Chapter 5


Contesting the Kingdom (1850-1877)



The Mormons congratulated themselves for transforming what Jedediah Smith called “my home in the wilderness” into a cultivated, well-watered city. Speaking before his people on July 24, 1852, five years since the Mormons’ arrival in the SL Valley, Young helped to create the mystique of the Mormons arriving in the mountain valleys and creating a thriving city that “spread out from the east to the west, measurably so, but more extensively to the north and south.” Those first five years in the valley probably represent closest the Mormons came “to realizing the dream of empire and independence under the universal kingdom of heaven.”

In the three decades after 1850 the Mormons and the federal government clashed over competing notions of what it meant to be an American at mid-century. The Mormons articulated changing and irreconcilable notions of Americanness, as the Mormons seek to withdraw from the world and create their own definition of what it means to be an American grounded in theocratic ideals of sacred space and sacred time. Despite Mormon efforts at withdrawal, the outside world is constantly peeking, poking, invading, and ultimately insisting upon conformity to prevailing national norms. Articles in this section include a variety of controversial historical events, most notably the Mormon Reformation, the Utah War, the Mountain Meadows Massacre. (W. Paul Reeve)