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A Century of Mormon Theory and Practice in Church-State Relations: Constancy Amidst Change

32 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2006  

W. Cole Durham

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Nathan B. Oman

William & Mary Law School

Abstract

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) has the dubious distinction of having passed through the most prolonged and intense confrontation between church and state in American history. The earliest history of the Mormons was marked by hostile and violent confrontations with their neighbors as they were driven from state to state. After forming their own commonwealth in the remoteness of the American Great Basin, they faced further confrontation, this time with a federal government bent of eradicating the Mormon practice of plural marriage and the unique economic and political institutions and practices that the Mormons had created. In 1890, the church publicly abandoned plural marriage and the legal pressure abated. During the course of the twentieth-century the legal challenges faced by the church largely centered on its aggressive international expansion, which brought the Mormons into contact with legal regimes all over the world. This paper argues that despite the dramatic changes in Mormon church-state practices there is nevertheless a consistent and coherent approach focusing on the theological imperative to maintain the independence and continuity of the church's institutional structure.

Keywords: Church and State, Law and Religion, Mormons, Polygamy, Missionaries

Suggested Citation

Durham, W. Cole and Oman, Nathan B., A Century of Mormon Theory and Practice in Church-State Relations: Constancy Amidst Change. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=942567 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.942567

W. Cole Durham

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

Nathan Oman (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nathanoman.com

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