Lincoln and the Mormons

A religion columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune recently looked at an obscure example of Lincoln’s political acumen at work—his relationship with the Mormons in Utah.

Many Latter-day Saints greeted Lincoln’s election with dismay; it threatened the Union they believed to be a divine work, and the Republican Party explicitly condemned polygamy.  Indeed, in July 1862 Lincoln signed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act into law; the act was specifically aimed at Mormon marriage practices and the church’s extensive property holdings.

In practice, however, Lincoln was willing to ignore official policy in order to secure Mormon support for the more urgent task of preserving the Union.  He reportedly compared the issue to dealing with a fallen log “too hard to split, too wet to burn, and too heavy to move, so we ploughed around it. That’s what I intend to do with the Mormons. Tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone, I will let him alone.”

You can read more about Lincoln’s involvement with the Mormons in Gary Vitale’s 2008 article in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, which is available online.

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