Mormonism in Illinois, 1839-1847 : A Study of the Development of Socio-Religious Conflict
Durham, United Kingdom
University of Durham
This thesis is a sociological account of the development of conflict between a religious group, the Mormons, and the society which acted as their host, mid nineteenth century Illinois. It traces the deterioration of the relationship between the Mormons and their host from one of friendly sympathy to one of open warfare, and seeks to explain this decline with the aid of sociological concepts. It does not attempt to put forward a theory of conflict, nor to give a history of Mormonism in Illinois. Rather, it attempts to give as full an account as possible of one instance of conflict and place this particular sect in its social and historical context. The thesis first considers whether social-structural conditions in Illinois, prior to Mormon entry, in conjunction with the scapegoat theory of prejudice, can help to explain the generation of hostility. It then goes on to consider possible alternative explanations emphasising the interaction between Mormon and Gentile within the context of Illinois society. The analysis concerns itself with the reasons why the Mormons were welcomed into the state and the possible influence which Gentile expectations had on subsequent definition of the Mormons as deviant. The escalating effects of the failure of two strategies designed to win the struggle, namely, the use of institutional facilities and mounting a moral crusade, are then examined. This is followed by an assessment of the reasons for the deterioration of the situation into violence and for the routinisation of this violent response. Finally, the effect of the conflict experience upon the development of the Mormons as a religious sect is considered.