Topic(s): History of the Church: Early Utah Era, 1847–77
What significant events occurred in the early Utah period (1847–77)?
Once in Utah, Brigham Young set out to fulfill Joseph Smith's dream of establishing a permanent refuge for the Saints. Though the Saints petitioned for statehood as the state of Deseret, the Compromise of 1850 set up the territory of Utah instead. Brigham Young founded nearly four hundred settlements in the West, the first of which were in Utah with later colonies expanding into other western states. In 1852, Church leaders publicly announced the practice of plural marriage as a doctrine and practice of the Church. There were no federal or territorial laws against polygamy at this time, and Latter-day Saints believed that polygamy was protected by constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. In 1857, United States President James Buchanan, believing exaggerated reports that the Mormons were in a state of rebellion, secretly ordered 2,500 federal troops to Utah. The Saints implemented a "scorched earth" policy of resistance. They seized and burned federal supply wagons and destroyed the forage in front of the advancing troops. Negotiations were successful without fighting. The transcontinental railroad brought an influx of settlers who ended Latter-day Saint isolation. Brigham Young promoted Latter-day Saint unity by establishing a cooperative system of merchandising and encouraging home industry. The Saints established a unified economic and political order, many settlements being almost entirely communal. During these years, Brigham Young reorganized the Relief Society and founded the organization for the young women of the Church. He also initiated a reorganization of the Church, primarily at the local level, clarifying and redefining priesthood responsibilities. Prior to his death in 1877, Brigham Young was able to dedicate the St. George Temple, the first completed Utah temple.
Written By:
Leonard J. Arrington -
Leonard J. Arrington has been the director of the Joseph Smith Institute for Church History and the Lemuel H. Redd Professor of Western History at Brigham Young University.
Dean L. May -
Dean L. May has worked at the University of Utah.