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Mormonism: Guide to Materials and Resources: Pioneer Era (1846-1890)

The Special Collections & Archives department of the Merrill-Cazier Library contains a multitude of useful resources relating to Mormonism. This guide will provide an introduction to some of the materials, as well as additional resources.

Pioneer Era (1846-1890)

​​​​​The pioneer era of Mormon history begins with the exodus of Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo, Illinois in 1846. This era was one of migration, consolidation, and development on the part of Mormonism, which included:

  • The formation of the Mormon Battalion in 1846
  • The appointment of Brigham Young as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • The doctrine and practice of plural marriage or polygamy beginning in 1852
  • The formation of the LDS Church’s first youth and children’s programs
  • The construction of multiple temples
  • Gatherings and protests organized by LDS women against federal anti-polygamy laws and the removal of their right to vote

During this time period, publications thrived. Special Collections & Archives contains a number of governmental records, most of which deal with the topic of polygamy. Missionary journals and personal histories became more common, as did periodicals both by the LDS church and some non-LDS groups, particularly the denomination founded by James Jesse Strang. Some fictional publications appeared on the topic of Mormonism.

Journals & Autobiographies

Local Leadership & Congregations

Mormon Life & Doctrine

Anti-Mormon Publications

Individuals, organizations, or publications that are directly critical of the LDS church and its doctrines are often referred to as being anti-Mormon, although many of these individuals or groups would not identify with that term. Regardless, these resources can provide insight into contemporary attitudes toward Mormonism.


Non-LDS Group Publications

Plural Marriage

Between 1852 and 1890, the largest Mormon denomination - now known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - openly practiced plural marriage, or polygamy. This meant that multiple women could be married to one man. Laws were passed by the government of the United States to discourage the practice.

In 1890, LDS church president Wilford Woodruff announced the cessation of plural marriages in the United States, though the practice continued into the twentieth century. Plural marriages continued in the LDS Church in secret until at least 1904. Other individuals and groups who refused to give up on the practice of plural marriage constituted the beginnings of what came to be known as “Mormon fundamentalism."

Non-English Resources

Though Mormonism began in the United States, missionaries carried the religion's message beyond the country's borders almost since its founding. Included in the non-English text resources here are iterations of the Book of Mormon, and some doctrinal writings. One item that may be of interest is the Book of Mormon written in the Deseret Alphabet, an alternative to Latin letters developed by the University of Deseret in order to help Mormon immigrants learn the English language.

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