Following Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young tried to implement theo-democracy in the Territory of Deseret, which is now known as Utah. In our next conversation with Dr. Derek Sainsbury, we’ll talk about how successful Brigham Young was in implementing Joseph’s view of government.
Derek: When the Civil War breaks out, they see that as a natural–Section 87, the revelation about the Civil War, a civil war starting. They see that as fulfillment of that [revelation] obviously, but also of the rejection of political salvation that Joseph Smith offered them in in 1844. While we don’t join the Confederacy, we don’t really join the Union, we kind of sit on the sidelines, hoping, for some, not all, but hoping for some that it all falls apart. In fact, the Council of Fifty that Brigham Young–Brigham Young continues this Council of Fifty, this Governing Council, political Council, he continues that they kind of lead the theo-democracy in the Deseret era.
Then after theo-democracy is established, they [Council of Fifty] kind of go away. They stopped meeting because they have the structure set up. It’s inherent now in the actual system they have. But during the Civil War, he brings it back. He brings the council back and they create their own legislature, which is the exact same people. After every single legislature session during the Civil War, they do a second one with the legislature of Deseret, and they do the exact same thing. It’s like a shadow government, if you will. In the public speeches that Brigham Young and other leaders of the church give, they start to talk again. They start to bring back and talk more about this idea of the Kingdom of God, which meant a lot different than it means now. It meant the political Kingdom of God is coming back and they saw in the fulfillment of the Civil War that this might happen, and we need to be ready to govern ourselves when the country collapses, and then spread that government. You hear during the Civil War, in a lot of the discourses that are given by the leaders of the church, that idea. They even start to talk about, “Hey, this government is here. It’s been here. It’s just waiting for the right time.” Then, of course, the Civil War doesn’t lead to the collapse of United States, and we have to go back to trying to get along with the United States.
Derek: When reconstruction is done, then the Republicans turn to us, the other twin relic of barbarism, polygamy. That’s when the real difficult relationship with the federal government begins through the 1870s and the 1880s, leading up to the Manifesto and the creation of the State of Utah and all that other stuff, which really is all trying to destroy the theo-democracy. Plural marriage is great for them to attack. Polygamy is great for them to attack because it’s sensational, it’s great. But what the really trying to do, because it’s seen as un-American, is break up the relationship between church and state.
GT: Yeah, because when the bishop is also the judge, the federal government has to pull in “Gentile” judges. Because they’re trying to break this theo-democracy.
Derek : Yeah, and it takes them a long time. Because one, they planted theo-democracy really well, and they’d given all kinds of powers when they created them to the probate judges and to others where they could basically put them in their own courts, if people were accused. So, it took a lot of different amendments and legislation from the US Congress to finally kind of break down all of the theo-democracy.
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