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date: 23 May 2022

Abstract and Keywords

The relation between Mormonism and US politics must be seen through the lens of religious oppression, but also the lens of land settlement and expansion. The Latter-day Saints’ move to the unorganized Great Basin aimed to create political space in which state law could be controlled to prevent plural or celestial marriage. The proposed state of Deseret however gave way to federally controlled territory in which Congress directly regulated marriage. In response to federal coercion, Mormonism opted for a negotiated quasi-autonomy. For its part, the church could offer settlement through water development more efficiently than any other entity could. On the condition that it would give up plural marriage, the church in return got substantial de facto political control over its own state, control retained in some form through political elites until the present.

Keywords: religious oppression, settlements, expansion, water, state law, marriage, plural marriage, federal regulation

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