BYU

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY

Topic(s): History of the Church: Late Nineteenth Century, 1878–98
Why was Utah denied statehood, and how did it eventually receive statehood?
From the time the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Great Basin, they fervently sought statehood and self-government. In 1850, 1856, 1862, 1867, 1872, and 1882, Latter-day Saint representatives made appeals for statehood to the U.S. Congress, all to no avail. In fact statehood seemed to become more elusive as time went on, because those opposed to Utah statehood could generate opposition through the issue of plural marriage. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled decisively against plural marriage in 1879, antipolygamy legislation became more severe and more harshly enforced. Latter-day Saints sought ways to skirt federal enforcement through statehood, but Congress balked at delivering statehood until the Church gave up polygamy. Finally, Church President Wilford Woodruff sought and received divine direction and issued his 1890 Manifesto that proclaimed the end of Church-practiced polygamy, thus removing the main obstacle to Utah statehood. Another obstacle was the division of Utah politics into Mormon and non-Mormon parties. With impressive dispatch, local LDS leaders, and sometimes entire congregations, were divided along national party lines to mirror federal politics with strong Democratic and Republican parties. A state constitutional convention was allowed to meet in early 1895, and on January 4, 1896, President Grover Cleveland proclaimed Utah a state, the forty-fifth, and the new government went into effect two days later.
Written By:
Edward Leo Lyman -
Edward Leo Lyman has worked at Victor Valley College and California State University, San Bernardino.
References
  • "Utah Statehood," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 4:1502–3.