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The Mormon Theocracy

When the pioneers first moved across the United States to Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the dominating political, religious, and social force. It advised members in all aspects of their lives and, for the most part, the group all acted in unison. After Utah became a state in 1896, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turned from behaving as a theocracy and began to only advise members to vote for or against laws contrary to the core beliefs of the Church.

The view of the Latter-day Saints is made clear in the Journal of Discourses, a book that records all of the conference talks on the matter. One of the first authors to speak of the Latter-day Saint church as a theocracy was Brigham Young. In a discourse on human and divine government he remarked that a theocracy differed very little from the current government of the United States at the time but that it would recognize divine guidance as a guiding factor in government. He also remarked in the same speech that “the Constitution and laws of the United States resemble a theocracy more closely than any government now on the earth, or that ever has been, so far as we know, except the government of the children of Israel to the time when they elected a king.”[1] Orson Hyde similarly remarked at a conference, “The kingdom and government of God are the only legitimate jurisdiction that ever did exist. And other kingdoms and jurisdictions stand before God in the same light that many divorces stood in the days of Moses. ‘For the hardness of your hearts, Moses wrote you this precept; but from the beginning it was not so.’ For the hardness of men's hearts, God has suffered them to exercise temporary jurisdiction. But does this temporary jurisdiction authorize them to oppose him when he begins to take to himself his great power and to reign? No. The little stone cut out of the mountain without hands will roll and fill the whole earth, while the great image will be broken and fall, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God. Now, therefore, O ye kingdoms of this world, resist the decree of Jehovah, if you can and if you will.”[2] Similar statements and talks were given by many of the apostles and prophets of the time. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced his famous character, Sherlock Holmes, in A Study in Scarlet and set the stage in the Utah theocracy run by Brigham Young. He depicts the Mormons as an evil group (specifically he writes about the “Danites” as a secret murderous group headed by the Prophet) in complete control of Utah and forcing women into polygamous marriages. He claimed that everything he wrote was backed by historical fact and once said, “all I said about the Danite Band and the murders is historical so I cannot withdraw that" but he later apologized.[3]

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