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The story of Mormonism Part 4 – Dissent and divisions

Published:Saturday | June 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams

Joseph Smith, it is said, founded Mormonism in New York in the 1820s. He and his followers moved from state to state to avoid persecution. They settled and bought the town of Commerce in Illinois, which they renamed Nauvoo.

In Nauvoo, Smith instituted polygamy, which the Mormons called plural marriage and which was openly practised. This was the most controversial practice yet by the Mormons and was the main reason Mormonism was widely opposed in Idaho and Utah and got the attention of the United States Congress, which threatened the church's existence as a legal institution.

Smith was killed in a mob in 1844. The Latter Day Saints (LSD) Church, the largest group of Mormons, accepted Brigham Young as the new leader and prophet, who migrated to Utah Territory.

Utah Territory was organised by an act of Congress in 1850, partially as a result of a petition sent by the Mormon pioneers who had settled in the valley of the Great Salt Lake starting in 1847. Young petitioned Congress to have the territory admitted into the Union as the state of Deseret, with Salt Lake City as its capital.

Before the territory was officially organised by Congress, the Mormons had already drafted a state constitution in 1849, and Deseret had become the de facto government in the region. When the territory was officially organised, Young was inaugurated as its first governor on February 3, 1851.

All the laws and ordinances enacted by the General Assembly by the state of Deseret were adopted by Utah Territory. Yet, the Mormon's control in the region was widely opposed especially because of its practice of polygamy. Moreover, much of the territory became parts of other states. It was not until 1896 that what remained of Utah Territory was admitted into the Union as the state of Utah.


1890 Manifesto


Flashback to 1890 when church president Wilford Woodruff announced the official end of plural marriage in the 1890 Manifesto. Because of this, several smaller groups parted company from the LDS Church, forming several denominations of Mormon fundamentalism. The LDS continues to be a great advocate of monogamy and is regarded as mainstream Mormonism, the largest branch of Mormonism.

LSD Church members regard their leaders as prophets and apostles who should reaffirm their position through personal study of the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Personal prayer is also encouraged. The church dissociates itself from the other branches, especially those that practice polygamy.

It excommunicates and disciplines members who contravene its doctrines and who adopt the beliefs and practices of Mormon fundamentalism, which teaches that plural marriages are necessary for exaltation, the highest degree of salvation, which allows members to live as gods and goddesses in the afterlife.