A Sermon in the Desert : Belief and Behavior in Early St. George, Utah
University of Illinois Press
[1989 Mormon Historical Association Winner for Best First Book]
The first chapter summaries the settlement and early history of St. George, including the reasons for settling there. The second chapter deals with the 'Mormon worldview,' and particularly the Mormon attitude toward death. It also describes the Mormon expectation of being visited by spiritual beings, and expectations of miraculous events, such as healings. Also, according to this discussion, the Saints saw themselves in conflict with the world, but the sins of the world heralded the coming of the Millennium. Chapter 3 deals with attitudes to marriage, and particularly the concept of plural marriage. It then presents some very interesting demographic data on marriages, both monogamous and polygamous, and compares that data with other regions of the country. Nearly 30 percent of the households were involved in polygamy in 1870 and 33 percent in 1880. If figures are adjusted by 14 percent to allow for husbands not likely to enter polygamy because of inactivity in the Church, then it was over 34 percent of the 'eligible' households in 1870 and two out of five in 1880 (40 percent). The author complies his figures not just from the census, but from other data, and shows that the date compiled from the census alone is inaccruate. On that basis, however, he suggests that St. George was not unusually high when compared with some other towns. He also presents interesting data on marriage age, showing that Mormons married younger than average, and that they felt marriage obligations keenly. Chapter 4, 'Tabernacles for Waiting Spirits,' deals with fertility patterns, and shows that both monogomaous and polygamous marries resulted in a general pattern of consistent, unrestrained childbearing. The rate of childbearing was similar, though the number of children born in polygamous marriages was often cut short by the husband's death. The real determinant of this fertility was the church's prescription for large families. Chapter 5 deals with mortality rates, and shows that mortality among children was surprisingly high, while among adults it was unusually low. The author also considers, in various places in the book and specifically in the Epilogue, the factors that made Mormons remain inthe Church. It included such things as the appeal of the church's self-determination teachings, polygamy (which drew members together defensively), and other cultural considerations.