Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Thomas Zeiler

Second Advisor

Robert Schulzinger

Third Advisor

Robert Ferry


This dissertation seeks to explain the causes and events leading to the alienation of Mormons from the United States government from 1844 to 1854 in the context of American political and diplomatic history. This study demonstrates how foreign policy goals and partisan political concerns caused federal officials to negotiate with Mormons as a foreign, rather than domestic, entity. These interactions were based upon fear and misinformation on both sides and were colored by the overwhelmingly negative view of Mormons in popular US culture. It will examine the Mormons in their unique role as both conquerors and conquered in western North America, and how their religion, power, and politics prompted aggressive responses from federal, state, and local governments. This dissertation will add to the historiography of American continental expansionism and particularly to the understanding of Mormons in this process. It will discuss the formative years of the US/Mormon conflict in terms of American foreign relations and national policy. It provides a new interpretation of the Mormon Battalion. US efforts to force Mormon Americanization, and Mormon resistance to these efforts, characterized a conflict which lasted for decades. Early Mormon/US relations led to clashes between Mormons and the federal government for over half a century. The Mormons presented a special problem for the United States government. The Mormons had an American cultural heritage and were composed primarily of native-born white Americans. They were a group that was both foreign and domestic, one that was willing to unite with the United States, but unwilling to renounce practices deemed unacceptable by American culture. The Latter-day Saints' American citizenship, nearly homogenous whiteness, and adherence to American culture presented a unique problem for the expanding United States empire. American officials were forced to establish a "Mormon policy." Unlike other ethnic and racial groups which were forced to deal with the asymmetry of power resulting from the American conquest of western North America, Mormons were mostly white, English-speaking Americans. Examining Mormon/US interactions reveals the limits to "Americanism" and the extent to which religious and cultural nonconformity shaped federal leaders' views of Mormons as an alien people and enemies of the nation.