International Legal Experience and the Mormon Theology of the State, 1945-2012
37 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 16, 2015
This Essay has three goals. The first is to provide a basic narrative of postwar Mormon expansion, identifying the basic periods and major developments. The second is to summarize the main legal issues provoked by this expansion. The third goal is to advance an argument about the relationship between this legal experience and the development of Mormon discourse in the last half of the 20th century. As the Church expanded into new regions of the globe, it confronted non-American legal systems. This placed pressure on the Church and affected the development of Mormon discourse in the last half of the 20th century. In particular, international legal challenges created incentives that tended to moderate Mormon theologies of the state. By the turn of the 21st century, the dominant theology of the state in Mormon discourse was quietist and non-confrontational, a marked contrast from the theodemocratic ambitions of the 19th century or the Cold War apocalypticism popular among many Mormons in the middle of the 20th century. Just as law proved decisive in the development of Mormon belief and practice in the 19th century — particularly Mormon doctrines surrounding plural marriage — in the 20th century, law has again exerted its influence on Mormon teachings.
Keywords: Mormon, Latter-day Saint, International Law, Religion, Religious Liberty, Missionary, Conversion, Cold War
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