Religious Liberty, Zion, and the Mormon Expulsion from Missouri, 1831–1839 Open Access

Wosnik, Peter J. (Spring 2017)

Abstract

America has long been praised for its robust tradition of religious toleration and freedom. Although much of this reputation is deserved, historians of American law have often overlooked the many instances of persecution of religious minorities by both private actors and the government itself in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One such over-looked example is the expulsion of Mormons from counties in Missouri and ultimately from the entire state between 1831 and 1839. This thesis gives an historical treatment of the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri with particular attention given to the causes of the conflict between the Mormon and Missouri citizens in Jackson County, Missouri. A primary contention is that the Mormon concept of Zion – with its tendency to merge politics and theology, and religion and law – caused fear among non-Mormons in Missouri that they would be governed by the Mormon religion if the Mormons were to obtain a political majority. The response by the Missouri citizens to this threat was to drive the Mormons out on the strength of the natural law argument of self-preservation. The Mormons, however, refused to leave their lands in Jackson County, as their lands held spiritual and theological significance for them. The result was a series of violent conflicts that eventually led to the expulsion of the Mormons from the state by the governor in 1838. This narrative exposes the vulnerability of religious minorities in the wake of majorities in Jacksonian America.

Table of Contents

 Abstract …………………………………………………………………………………. iv

Acknowledgments ……………………………………………………………………... vi

Introduction …………………………………………………………………………….. 1

Chapter 1: Zion in Early Mormonism and American History …………………..……. 8

Chapter 2: Expulsion from Jackson County …………………………………………. 25

Chapter 3: Expulsion from Clay County ……………………………………………... 67

Chapter 4: 1838 Mormon War and Conclusion ………………………………………. 98

Bibliography ………………………………………………………………………….. 112

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Last modified: 09/20/2017
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