The memory of past violence in Missouri and Illinois during the 1830s and 1840s shaped how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Latter-day Saints or Mormons) saw themselves, their persecutors, and the states and the nation where the violence occurred. This thesis explores the role of collective memory of violence in forming Mormon identities and images of place from 1838, when governor Lilburn W. Boggs expelled the Latter-day Saints from Missouri, to 1858, with the conclusion of the Utah War. I argue that Latter-day Saint authors during these two decades used the memory of persecution to create and reinforce a communal identity as a means of resistance against oppression. The memory of persecution led Mormon writers to alter their image of the United States as a land of liberty, recasting the nation as a place of oppression, and coming to see the American West, in particular the Salt Lake Valley, as a new land of liberty. The thesis contains four chapters. Chapter I provides historical and theoretical background. Chapter II is an analysis of the martyrological tropes utilized by Mormon essayists from 1838 to 1858 to construct a group identity based on the memory of shared suffering and resistance against oppression. I show that remembering persecution allowed these writers to portray themselves as members of an elect community that included biblical prophets and ancient Christians. In turn, Mormon authors also represented their persecutors as part of a community of God's enemies, upon whom God would bring vengeance, either in this life or the next. Chapter III explores how Latter-day Saint essayists used the memory of persecution to form images of place. Although the Mormons believed that the nation was a divinely-established country based on religious freedom, portraying the violence against them as religious persecution led Latter-day Saint authors to discursively cast the deserts and mountains of the Great Basin as their new refuge. In Chapter IV I briefly examine ways that the memory of persecution shaped Mormon-non-Mormon interactions in the American West as a means to summarize the themes introduced in the thesis.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Grua, David W., "Memoirs of the Persecuted: Persecution, Memory, and the West as a Mormon Refuge" (2008). All Theses and Dissertations. 1550.
Mormonism, Memory, Martyrology, American West