The Path to Utah Statehood

  • Territory or State
  • The Mormon War
  • The First Amendment
  • The Manifesto
"In the Utah Territory the United States defines what it means to practice your religion." -- Ken Verdoia, journalist
Mormons imprisoned for polygamy, 1886.

Mormons imprisoned for polygamy, 1886.

In 1870, as the transcontinental railroad and the prospects of open land, mining and industry brought more non-Mormons into the Utah Territory, new political parties formed. The Mormons gathered into the People's Party. Non-Mormons participated in territorial politics as the Liberal Party. Idaho Senator Frederick Dubois sought to limit Mormon influence by taking on the easy target of plural marriage: "[We] were not nearly so much opposed to polygamy as we were to the political domination of the Church... We made use of polygamy."

Polygamy became illegal in the United States in 1862. The Supreme Court's anti-polygamy ruling in Reynolds in 1879 was the first high court ruling to limit religious freedom -- in the eyes of some, an assault on First Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Eight years later, in 1887, the government founded on freedoms enacted Edmunds-Tucker, later upheld by the Supreme Court in 1890. The act essentially dissolved the Mormon Church.

"You would think the right to vote, the right to hold office, unless you've committed some scurrilous crime -- that those would be sacred to any American citizen. But, no, because of your religious affiliation, in the United States of America, they can be taken away, for they have been taken away in the Utah Territory. So, in this microcosm, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ... you have a definition of the American experience itself."

-- Ken Verdoia, journalist

Map: U.S. Territories, 1870
Document: Amendments to the U.S. Constitution