'We, The People of the Kingdom of God': Constitution Writing in the Council of Fifty
THE COUNCIL OF FIFTY: WHAT THE RECORDS REVEAL ABOUT MORMON HISTORY 55-72 (MATTHEW J. GROW & R. ERIC SMITH EDS., 2017); ISBN 13: 978-1944394219
William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-389
19 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2019
Date Written: 2017
In spring 1844, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was in trouble. Hostility toward Mormonsim was running high in Illinois. A few months later, an angry mob would murder Joseph Smith, the religion’s founder, and his brother. Within two years, the Latter-day Saints would be huddled in a refugee camp in Nebraska. In this context, Smith created a secret organization, the Council of Fifty, to coordinate the political affairs of the Latter-day Saint community. Their ultimate goals were theocratic. They wished to create a godly commonwealth – the Kingdom of God – somewhere in North America to await the end of the world. In spring 1844, the Council of Fifty made an ultimately unsuccessful effort to draft a constitution for this theocratic kingdom. This chapter examines that constitution in the context of both Mormon history and the broader history of American constitution making. In their failed constitution making project, the Latter-day Saints both mirrored and departed from the American experience. In abandoning that project, they managed to escape – if only briefly – the cultural force of the U.S. Constitution and thus chart their own course through America’s political and theological landscape.
Keywords: Mormon, Mormonism, Latter-day Saints, Law & Religion, Theocracy, Constitution Writing, Theo-democracy
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