Question: Was Utah was a hotbed of violence, murder, and lawlessness that can be attributed to Mormon doctrine and practices?

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Question: Was Utah was a hotbed of violence, murder, and lawlessness that can be attributed to Mormon doctrine and practices?

"Overattention to such activities obscures the fact that they were very rare compared to elsewhere in the West"

Critics charge that Utah was a hotbed of violence, murder, and lawlessness, and that this can be attributed to LDS doctrine and practices. This is not to say that there was not some violence in frontier Utah—of course there was, given the place and time. But, as one researcher noted:

the point here is not to claim that no vigilante crimes by angry Mormons protecting their interests ever occurred in territorial Utah. The point is that overattention to such activities obscures the fact that they were very rare compared to elsewhere in the West, where no concerted effort to undermine a popularly supported government was going on as in Utah [by the federal government versus the Mormons].[1]

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Death to Seducers! Examples of Latter-day Saint-led Extralegal Justice in Historical Context"

Craig L. Foster,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (2020)
Some people have suggested a strain of violence within nineteenth- century Latter-day Saint culture as violent as and perhaps more so than that of most Americans around them. Critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints point to a few well-known acts of extralegal violence as evidence of a culture of violence that permeated the early Church. But were these examples of violence really out of the norm of nineteenth-century American society? This article looks at examples of extralegal punishment for certain crimes, placing them and the examples of extralegal punishment in Utah within a greater historical and cultural context.

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Notes

  1. Eric A. Eliason, "Review of: Forgotten Kingdom: The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847–1896," FARMS Review of Books 12/1 (2000): 95–112. off-site