Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Nicole M. Phelps

Abstract

This thesis examines the experience of the Mormon Battalion, a group of five hundred Mormon soldiers commissioned by President James K. Polk to enlist in the U.S. military and aid in the newly declared war against Mexico in 1846. The war was a result of a belligerent and aggressive form of territorial expansion justified by the ideology of Manifest Destiny. Polk and many other Americans believed it was their Manifest Destiny to dominate a continental nation, and the Mormon Battalion was assigned to march to California to conquer Mexican territory for the United States. An examination of the Mormon soldiers' journals and letters, as well as official Mormon Church records and correspondence, reveals that, despite participating in a war that promoted aggressive expansion, the Mormons' understanding of Manifest Destiny contained unique perspectives regarding racial hierarchies and displays of masculinity, key elements of that popular ideology. The peculiar approach that the Mormons' had to Manifest Destiny was directly influenced by their history as a persecuted body of believers. Ultimately, the Mormon soldiers agreed to volunteer for the war not because they wanted to express patriotism, but because they had a firm dedication to their church and resolved obedience to their leader, Brigham Young.

Additionally, an examination of popular contemporary media outlets and their responses to the enlistment of the Mormon Battalion, as well as the relevant historiography, is included to demonstrate the evolution of the Mormon Battalion in historical memory, both inside and outside the Mormon Church. The treatment of the battalion by popular media outlets reflected changing attitudes regarding the implications of promoting a martial and aggressive society, while the role of the battalion in Mormon history evolved in tandem with Mormons' fluctuating identities as U.S. citizens.

Language

en

Number of Pages

145 p.