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American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940 $
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Thomas W. Simpson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469628639

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469628639.001.0001

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The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877–1896

The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877–1896

(p.28) 2 The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877–1896
American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940 

Thomas W. Simpson

University of North Carolina Press

By all accounts, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were critical for Mormonism's evolution and modernization. The rapidity of the change, however, leaves nagging questions. After years of costly, principled resistance, how could Mormons, with any semblance of dignity and self-respect, suddenly embrace the institutions and values of their tormentors? How did members of the nineteenth century's "most despised large group" become so loyal to the United States in the twentieth? This chapter explores the unique, crucial role that American universities played in fostering Mormon-Gentile reconciliation. Right when the animosities were at fever pitch—in the decades between the death of Brigham Young (1877) and the incorporation of Utah into the United States (1896)—the American university became a liminal, quasi-sacred space where Mormons experienced a radical transformation of consciousness and identity. In the process, they developed an enduring devotion to non-Mormon institutions and deference to non-Mormon expertise. These extra-ecclesial loyalties would dismantle the ideological framework of Mormon separatism and pave the way for Mormons' voluntary re-immersion into the mainstream of American life.

Keywords:   Mormonism, Mormon History, Mormon Americanization, Religion and Gender, Polygamy, Brigham Young Academy, University of Michigan, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University

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