In the nineteenth century, the power of religious belief transformed the legal landscape. This Article details how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) instilled a new and very different law of marriage for followers. Plural marriage, or polygamy, was key to Mormons' revisioning of traditional Christian faith and practice. Polygamy was also key to a widespread popular campaign to outlaw the Mormon practice. Novelists drew on widely shared ideas about the proper relationship of church and state, and also on theories that Christian monogamy was the basic building block of society. Without separation of church and state, they argued, polygamy would undermine all of American society. In the search for a justification of action against polygamy, popular novelists claimed that the Constitution must contain the power to legislate against the Mormons in Utah. This lay legal culture, and the popularity of the fictional world it created, was effective despite the fact that it fundamentally mischaracterized Mormon society and belief.
Sarah B. Gordon,
A War of Words: Revelation and Storytelling in the Campaign against Mormon Polygamy,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol78/iss2/11