“Polygamy, contrary to popular opinion, probably seduced few men into the seraglio that was Mormonism in the mind of a prurient, Victorian America. Yet it lured several generations of historians--not to speak of journalists and popular novelists--into believing that its theory and practice provided the major key to an understanding of the Mormon question. Not all disciples of Clio succumbed to this point of view; nevertheless, further evidence requires another look at the problem, suggesting that the idea of a political kingdom of God, promulgated by a secret ‘Council of Fifty,’ is by far the most important key to an understanding of the Mormon past.”
--Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire
Klaus J. Hansen’s seminal Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History argues that Mormons planned to establish a nation within a nation and, as such, a religion that was “political dynamite” (p. 50). A secret, quasi-Masonic body known as the Council of Fifty, with founder Joseph Smith Jr. as head and self-appointed “King of the Kingdom of God and His Laws,” was organized in 1842 to lead an assault on the White House (among other things) where a new political synthesis and radical social, economic, political and religious platform would come to fruition. Failing that, an equally bold exit-plan--ostensibly in the interest of political self-determination and religious freedom--was envisaged, Mormonism perhaps better suited to the colonial frontiers of either British Columbia or Mexico; the first to sanction (or rather tolerate) polygamy would decide the matter. Forced to choose between the political kingdom and plural marriage, however, the Saints sacrificed the latter to preserve the former against attack according to Hansen, for the real question in his view was not polygamy, but to what degree the so-called political kingdom belied what Jefferson called a “wall of separation” between church and state. Technically, the Council of Fifty was separate from the church. Not quite a church within a church, it was not merely political in design or function. Members wore two hats, preaching the gospel on the campaign trail, all but one high-ranking Elders in the church ecclesiastical structure. In fact, the Council of Fifty might be described as a secret society within a secret society, its Masonic leanings something Hansen was probably wise to pass on, Smith’s run for Presidency a political enigma wrapped in religious mystery. In fact, because of a failure to distinguish more clearly between its religious and political mandates, religious and political enemies assumed the worst--that Mormonism was an affront to Christianity and democracy.
Although Hansen contends that Mormonism occupied a middle position between monarchy and democracy, it gave impetus to a conflict interpretation from within Mormon History circles that differed only slightly from the old, anti-Mormon polemic. Robert Bruce Flanders’ ground-breaking essay, “The Kingdom of God in Illinois: Politics in Utopia,” for example, argues that the political kingdom had a religious agenda and the church a political agenda. Central to Mormonism, Flanders writes, was,
the nascent idea that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be established as the American national church. The prevailing Mormon view of the proper role for religion was rightly at the heart of all affairs; there was and could be no legitimate separation. Here was the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict (p. 155).
One might compare this to Charles Mostyn Owen’s 1912 report to Congress, entitled “The Mormons As I Knew Them,” in which he accused the Saints of an “assumption of political power under ecclesiastical organization.” According to Owen, the religion was a “political organization,” the “chief cause of the trouble in . . . in the state of Ohio, Missouri and Illinois and with Federal authorities in Utah” (p. 51), and that its members believed strongly that “divine commission entitles them to the present right to and the near future possession of, universal sovereignty to be founded on the ruins of all secular ‘man-made’ Government” (p. 51). The Temple ceremony or Endowment, in his view, fostered a spirit of insurrection, the so-called “Law of Vengeance” a case in point--an oath to avenge the murder of Joseph Smith and “the blood of the prophets upon this nation” (p. 250). Whereas Marvin S. Hill’s Quest for Refuge: The Early Mormon Flight from American Pluralism certainly takes issue with Mormons as a quest for empire--the political kingdom an emergency measure and nothing more--here, too, the classic anti-Mormon position trumpeted by Owen and the evangelical-republican throng finds a kind of support since the Mormons took flight in order to establish the Kingdom of God--political and religion—outside the territorial United States, but on earth.
Inclined to defend the faith against the charge of anti-Americanism implicit in this new conflict interpretation, some argued that Hansen had made a mountain out of a mole hill, D. Michael Quinn among his chief critics and prolific defender of a new consensus interpretation vis-à-vis the new social history and its emphasis on the centrality of the periphery. After all, the Council of Fifty was a late development (1842). The death of Smith just two years later and exodus of the Saints to Utah under Brigham Young was, indeed, the beginning of the end. However, the revolutionary political and religious developments synonymous with the 1840s (the Council of Fifty and the Nauvoo Temple in particular), can be seen, Hansen argues, as
the culmination of efforts that had seemed on the verge of realization more than once, only to be dashed to pieces before their consummation. . . . Not until the Mormons found hospitality in the . . . state of Illinois in the winter of 1839 - 40 at Commerce, a swampy town located at the bend of the Mississippi, did it appear that the Saints had finally found peace, and sufficient real estate to transform their dream into reality. It was here that the prophet, for the first time, could realize the plans for the city of Zion which he had originally dreamt of establishing in Jackson County (pp. 46, 50).
Flanders’ notion that Nauvoo marked “the end of the beginning” and Hansen’s contention that it can be seen as a “consummation” may well be a semantic debate of no real consequence, not unlike the debate between Hill and Hansen--early Mormonism a “quest,” but driven by the necessaries of religious persecution or the imaginaries of political empire respectively. Surely, it was both, and so equally so, that to distinguish between the religious and the political impulse in early Mormonism--its separatism and nationalism as divisible in any sense--might be described as no less a seduction, but to a somewhat narrow, political frame of reference that so captured the imagination and dominated the field of American history in the late 1950s and early 60s. In Mormon History circles at least, the so-called “Chicago School” made almost no real impact, an avalanche of scholarship since then contending, and almost without exception, that all charges of religious and political nonconformity had no basis in fact--Mormons were good Christians and faithful republicans in their own way so the argument goes.
However, few among the corps of self-styled “faithful historians” ventured into such forbidden territory as Masonry and Mormonism except to debunk the “myth” of historical antecedents of the anti-Evangelical sort in another quest, but for legitimacy. Indeed, Hansen’s failure to explore in detail the neo-Masonic nature and agenda of the Council of Fifty stacked the cards slightly in favor of the proposition of the Council of Fifty, Church or Kingdom, and polygamy as three distinct bodies. The same year the Council of Fifty was organized (1842), Smith published yet another revelation, calling it the Book of Abraham. Unlike the Book of Mormon--written on golden tablets and translated using a divine instrument known as the Urim and Thummim--Smith drafted a short biography of father Abraham using Egyptian funeral texts that he purchased from an antiquarian dealer. About the same time, polygamy was introduced, a new and everlasting covenant and means of salvation awaited the completion of the Nauvoo Temple where a new social and political order would be solemnized, abrogating the original, Book of Mormon plan for a tri-kingdom of red, white, and black.
The important relationship between the Book of Abraham, the political kingdom, polygamy, and the temple has yet to be explored in detail, in particular the idea of the Book of Abraham as the textual basis for a new political synthesis in which race would separate the Saints from the rest of the world. Abraham became the new standard for the church and kingdom. Smith, it seems, had been converted to the idea of divine monarchy vis-à-vis the biblical Abraham as the best of all possible worlds in the new world. The early Mormon quest for empire as a racial construct, then, can be seen as something entirely new rather than the culmination of efforts reaching back to Missouri: the quest, post-Missouri, was a search for the latter-day Isaac and heir to the Abrahamic throne by blood, genealogy alone qualifying him to rule the world and thus divinely elected to preside over the governance of the United States of America. The Council of Fifty was given the difficult (nay impossible) task of convincing Americans to put a king in the White House, whereas Smith as “King of the Kingdom of God and His Laws” made it his job to convince a chosen few within the Church of the virtues of polygamy as an engine for the recreation (indeed resurrection) of a new, albeit fictive, American-born but Hebraic nobility. Polygamy became synonymous with the Smith family line, moreover.
Smith’s death in 1844 did not change anything, in fact. Polygamy as understood and practiced by Brigham Young and the Utah Mormons included more and more of the Church and, as such, can be seen as a democratization of the so-called “principle.” Ironically, the minority to remain behind and reorganize under the twin leadership of Emma Smith and her oldest son, Joseph Smith III, would reject polygamy, the temple, and everything associated with the Book of Abraham. For Mormons per se, the Book of Abraham would slowly but surely acquire canonical status on par with that of the Book of Mormon, the latter going on to become the message of Mormonism to the outside world and principle agent of conversion to the faith, the former intended for the Saints and, as such, secret wisdom that pertained to the temple and Mormonism at its most sacred, private, and revolutionary. Importantly, for the R.L.D.S. (now Community of Christ) and until very recently, church governance has been a family affair, its Presidents Smiths male descendants, the R.L.D.S. and thus more faithful to the original idea of the political kingdom as a divine monarchy. Polygamy for the latter was a threat (and from within) to the political kingdom as conceived in Nauvoo and thus restricted to his immediate family, whereas the suspension of polygamy from top to bottom by the L.D.S. Church in 1890 paved the way for new ecclesiastical and social practices that can be seen as more authoritarian and monarchical rather than less. Insofar as the political kingdom and polygamy cannot be separated, Hansen’s contention that polygamy was crucial but not central--handmaid of the Mormon political kingdom of God--ignores the question of race, and indeed the all-important connection between race and the Church as both religious and political in essence.
Anti-Mormon polemicists like Owen were not altogether wrong, or simply prejudiced, for accusing Mormonism of a hidden political agenda that ran counter to democratic principles. However, it was the temple and its ritual celebration of Egypt (as the model of social, cultural, and political stability) that really (and truly!) separated Mormons from the rest of America. Anti-bigamy legislation may have done the political kingdom per se a favor, posing no real threat in any event (at least in principle) because the issue was not gender equality and the inclusion of people of color--the Book of Mormon agenda--but racial inequality and the exclusion of African Americans in particular. In the 1890s, the United States and Mormonism were in perfect agreement on the issue of the biological inferiority of people of color. If Congress hoped to kill polygamy and the political kingdom with one stone, it required new legislation that outlawed racial discrimination rather than “unlawful cohabitation,” or polygamy. Race had replaced gender as central to the Mormon quest for empire/refuge, and if America wanted to liberate Mormon women from under the yoke of an oppressive, patriarchal family arrangement and theocratic form of church governance with plans for world domination, then it would need to attend to matters closer to home and a plethora of political and social inequalities the Civil War had failed to correct.
On the issue of the racial origin and destiny of Blacks, what separated Mormonism from the American mainstream was a good deal of mutual misunderstanding and disinformation. Ironically, throughout much of the nineteenth century, Mormons were falsely accused of miscegenation in eastern newspapers, the New Orleans-based, Methodist Episcopal Church Southwestern Christian Advocate warning its female members of a plot to seduce women of color into polygamy. In point of fact, Latter-day Saint missionaries were under strict orders not to proselyte among African-Americans until the ban on the priesthood was lifted. The Mormon retort was no less problematic, or racist, the N-word sometimes used in reference to whites, or Gentiles. Indeed, both used the N-word in reference to the other and as “Other.” America was not ready to undertake the fundamental social and political reform necessary to render Mormonism null and void. Being white and well acquainted with the history of one’s kindred, Anglo-Saxon dead was essential to being Mormon AND American. Moreover, polygamy as understood and practiced by Brigham Young and his ilk, taking issue with Victorian, middle-class norms and monogamy in particular, was a fundamental disagreement over means and thus how to bring about a social and political end that neither questioned and what George M. Fredrickson has termed “herrenvolk democracy.”
The problematic nature of both polygamy and early Mormonism’s alleged political dreams for empire as corollaries of the myth of Anglo-Saxon superiority and destiny becomes much clearer vis-à-vis another Masonic-inspired, adoptive, Christian, racist, and decidedly political-religious movement in American history that was proudly American in public and profoundly anti-American in secret. For both Mormons and the men and women of the Ku Klux Klan, racial purity and revolutionary politics were dressed in the garb of Protestant piety and medieval knighthood, each acting out their individual (herren)volkish dreams to reform American democracy in secret rituals, lauding the virtues of white manhood and true womanhood, racial purity crucial to the political campaigns both hoped to wage. Indeed, the Council of Fifty and the American Nazi Party, General Joseph Smith Jr. and George Lincoln Rockwell, have a great deal in common despite the differences. Rockwell’s racist, totalitarian, political vision for America was secular, whereas Smith’s was religious.
Fortunately, remarkably, this proto-fascist kingdom of Chosen People (or royal blood) came to an end in 1978 when L.D.S. President Spencer W. Kimball received a new revelation, giving men of color access to the Priesthood and allowing them to go through the temple with their wives and together receive their Endowments. Ironically, this can be seen as a return of sorts to the original, tri-color kingdom of the Book of Mormon.
From a purely Masonic point of view and interpretative framework, the original Templar and thus republican vision of the Book of Mormon gave way to an imperial, Egyptian one, Mormonism replacing one radical Masonic agenda that emphasized gender equality with another that emphasized racial inequality. Both of these developments, moreover, employed religious texts and Masonic tropes to chart a new course for the religion and the country. The Book of Abraham as the basis for a new theological, social, cultural, economic, and political vision, Mormonism went on to become a quasi-pagan, Anglo-Saxon fertility cult and monarchical retrenchment society. Only after the country mustered the moral courage to pass civil rights legislation a century later, outlawing segregation, did it become necessary to find a replacement for race in the Mormon-American self-understanding, sexual purity taking its place and serving essentially the same function. Moreover, the Mormon crusade of late against the “homosexual lifestyle” can be seen as the latest in a series of defensive maneuvers in what Hansen has called “the metamorphosis of the Kingdom of God.” Suffice it to say that a new interpretation of the Mormon/Political Kingdom of God vis-à-vis Masonry and its fascist spin-offs, race, and sexuality promises a very different interpretation of the place of Mormonism in pluralist America.
Importantly, the Book of Abraham as the textual basis for this requires a slightly different approach to the one I employed to analyze the Book of Mormon--the textual basis and blueprint for a new, adoptive Masonic order and ritual system that broke with tradition by including women as equal and active participants in the ritual world of American manhood, and under the auspices of a divinely scripted form of polygamous interracial marriage as the Mormon solution to the problem of race in America. The failure to take Missouri from the infidel and establish the Kingdom of God on earth, literally, led to the creation of another imperial vision in which blood rather than land was central, requiring a new textual basis and rationale. Importantly, the Masonic-based ritual foreshadowed in the Book of Abraham came to fruition in the Endowment or temple ceremony in Nauvoo, making the temple as important to the text as the text was (and is) to the temple.
This supports my idea in Equal Rites: The Book of Mormon, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture, that Smith employed religious texts in advance of and as surrogate ritual or sacred space, the Mormon Kingdom of God per se both Masonic and biblical. The sacred time and space inherent to L.D.S. temples suggests a very different, indeed anti-evangelical agenda at work. In the case of the Kirtland Temple (Ohio), its architecture is perhaps the only cue to what went on inside—a temple in the tradition of the Royal Arch and Knights Templar rather than an eccentric New England federal and/or church structure. The City Platt of Zion can be seen as almost Ottoman in its inclusion of different races and cultures.
For Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley, the temple and empire go hand in hand. What he calls the “Hierocentric State or panegyris,” underscores the importance of temples as a “great assembly of the entire race” where one gathered “to participate in solemn rites essential to the continuance of its corporate and individual well-being” (p. 99) and the necessity of various “palace-temple complexes” (p. 116) in the ancient quest for empire, religious and secular. His discussion of the Mormon temples in Kirtland (1836), Nauvoo (1845), St. George (1877), Logan (1884), Manti (1888) and Salt Lake City (1893) as “the same class as the temples of the Egyptians” is only problematic if taken literally. Parallels in this case suggest that Mormon sacred space can be seen as a neo-pagan, post-Christian quest for empire along Egyptian Rite lines, losing none of its erstwhile Christianity from the outside, but from within imbibing an exclusive and decidedly anti-African, white-supremacist doctrine and ritual that is pagan despite the Christian-Masonic overlay.
The cosmic and paradisiacal symbolism of the Salt Lake City temple in particular is undeniably pagan: boxed to the compass and facing due east, four cornerstones laid in clockwise rotation (May, September, November, March), April and October are due east and west respectively, fifty earth stones, the moon in all her phases, sunstones, and Saturn stones circumnavigate the building (also clockwise), inverted pentagrams, square and compass, royal arch and twin pillars--the latter Masonic, and symbolic of adoptive or co-Masonry (pp. 16-17). These magnificent architectural testaments to the early Mormon imperial dream of one-world government and millenarian theocratic rule document as well as any written text the evolution of Mormonism from inclusive and Christian to exclusive and pagan. Since 1978 and the end of the priesthood ban against Blacks, the religion has moved from pagan to evangelical Christian, gays and lesbians taking the place of Blacks as the new, adopted seed of Cain in this latest metamorphosis of the Kingdom of God.
Ironically, Nibley and Mormon apologists may have a better grasp of the truly revolutionary nature and theocratic agenda of early Mormonism, due in part to an analytical approach that includes religious texts. In an essay entitled “One Eternal Round: The Hermetic Version” Nibley defends Mormonism against attack by distinguishing, as the Greek Father Origen did, between two modes of thought, the esoteric and the exoteric. The long and short of Nibley’s defense of Mormonism against the charge of being modern in origin--albeit anti-modern in design--simply follows the lead of the early Christian Apologists who accused pagan critics of plagiarism and distortion. Nibley writes: “Mormonism is not a Hermetic movement nor a descendant from any older dispensation of the church through horizontal succession,” going on to explain that “the terms vertical and horizontal are now being used by theologians to distinguish between two types of tradition, the one by revelation, the other by inheritance” (p. 426). Nicholas Litersky’s forthcoming book, Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration, seems to be about the same business—defending Mormonism’s Masonic history and content as divine notwithstanding. Even D. Michael Quinn’s magisterial Early Mormonism and the Magic World View employs a vertical gaze to justify Smith’s treasure-hunting and penchant for the occult as within the orbit of the divine modus operandi, too; and not unlike Nibley in another respect, he does not put any stock in Masonic antecedents, emphasizing in this case that parallels do not constitute proof.
Suffice it to say that Freemasonry is far too important to the history of Mormonism to be given such short shrift, especially in the 1840s when Smith made no bones about his Masonic ties and neo-fraternal, adoptive hopes for the future of the religion and the country. Just as the Book of Mormon can be seen as a battle plan for empire along Templar and thus classical republican lines, so the Book of Abraham laid the foundation for something no less Masonic, but monarchical rather than republican—and more pagan than Christian. Importantly, this challenges the reigning consensus interpretation for Mormonism as evolving from folk magic into a Christian denomination. The work of Antoine Faivre, and his “esoteric” approach to the study of new religions is an important corrective to all such evolutionary interpretations of early Mormonism. It has much to offer a discussion of the Mormon/Political Kingdom of God in particular as both religious and secular. As Faivre explains, “generally occultists do not condemn scientific progress or modernity. Rather, they try to integrate it within the global vision that will serve to make the vacuousness of materialism more apparent.”
Drawing upon the work of Faivre, Wouter J. Hanegraaff’s New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought lists six characteristics that new religions have in common. The first of these, “correspondences,” refers to the idea of the universe as a “huge theatre of mirrors, an ensemble of hieroglyphs to be decoded. Everything is a sign; everything conceals and exudes mystery; every object hides a secret.” The second, “living nature,” refer to “the vision of a complex, plural, hierarchical cosmos permeated by spiritual forces” (p. 398). Third, “imagination and mediations,” what Hanegraaff calls “correspondences . . . between higher and lower world(s), by way of rituals, symbols, angels, intermediary spirits” (p. 398) and which distinguishes esotericism from mysticism--the latter dissolving away all such intermediaries, absorbed completely by the ultimate reality. Fourth, “experience and transmutation,” or the quest for knowledge refers to the access to the intermediate realms so important to new religions. Fifth, “the praxis of concordance” is the search for the primordial secret doctrine and key to the mysterious unity behind all religious experience. And sixth, “transmission,” refers to the passing of the esoteric teaching via ritual from master to student and as part of an authentic line of authority and historical genealogy.
This challenges the evangelical and sociological assumptions that gave us Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition, Shipps’ masterwork, which despite its obvious sophistication is also a somewhat conservative, bible-based, consensus interpretation of early Mormonism and essentially an apology for the faith. Mormonism, according to Shipps, reenacts the biblical narrative on the American frontier, and so much, if not all of its theology is indebted to the biblical texts. Part and parcel of this is a defense of Mormonism as a new religious tradition and natural evolution from Sect to Church, accounting for the admission of Mormonism into the American, Christian mainstream of late. The problem, as Hanegraaff explains, is that, “Such ‘interpretations’ descend directly from a discredited 19th-century evolutionism which treated the ‘magical worldview’ of the ‘primitive mind’ as an essentially ‘pre-historical’ syndrome in the literal sense of the word. This approach,” he writes, “is now widely regarded as incorrect with respect to the religions of traditional societies, and is equally unwarranted with respect to our subject.”
Transnationalism also promises to shed new light on the Mormon/Political Kingdom of God, race, and sexuality. Mormonism’s attacks of late against the gay and lesbian lifestyle can also be seen part and parcel of a “kingdom discourse,” the Curse of Canaan (or Cain) in Mormonism taking on a sexual interpretation and transnational, multicultural application. As Michael W. Homer has shown, Masonry can be seen as a factor in Mormonism’s stubborn refusal to grant Blacks entrance to the temple, and not until the so-called Priesthood ban proved “anachronistic” for both Mormons and Masons did Church leaders make real efforts to reverse the practice and doctrine. The construction of a temple in Brazil, Kimball’s interest in the mission Native Americans, but most of all an ambitious missionary outreach that coincided with a more international constituency of believers simply proved problematic. Exclusion on the basis of race would be the death of the Church and Kingdom. Exclusion on the basis of sexual preference, however, was less problematic—the Mormon bridge into the twenty-first century. In fact, Hansen’s brilliant arguments for the metamorphosis of the Political Kingdom of God in the 1890, and the sacrifice of polygamy in the interest of some millennial, greater good, may apply here: exclusion on the basis of sexual preference rather than race as another changing of the guard and defensive maneuver better suited to the times and Mormonism new-found respectability. Governor Mitt Romney’s very respectable showing in the Republican primary and rejection of same-sex marriage is a case in point—the latter of great strategic importance to his campaign and how he hopes to win the support of Evangelicals.
Transnationalism as an organizing principle has much to offer the discussion of the Mormon/Political Kingdom of God largely because it may best express the essential idea behind it, that being, the “sustained ties of persons, networks, and organizations across nation-state borders, arising out of international migration patterns and refugee flows;” more and more of us are living in two countries, “showing an amazing capacity to maintain dual identities--with strong cultural ties and contributions to both places.” Transnationalism per se is related to globalization--the two going hand in hand--and has resulted in the creation of new forms of community and social ties in which various communications technologies play a key role--the internet but one example and medium for radically new formulations vis-à-vis cultural spheres, acculturation, cultural retention, and citizenship. The emergence of transnational corporations coincides with a kind of capitalist “withering of the state” and of some concern to environmentalists and Green historians who worry about the effects of globalization on Nature. Meanwhile, the political, cultural, social, economic, and religious influence of the United States seems to be growing exponentially, regardless. In accordance with the American ideal of a mobile citizenry, the present ebb and flow of people and ideas across and along borders can be seen as a kind of frontier thesis on a global scale. Globalization is to revolutionary America what revolutionary America was to Great Britain and the old colonial order--a paradigm shift that was both radical and conservative. The Mormon/Political Kingdom of God and its several incarnations can be seen as an early, nineteenth-century religious precursor to the post-modern, global age and emergent transnational sense of identity and citizenship.
It is possible to speak of three transnational phases, metamorphoses, or kingdoms where the Saints cross borders vis-à-vis a pattern of thinking and self-understanding that is between, across, or beyond. The first of these was limited in some respects to the first ten years (1830-1839) when an attempt to occupy what Mormons believed was their promised land, Jackson County, Missouri, ended in a civil war and expulsion. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, published a new revelation, the Book of Mormon, as the blueprint for a Templar, tri-color kingdom of red, white, and black. Importantly, this first kingdom was located on two geographical borders that defined and divided America at the time: the new Mormon Promised Land located within the slave state of Missouri and thus northern border of free and slave, but also just east of Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal--the other cultural or racial divide that defined the country. The City Platt for Jackson County, Missouri, the proposed site of the City of Zion suggests that something political and certainly imperial was planned that included male and female, bond and free, and Jew and Gentile. Equal portions of this first kingdom--rooted in soil and the original location of the Garden of Eden in Mormon thought--were meted out in half-acre lots, whereas political or priesthood authority was a less than equal affair, decided according to one’s rank or office in the kingdom or church. Race and gender played an important role in the divine pecking order. Inclusion did not entail anything very communitarian, but rather a colonial arrangement comparable to the Millet system in Islam, the Ottomans best remembered for giving religious minorities—Jews and Christians--protection under the law and considerable religious and political autonomy. In what amounts to the near exact geographic center of the continental United States and where Mormons believed that father Adam had once presided over all his children would become the capital city of a millennial, Christian-Masonic interfaith utopia or Mormon “convivencia.”
The second kingdom, one rooted in blood rather than soil had a much longer shelf life. Definitive of the tradition in the main, it coincides with the creation of some of Mormonism’s most distinctive and indeed heretical doctrines, practices, and rituals—the important place of Freemasonry in the tradition less and less a secret. Having failed to liberate the Mormon Holy Land or New Jerusalem of Jackson County from the infidels of antebellum Missouri, Mormons moved the kingdom to Nauvoo, Illinois where they would start anew. Although they refused to give up completely on the idea of occupying the Promised Land, some day, a new book of revelation based on Smith’s translation of Egyptian papyri would become the basis for a new formulation, Mormonism becoming a people, chosen race, and royal bloodline rather than a denomination or church per se.
What became known as the Book of Abraham, as I have said, became the basis for a new ritual system and another temple of unmistakable Masonic design and intention, a radically new social and political self-understanding that was more Islamic than Christian. That polygamy came to define Mormonism during this period can be seen as a logical progression, having less to do with a desire to conform strictly to the Old Testament pattern and, instead, the stuff of an American royal family and dynasty in the making. This included saving ordinances on behalf of one’s kindred dead and, as such, a genealogical outreach or mission that crossed into the realm of the dead, looking to a fictive genealogical past to create a new sense of national identity impregnable against attack. The original mission to people of color, and for which antebellum Missouri had been set aside, was not abandoned entirely, but it was put off until the dawn of a brighter day. The new mission of Mormonism as an Anglo-Saxon affair, excluded Africans from the temple and/or the priesthood and thus the kingdom. Indeed, Mormon temples like that in Salt Lake City, erected according to a pagan compass and facing east, became the palace and parliament of a royal, Anglo-Saxon bloodline. And yet, polygamy was all that separated 100% Americanism from 100% Mormonism. As B. Carmon Hardy has shown, Mormons and Gentiles were in complete agreement on the issue that mattered most—the need to build up the ranks of whites lest non-whites overtake, indeed overrun them.
Then, beginning in the early twentieth-century, Mormonism began the arduous job of joining the American mainstream. This meant finding a suitable replacement for polygamy, turning instead to dietary prescriptions against tea, coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol in the quest for legitimacy and acceptance. A reputation for rugged self-reliance during the Depression and then a sudden political change of heart, the Republican Party and Religious Right Mormonism’s new political home base. Mormonism was not only gaining in the polls of public opinion, but literally growing by leaps and bounds, its missionaries serious contenders in the battle to save souls for Christ and make the world safe for democracy.
Ironically, by becoming more American, Mormonism had the best chance of establishing the Political/Kingdom of God on earth as first envisioned in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Abraham and its racist agenda had served the Kingdom well, but for Mormonism to move into the world on a grand scale a new, transnational formulation was needed, one that transcended race without giving up the Mormon sense of uniqueness and purity—indeed, mission. A new transnational identity and formulation was required. And so, in 1978, the ban against the ordination of African men was lifted; sexual purity replaced racial purity, gays and lesbians becoming the “Other” in Mormonism, filling the ranks of the adopted seed of Cain and Canaan once filled by Blacks.
The present L.D.S. crusade against homosexuality is most closely associated with another of its Presidents, Ezra Taft Benson, Eisenhower’s Minister of Agriculture before giving himself to church work as an L.D.S. Apostle and then President. In 1952, J. Reuben Clark, Counselor in the First Presidency, had broached the subject of homosexuals “exercising great influence” at a meeting of the women’s Relief Society. Clark was also the first to condemn masturbation in an open meeting of the Saints as leading to homosexuality. Kimball had been working with young men in the Church with “same-sex desires” since 1947, another to believe that masturbation led to homosexuality. Bruce R. McConkie, L.D.S. Apostle and theologian, published a Mormon summa theological of sorts in 1958, entitled Mormon Doctrine, in which he invoked the death penalty for adultery and homosexuality. That year, as Quinn has shown, Salt Lake City police stepped up surveillance of gay meetings, working in consultation with L.D.S. ecclesiastical authorities to monitor and catch, if possible, any offending high-ranking Church officials.
The L.D.S mission experience would become a closely monitored and Orwellian anti-gay affair, too, missionaries expected to spy on each other, “to stand outside the restroom” and inform authorities in the event of anything unbecoming an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, missionary instruction manuals from the 1960s offered advice on how to keep Platonic expressions of love and mutual admiration between missionaries from becoming sexual. Meanwhile, L.D.S. Presidents thereafter, and none more so than Kimball, continued to link masturbation to homosexuality, going on to connect the latter to feminism and equal rights for women. Indeed, Kimball’s chief complaint against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1976 was that legalization of homosexual marriage would follow as surely as night follows day. As L.D.S. President Harold B. Lee also explained in a 1973 Priesthood Bulletin, homosexuality “runs counter to . . . divine objectives and, therefore, is to be avoided and forsaken.”
However, the real issue for Mormons was that homosexuality was a childless lifestyle that did not conform to the divine mandate and theology of natural increase--procreation as central to the faith and to one’s salvation. Women’s liberation proved problematic for the same reasons, birth control and abortion the real issues. When Sonia Johnson somewhat naively assumed her church would naturally support equal rights for women, marching under a banner of Mormons for ERA, she was summarily excommunicated for her trouble, going from “housewife to heretic” and from there to radical lesbian. Her metamorphosis merely confirmed what church leaders believed, namely that feminism leads to homosexuality, her treatment at the hands of authorities, and excommunication, a test case for the new Political/Kingdom of God. Importantly, the same church officials who lifted the ban against Black ordination, just a year before (1977), published a Priesthood manual for young men (1976) defending gay bashing.
A pamphlet war of sorts has been waged against the homosexual lifestyle by the office of the L.D.S. First Presidency ever since. “For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God” was issued in 1990 under Ezra Taft Benson’s administration, adding nothing to what Kimball had said. In 1995, Dallin H. Oaks, historian and L.D.S. apostle, published what many consider to be the definitive and last official word on the subject, published in the official L.D.S. Church magazine Ensign and entitled “Same Gender Attraction.” It defends the conservative heterosexual lifestyle as normative, taking a strong stand against the biological or genetic argument for sexual orientation. The official L.D.S. position is similar to that of conservative and fundamentalist Christians who maintain that homosexuality is a lifestyle, a choice, immoral and sinful, in many instances the fruit of bad parenting but curable.
That homosexuals have filled the void left by the inclusion of blacks and thus the new pariahs of Mormon patriarchalism can be seen in a 1995 exchange between parents of gay and lesbian children and current L.D.S. President, Gordon B. Hinckley. Taking issue with the content of two incendiary L.D.S. brochures, entitled “To Young Men Only” and “For the Strength of Youth,” their chief concern was the condemnation of their homosexual children as “latter-day lepers” and “under the control of Lucifer.” However, Kimball had come out even stronger against the gay and lesbian lifestyle in 1981, suggesting that “it were better that such a man [a homosexual] were never born.” Importantly, Kimball’s suggestion that it were better if homosexuals had not been born alludes to an important passage from the L.D.S. canon, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76, concerning those
who suffer themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome. They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born; For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity; Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come (D&C 76:31 - 33).
The passage is traditionally understood as a reference to Africans as the same disobedience spirits in the pre-existence and justification for exclusion from the Priesthood.
For Kimball, the inclusion of Blacks and the exclusion of gays and lesbians as adopted sons and daughters of Perdition can be seen as the latest in a series of metamorphoses of the kingdom from Promised Land, to Chosen People and Royal Bloodline, to an international and transnational religious corporation of puritanical-minded heterosexuals from every nation, kindred, tongue and people. Everything changed in 1978, and yet nothing fundamental to a faith at odds with the world really changed. As among the fastest growing churches (for its size) in the world and the next great world religion since Islam, Mormonism wasted no time in finding another enemy to call its own and wage Holy War.
. Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge: The Early Mormon Flight from American Pluralism (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1988). Also see his “Religion in Nauvoo: Some Reflections,” in Kingdom on the Mississippi Revisited (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), pp. 119-129.
. For an up-to-date historiography, see Klaus J. Hansen, “Mormon History and the Conundrum of Culture: American and Beyond,” in Excavating Mormon Pasts: The New Historiography of the Last Half Century (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2004), pp. 1-26.
See in this connection, Terryl L Givens, The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 6, 123, 129-35; “Mission in Our Own Land,” Southwestern Christian Advocate, January 13, 1881.
Rockwell ran for President, died at the hands of former followers, an original thinker prone to grandiosity, great admirer of Elijah Muhammad and Black Islam as having essentially the same racial and political agenda; he and Smith have much in common despite the obvious differences. See in this connection, Frederick Simonelli, American Fuehrer: George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party (Urbana, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999).
Nick Literski,Method Infitinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, forthcoming). Also see interview in Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormon connection to Masons explored ahead of 'Da Vinci Code' sequel: Mason-Mormon ties: What's fact, what's fiction,” Salt Lake City Tribune, Jan. 13, 2006.
Jan Shipps Sojourner in a Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), in addition to recounting the very interesting story of her introduction to Mormonism and Mormon history, living and teaching school in Utah and taking it to the highest level, contains a comprehensive discussion of her scholarly contributions over the years in the Church-Sect paradigm figures prominent. For the purposes of this discussion, the other important point is her criticism of John L. Brooke’s Masonic interpretation of Mormonism. See Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, New Edition 2006).
See Michael W. Homer, “Why then introduce them into our inner temple?’ The Masonic Influence on Mormon Denial of Priesthood Ordination to African American Men,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, 25 (2006), 234-259.
See Archived Document, “Immigrant Temporalities: Transnationalism, the Diaspora, Exiles and Refugees,” in http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/pathways/immigration/transnationalism.htm10/06/2007. Cf. Thomas Faist, The Volume and Dynamics of International Migration and Transnational Social Spaces, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) and Faist and Peter Kivisto, Dual Citizenship in Global Perspective: From Unitary to Multiple Citizenship (Toronto: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
Green or Environmental History is vast and interdisciplinary. A full accounting is not possible. Suffice it to say that speaks with force to the problems of globalization and transnational corporations as an economic and cultural blight, especially acute in developing countries. See in this connection, and as some idea of the range and scope of the debate and literature: Tom Martin, Green History: The Future of the Past (New York: University Press of America, 2000), Andrew Rowell, Green Backlash: Global Subversion of the Environmental Movement (New York: Routledge Press, 1996), John S. Dryzek, The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), Alessandro Bonanno and Douglas Constance, Caught in the Net: The Global Tuna Industry, Environmentalism, and the State (Lawrence, Kanses: University of Kansas Press, 1996), Mark Neuzil, Mass Media & Environmental Conflict: America’s Green Crusades (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1996), Anthony Weston (ed.), An Invitation to Environmental Philsophy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), Robert Gottlieb, Forcing Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (Washington D.C.: Island Press, 1993).
See in this connection, Ebubekir Ceylan, “The Millet System in the Ottoman Empire,” in New Millennial Perspectives in the Humanities, ed., Judi Upton-Ward (New York: Global Humanities Press, 2002), pp. 245-266, Mark Cohen, Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 3-14,163ff., Richard Fletcher, The Cross and the Crescent: Christianity and Islam from Muhammad to the Reformation (New York: Viking Books, 2004), and Ross Brann, Power in the Protrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelve-Century Islamic Spain (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002). What these have in common is the idea that life for minorities or non-Muslims under Islamic rule as certainly colonial but that devotion to the Sultan was rewarded with considerable religious and political autonomy. Moreover, the Ottoman Empire was a kind of “inter-faith utopia” for Jews in particular vis-à-vis Catholic Spain. There is something like this in the early Mormon plan to build a New Jerusalem in Jackson County, Missouri where all the children would be gathered and live under the auspices of a Mormon colonial government and priesthood order.
. Elaine Cannon and Ed. J. Pinegar, Called to Serve Him (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d.), p. 93. Also see Missionary Handbook Supplement (Provo, Utah: Missionary Training Center, 1976), I.
. “LDS Leaders Oppose ERA,” Deseret News, 22 October 1976. In this connection, see, D. Michael Quinn, “The LDS Church’s Campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment,” Journal of Mormon History, 20 (Fall 1994): 138-139.
. Dallin H. Oaks, “Same Gender Attraction,” Ensign, (October 1995), 7-14. Cf. Klaus J. Hansen, “Mormonism,” in Christel Manning and Phil Zuckerman (eds.), Sex and Religion (Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005), pp. 142-159.
See as only one example, but typical, the argument and titles on Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family website: http://cc.msnscache.com/cache.aspx?q=8241284198333&lang=en-CA&mkt=en-CA&FORM=CVRE
In much of this Evangelical, family-oriented literature, prevention of homosexuality and restoration of heterosexuality are recurrent themes.