Newly created territories in antebellum America were designed to be extensions of national sovereignty and jurisdiction. Utah Territory, however, was a deeply contested space in which a cohesive settler group—the Mormons—sought to establish their own “popular sovereignty,” raising the question of who possessed and could exercise governing, legal, social, and even cultural power in a newly acquired territory.
In Unpopular Sovereignty, Brent M. Rogers invokes the case of popular sovereignty in Utah as an important contrast to the better-known slavery question in Kansas. Rogers examines the complex relationship between sovereignty and territory along three main lines of inquiry: the implementation of a republican form of government, the administration of Indian policy and Native American affairs, and gender and familial relations—all of which played an important role in the national perception of the Mormons’ ability to self-govern. Utah’s status as a federal territory drew it into larger conversations about popular sovereignty and the expansion of federal power in the West. Ultimately, Rogers argues, managing sovereignty in Utah proved to have explosive and far-reaching consequences for the nation as a whole as it teetered on the brink of disunion and civil war.
Seth R. Payne has posted Mormonism and Same-Sex Marriage: Towards a Mormon Theology of Gender. Payne’s article chronicles the theological tenets that make acceptance of same-sex marriage in the present-day Mormon Church a virtual impossibility—yet he also suggests that there is reason to believe this position, at least in theory, could change. The piece adds additional context to my post on the recent book, LDS in the USA, which can be viewed here.
Most people know that Mormons and the institutionalized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints played an integral role in the passage of Proposition 8, which overturned the ruling of the California Supreme Court’s decision in In re Marriage Cases, 183 P.3d 384 (Cal. 2008) that prohibiting same-sex marriage was a violation of the California and United States’ constitutions. See Jesse McKinley & Kirk Johnson, Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage, N.Y. Times, Nov. 15, 2008, at A1. Donations by Mormons were instrumental in mobilizing the forces that supported Proposition 8’s passage. In certain respects, Payne articulates exactly why such donations were crucial to Mormon theological integrity.
For more on Payne’s exposition of these tenets of the Mormon Church, please follow the jump.
From the politics of Glenn Beck to reality television’s Big Love and the hit Broadway show The Book of Mormon, Mormons have become a recognizable staple of mainstream popular culture. And while most Americans are well aware of the existence of Mormonism—and some of the often exaggerated myths about Mormonism—the religion’s public influence has been sorely understudied.
Lee Trepanier and Lynita K. Newswander move beyond clichéd and stereotypical portrayals of Mormonism to unpack the significant and sometimes surprising roles Mormons have played in the building of modern America. Moving from popular culture to politics to the Mormon influence in social controversies, LDS in the USA reveals Mormonism to be quintessentially American—both firmly rooted in American tradition and free to engage in the public square.
Trepanier and Newswander examine the intersection of the tension between the nation’s sometimes bizarre understanding of Mormon belief and the suspicious acceptance of the most well known Mormons into the American public identity. Readers are consistently challenged to abandon popular perceptions in order to embrace more fully the fascinating importance of this American religion.