Mallory Hales Perry and Dr. David Whitchurch, Department of Ancient Scripture
My project, made possible by generous funding through the ORCA grant program, focused on the social and political situation surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the turn of the twentieth century. Along with the help and guidance I received from my mentor, Dr. David M. Whitchurch, I explored the issue using primary documents and current research on this time in Church history. This experience offered a priceless opportunity to enhance my research skills, write a paper for publication in Mormon Historical Studies, and complete my honors thesis.
The ORCA grant I received supplemented my income and allowed me to focus my attention on researching for the entire summer of my final year at BYU. This gave me the opportunity to research in the Brigham Young University Special Collections, the University of Utah Special Collections, the Boston Public Library Manuscript and Rare Book department, Harvard Library Phillips Reading Room and at the Utah Historical Society. These resources offered me deep and broad insights into many aspects of my research and helped me to write nearly 100 pages of research manuscript on this topic.
These papers both began with a letter, written by Joseph F. Smith in 1889. This missive, previously unpublished, was written to his friend and fellow missionary, Susa Young Gates. It brings to light an interesting situation faced by the Church in the late 1800s, and it gave direction to my research. In this letter, he describes the situation in Washington DC, where the Church was struggling to receive support for Utah Statehood. Listed in the letter are the names of two very influential people at the time: the lecturer Kate Field and President Grover Cleveland. Both of these individuals were particularly influential in the formation of national, political and social attitudes towards the Church in the 1880s and 1890s. Using this 1889 letter as a basis and backdrop, I focused my research on the work of these two individuals in shaping attitudes towards the Church.
The writings, papers and others personal accounts of President Cleveland and Miss Field demonstrate the efforts to which each went to understand the Mormon Question. The newspaper articles and lectures of Kate Field demonstrate the antagonism she developed towards the church, and a study of public response to her lectures reveal the way her work shaped public opinion against the Church. President Cleveland’s research into the Latter-day Saints produced a different attitude, and his policies towards Utah Territory and the Saints demonstrate his willingness to assist the Saints. This study of their involvement in the history of Utah and the Church at the turn of the century shows what great power each of these individuals had in shaping history in the West.
For members of the Latter-day Saint Church, this is an often over-looked time in history. Though many histories of the State of Utah have been written, there are few accounts that marry the struggle for Utah Statehood with national attitudes towards the Church. My research added to the growing body of work on this subject with a new focus on the influences of these two individuals, President Cleveland and Kate Field.
Kate Field is no longer recognized as the great influence she once was, but in her day, she was called “one of the best-known women of America” (“Kate Field Dead,” New York Tribune, 31 May 1896). As a lecturer and author, Miss. Field’s influence extended through New England and across the Easter States. For those who knew little of the Latter-day Saints, Miss. Field’s reports of their heresy and treachery became the grounds of their judgment of the Mormons.
President Grover Cleveland is a well known figure in US history, however his influence in the Church’s early growth is less often recognized. Because President Cleveland rarely recorded his personal feelings (Allan Nevis, comp., Letters of Grover Cleveland, 1850–1908, [New York: Da Capo Press, 1970], v), I focused most of my research on his political policies and appointments that effected the Saints in Utah. It is clear from his policies that Grover Cleveland was aware of the Saint’s struggles in Utah, and in my research I argue that President Cleveland worked particularly to enforce laws in a way that was favorable to Saints.
My Honors Thesis and the paper written for Mormon Historical Studies use this research to create a better picture of the struggle for Utah Statehood and the Church’s involvement with politics at this time. The ORCA funding I received let me expand this research far beyond what I could have done without it. It was an exciting experience to dive deep into research on a topic that is so often skimmed over, and I found it an incredibly rewarding experience to be a part of this dialogue on the history of Utah and of the Latter-day Saints.