The Mormons Move to Utah

A brief account of early Mormon Utah history, and the Utah War.

Reference Links

This video relied heavily on "One Nation Under Gods"
State of Deseret
The Utah War

Video Transcript

The violent aftermath of Joseph Smith’s death, coupled with outstanding arrest warrants on counterfeiting charges for Brigham Young and other apostles, led the government to announce that federal troops would be visiting Nauvoo. In response, Young decided the Mormons should move west immediately, out of the range of the wicked nation.

In 1847, they finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. And although the land actually belonged to Mexico, the United States was currently fighting the Mexican American War, and acquired the land in 1849. In fact a 500 man Mormon battalion enlisted by the government helped fund the move to Utah, although they never saw battle.

The first Utah government consisted of non-elected LDS authorities, and an unrealized proposal for the State of Deseret. When Utah became a territory, Brigham Young became its first governor. He referred to himself as a dictator, even claiming the right to dictate even which ribbons women wore, and threatened excommunication to any Mormon who would do business with a non-Mormon.

Regular Mormons were not even allowed to own the land they worked on, it belonged to the church. They were even forced to consecrate their personal property to the church, giving Young a powerful weapon of control.

Brigham Young strongly promoted the idea that he was establishing the literal rule of the Kingdom of God on earth, with himself as God’s representative. Apostle John Taylor made it clear that they had done away with the separation of church and state. It was this attitude that started to get the Mormons in trouble with the government.

Some federally appointed officials and judges were threatened, raided, beaten and run out Utah, court records were destroyed, and federal laws were brazenly ignored. Finally, the government decided that disloyalty and treason were so rampant in Utah due to the Mormon theocracy, that order had to be restored.

So in 1857, the army started marching with orders to enforce United States law in the Utah
territory. The government’s offer was to pardon all the previous Mormon political crimes if Young would step down as governor and allow the army to camp nearby. But Young refused and sent his own army, the Nauvoo Legion, to block the US Army, and planned to evacuate and burn Salt Lake City if they failed. But an unrelated Indian attack on a Mormon settlement caused Young to change his mind.

But the problems of law and order were still not resolved. For instance, a Supreme Court judge attempted to bring many known murderers to justice, but the Mormon community protected these murderers in such a way that trial witnesses fled Utah for their lives. The cases were forcibly dropped for fear they would only incite more rebellion. It would be many decades before Utah could join the Union in peace. Find out more at