The Path to Utah Statehood

  • Territory or State
  • The Mormon War
  • The First Amendment
  • The Manifesto
"You have a kind of mini-theocracy from the very, very beginning." -- Terryl Givens, English professor
Brigham Young, circa 1850-1.

Brigham Young, circa 1850-1.

In 1846, a group of pioneer members of the Church of Latter-day Saints traveled west from Illinois to escape the violent opposition of non-Mormons. They arrived in a desolate area past the Western border of the United States in 1847, calling the land they claimed "Deseret."

Deseret's boundaries included the present-day state of Utah, most of present-day Nevada and Arizona, and parts of southern California, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Idaho. Soon afterward, the U.S. claimed the land as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War. In 1849 the Mormons, now living in Utah Territory, petitioned to enter the Union as the state of Deseret. Statehood would give the region more autonomy through its own elected state government and representatives.

"Mormonism ... was in absolute conflict with fundamental values of American democracy. It believed that one man had been ordained by God to be the leader of the people, and he demanded complete obedience. It created a community where people would share their resources and make sacrifices for the good of the community, which was opposed to the notion of every man for himself and basic frontier individualism. It created bloc voting, so that as Mormons moved into a place, they could capture the ballots of political power, and they even began talking about how they would control the outcome of national elections. These were basic threats to American values and feelings..."

-- Will Bagley, historian

Map: U.S. Exploration and Settlement, 1835-1850
Document: The Constitution of the State of Deseret, 1849