Building Zion

Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement

THOMAS CARTER
Katherine Solomonson
Abigail A. Van Slyck
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 408
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt13x1mgz
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  • Book Info
    Building Zion
    Book Description:

    For Mormons, the second coming of Christ and the subsequent millennium will arrive only when the earth has been perfected through the building of a model world called Zion. Throughout the nineteenth century the Latter-day Saints followed this vision, creating a material world-first in Missouri and Illinois but most importantly and permanently in Utah and surrounding western states-that serves as a foundation for understanding their concept of an ideal universe.

    Building Zionis, in essence, the biography of the cultural landscape of western LDS settlements. Through the physical forms Zion assumed, it tells the life story of a set of Mormon communities-how they were conceived and constructed and inhabited-and what this material manifestation of Zion reveals about what it meant to be a Mormon in the nineteenth century. Focusing on a network of small towns in Utah, Thomas Carter explores the key elements of the Mormon cultural landscape: town planning, residences (including polygamous houses), stores and other nonreligious buildings, meetinghouses, and temples. Zion, we see, is an evolving entity, reflecting the church's shift from group-oriented millenarian goals to more individualized endeavors centered on personal salvation and exaltation.

    Building Ziondemonstrates how this cultural landscape draws its singularity from a unique blending of sacred and secular spaces, a division that characterized the Mormon material world in the late nineteenth century and continues to do so today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4285-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. NOTE ON ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION A LANDSCAPE OF DIFFERENCE
    (pp. xvii-xxxii)

    On april 25, 1877, LDS Church president Brigham Young and a small band of followers climbed the hill above the town of Manti, Utah, to dedicate the site for a new Mormon temple. A cold wind blew rain from the northwest; the audience waited, huddling for warmth. Young’s voice soon rose against the darkening sky:

    We dedicate this ground on which we now are, which has been surveyed for Temple purposes, we dedicate the spur of the mountain of which it is a part, and we dedicate the mountain itself and the valley round about to the name and service...

  6. 1 FAITH AND WORKS A HISTORICAL FRAMEWORK
    (pp. 1-22)

    The mormon families who made their way to the Sanpete Valley after 1849 were a well-traveled and diverse lot. The core group, which included most of the valley’s early leaders, came from New England and had been part of the Mormon Church since its founding in Upstate New York during the late 1820s and early 1830s. These converts, like thousands of their friends and neighbors, had left homes in the Northeast for a better life on the opening western frontier. For them, the West at this point meant western New York State, where the availability of land coupled with the...

  7. 2 THE SETTLEMENT MATRIX TOWNS AND TEMPLES
    (pp. 23-63)

    Even as the first mormons entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, a program for consolidating their dearly bought freedom began. The building of Zion subsumed a combined policy of self-sufficiencyandland occupation. By promoting home industry, cooperation, and abstinence, church leaders felt they could keep interaction with the outside world to a minimum, and by physically occupying as much of the Great Basin as possible through an organized system of colonization, they could ensure Latter-day Saint hegemony in the area. The ultimate goal was to prevent Gentiles from gaining a foothold within the borders of Zion and once...

  8. 3 ACCORDING TO NEED FAMILY STEWARDSHIPS AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES
    (pp. 64-92)

    In february 1851, Bishop John Lowry of Manti rose in Sunday meeting and spoke on “the importance of every one looking to himself and setting his own family in order showing the order of God in this principle [and] showing the blessings desired there from by families being set in order.”¹ Lowry aimed his words at members of the ward, but historians should listen as well, for his remarks remind us that more than anything it was the family that drove the Zion-making project forward (Figure 3.1). For the Latter-day Saints, God’s “order” centered on an individual’s faith and works,...

  9. 4 FRONTIER FASHION DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE AND INDIVIDUAL DISPLAY
    (pp. 93-133)

    Sometimes the best way to make a point is simply to repeat it so often that it finally sinks in. This certainly seems the case when it comes to Mormon housing, for church leaders spoke a great deal about domestic architecture and the message was always the same: “If you wish to build a house,” Brigham Young told the faithful in Salt Lake City, “build as good a one as you can imagine.”¹ Similarly, Apostle Heber Kimball preached: “Build good houses and adorn them.”² Local Sanpete leaders followed along: one of Manti bishop John Lowry’s main duties, he explained, lay...

  10. 5 POLYGAMY AND PATRIARCHY WOMEN IN THE LANDSCAPE
    (pp. 134-174)

    Consumption for many sanpete men meant owning a fine house, but during the Zion-making years they could also have satisfied the drive for accumulation by having more than one wife (Figure 5.1). Data from the 1870 census indicates that almost a third (30 percent) of all Sanpete households were polygamous, and if we add to this number their monogamous relatives and friends, the number of people directly and indirectly involved in the institution rises dramatically. In much the same way as the South before the Civil War was a “slave society,” even though only a small percentage of Southerners actually...

  11. 6 BUSINESS AS USUAL THE AMERICANIZATION OF THE MORMON MAIN STREET
    (pp. 175-208)

    A newspaper description of Fairview from 1900 reported that the town “contains four general stores, one furniture store, one harness shop, two hotels, one butcher shop, and a planning mill[sic], half a dozen steam sawmills, good public schools and a great number of comfortable homes.”¹ Sounds like a nice town. Busy, prosperous, on its way up. The fact, however, that Fairview had a substantial Mormon meetinghouse receives no mention. An oversight? Perhaps, but it also might not have been considered that important. As we have seen, Mormon towns were becoming increasingly secular as the century progressed. That churches helped...

  12. 7 MEETINGHOUSES THE SEARCH FOR MORMON IDENTITY
    (pp. 209-239)

    One challenge facing zion makers lay in creating a distinctive Mormon style in religious architecture. Such a style was needed if this upstart religion, proclaiming itself the restoration of Christ’s true church to earth in the Last Days, was not only going to distinguish itself from established churches but also provide its members with a set of visual images around which to fashion a cohesive group identity. Simply put, a new religion could not use the same old buildings—it had to have its own. Temples provided part of the answer. No other American church had them, and while it...

  13. 8 MANSION ON THE HILL THE TEMPLE AS RITUAL SPACE
    (pp. 240-273)

    In october 1877, following the death of Brigham Young, John Taylor assumed the office of acting LDS Church president (he would not be officially appointed until 1880). One of Taylor’s first official undertakings was to notify William H. Folsom of his appointment “by the Council of the Apostles, to act as the Architect in the erection of the Manti Temple and to take on the general Superintendency of the business connected with the building thereof.”¹ Folsom’s résumé was impressive—his work in the capital city had included the Salt Lake Theatre (1862), the new Salt Lake Tabernacle (1867), and Brigham...

  14. CONCLUSION THE ENDURING ZION
    (pp. 274-284)

    In a thoughtful essay, critic Edward Rothstein poses the question of just how much can be expected in the name of utopian idealism. The very idea of utopia speaks of perfection—making and living in a perfect world. But how can imperfect people achieve such an elevated condition? “The closer one looks,” Rothstein writes,

    the more ambiguity there is. Moreover, what is in question is not only utopia’s virtue but also the procedures required to reach it. Utopia stands outside of history. It is the city on the hill, society’s dream image. But it can be reached only by breaking...

  15. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 285-288)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 289-320)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 321-332)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-334)