked of theocracy, which could not be tolerated in the United States. Polygamy was also a radical experiment in family structure, conducted while marriage law and gender relations were undergoing intense change. Questions of what a marital relationship should be like, the proper role of women, and marriage's place in society all factored into the debate over polygamy. Polygamy was seen as an affront to progressive ideas about romantic love, women's rights, and liberalism. Often, those who were opposed to polygamy were unaware of the realities of polygamous life. They believed that the practice necessarily involved patriarchy and oppression. Plural wives were assumed to be unwitting dupes who were degraded by their marriages. In reality, polygamous marriages, while presenting their own unique set of problems, were not necessarily oppressive. While some women could not live in them, some women found them freeing and spiritually satisfying. Women were both practitioners and opponents of polygamy. Mormon women fervently believed that polygamy was divinely ordained, and anti-polygamist women believed just as strongly that it was a twisted version of marriage. The latter launched a well-organized movement against polygamy that quickly caught the attention of the nation. For the federal government, polygamy was both a reason to keep Utah out of the Union, and the avenue by which it would pursue the destruction of Mormon political power,-but polygamy was not merely a handy foil for those bent on persecuting Mormons. It was the centerpiece of Mormon society, and everything else – marriage laws, economic interactions, social hierarchy, inheritance systems, and local politics – was built around it. In seeking to end both the practice of and support for polygamy, the federal government wanted to remove a defining element of Mormon religion, simultaneously bringing Mormons into the mainstream and under control. After nearly forty years of legislative and judicial battles, the federal government got what it wanted: Mormon capitulation, and acknowledgement of the lengths to which lawmakers could go to when faced with an anomalous, rebellious minority practice or group. Heavy-handed tactics including harsh criminal prosecutions, disenfranchisement, and disincorporation of the LDS Church were all approved by the Supreme Court, Congress, and popular opinion. In giving up polygamy, Mormons gained something, as well. Without polygamy, Mormons came to be accepted, although the specter of polygamy still hangs over the LDS church, unfairly or not. With the end of prosecutions for polygamy, Mormons were freed from the burden of constantly defending themselves from legal attacks. Finally, in 1896, Utah was granted the statehood that Mormons had sought for almost 50 years.en-US
dc.format1 pdfen-US
dc.language.isoen_USen-US
dc.titleThe Dictates of Conscience: Mormon Polygamy and Conflict with the Federal Governmenten-US
dc.typeArticleen-US


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