In the early days of the Mormon Church, founded by Joseph Smith between 1820 and 1830, periods of strife and tension would follow the early members of the church around the entire United States. Beginning in the East, Joseph Smith would find it difficult to find a safe haven for the organization and headquartering of the Church of Christ. Beginning in Fayette, New York in 1830, Smith’s mission was to continue the original Church of Jesus Christ that was no longer on Earth. In 1823, Smith would claim that an angel directed him to a buried book written on golden plates containing the religious history of an ancient people. The Book of Mormon would be the religious texts published as the interpretation of those plates and would be the guiding principles of the Mormon faith. His beliefs that God and Jesus were both once men on Earth before becoming enthroned in the heavens would later become the basis for much of the insults against the Mormons throughout the early years of the church (Abanes, 2002).
In the church’s early days of 1830, the Church of Christ would begin to grow and expand through missionaries sent westward to preach the gospel to the settlers. In Ohio, the church would prosper through the work of the missionaries there. As the church expanded into Jackson County, Missouri, settlers in the area became alarmed at the rapid influx of Mormons into the area. This led up to vicious attacks on the Mormons, and the expulsion of
the Mormons from Missouri. Following he attacks and the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri, Joseph Smith would lead the church members to found a new settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois. Tensions would eventually boil over and Joseph Smith along with his brother Hyrum would be killed by a mob near Carthage, Illinois in 1844 (Baugh, 2000). Brigham Young would emerge as the leader of the later known Latter Day Saints and he would go on to lead these pioneers to the Utah Territory. A provincial government under Young would be established in the Utah Territory.
The 1800’s in America were a time of rapid westward expansion across North America. Accompanied with this expansion, the American government would be undergoing intense battles between political parties. The lands encompassing the Utah Territory would fall under U.S. control following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The territory settled by Young and the Mormon pioneers would come under control of the U.S. by petition for entry into the Union by Young and his charges. Salt Lake City would become the center of the new State of Utah upon its acceptance into the United States.
The Mormons were some of the very first pioneers to travel westward and ultimately founded many of the camps, settlements, and cities along the trails moving west from the Mississippi River. Aside from Salt Lake City, the Mormons founded more than 350 communities, from Idaho to Mexico and west to California. These provinces made travel west extremely convenient for pioneers to come. Mormons were also able to form strong bonds with Native American’s. Their efforts proved monumental to the (short-lived) friendship between Whites and Indians (Abanes, 2002).
The Mormons were the dominant group in the Great Salt Lake basin. Discoveries of silver, gold, and other valuable resources would lead to many non-Mormons migrating to the area in order to exploit these resources. Due to the nature of the Mormon’s religious beliefs, the outright dominance of the group in the area would ultimately slow the admission of the group into the Union as the State of Utah for 46 years. Acceptance of the Mormons way of life as a certainty by the federal government would also lend credibility to that way of life, allowing the Mormons to continue to thrive in their new home and expand to other parts of the country.
Throughout the turbulent times of the mid to late 1800’s, the Mormons underwent many hardships and persecutions by other settlers of the times that were fearful of their belief systems and lifestyles. Under the government of the day, the Mormons contributions would be extremely helpful in the settlement of the Western United States. To this day, the large Mormon population of Utah and the Southwest United States has continued to make numerous contributions to American society and serve under many different administrations of the government.
Abanes, R., One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church (Salt Lake
City: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002), 127.
Baugh, A. L., A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri,
(BYU Studies, 2000), 82-83.
Howe, D.W., _What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848,_ (2007) pp 705-6
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