Utah's History

By Thomas G. Alexander; Eugene E. Campbell et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 9 Governmental Beginnings

Eugene E. Campbell

Had the pioneers of 1847 been permitted to express their convictions and capabilities in isolation, they might have produced a unique and autonomous theocratic society in their new home. But this was not to be. Even as Brigham Young led the Mormon vanguard to the Salt Lake Valley, General Winfield Scott was advancing on Mexico City. Whatever may have been the hopes or expectations of the Mormon leaders when they picked the Great Basin for a haven, the American victory in the Mexican War subjected them to the vicissitudes of national and sectional politics. Under territorial government they were tied to the United States in a subordinate status for almost half a century. What happened in the first decade was, in important respects, a foreshadowing of what kept Utah from becoming a state until 1896.


Ecclesiastical Government

The organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had been functioning as the Mormons' instrument of government since the repeal of the Nauvoo Charter in January 1845, continued to serve the Mormon people as they migrated westward and established their first settlements in Utah. Often called a theodemocracy, this ecclesiastical organization was based upon the concept that God had conferred his priesthood on the church leaders and that they had the right and duty to govern as his representatives on earth. However, this rather absolute power was tempered by the principle of common consent. As Brigham Young said on one occasion, "It is the right of the Twelve to nominate officers, and the people to receive them." In the great major-

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