The Theory of Collective Memory and the 1953 Short Creek Raid
Salt Lake City, UT
University of Utah
A key question in collective memory research is how such memories are created and shared over time. This study consisted of a qualitative content analysis of documentary artifacts to determine whether there is a collective memory of the 1953 Short Creek Raid and, if so, how it developed and contributes to an ongoing sense of identity for some Fundamentalist Mormons. Documents were divided into three separate time periods. These documents included media interviews, personal essays, a commemorative calendar, speeches, religious sermons, a school curriculum and a best-selling book written by a former polygamous wife. Each document was analyzed using a protocol sheet with an initial set of categories, such as “divine intervention,” “heroes” and “us versus them.” The study found the 1953 Short Creek Raid is the basis for a collective memory. That memory was solidified during a “myth-making” period and is reinforced through family, community, school and church activities to perpetuate a common group identity among some present-day Fundamentalist Mormons still living in or with ties to the Short Creek area. This analysis has policy implications for public officials, social workers and others attempting to understand the present mindset, attitudes, actions and beliefs of many Fundamentalists Mormons, particularly those belonging to The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This analysis also provides a context for considering implications of internal and external threats to that collective memory.