Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-846f6c7c4f-x6crq Total loading time: 0.677 Render date: 2022-07-07T07:35:27.049Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877–1896

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 June 2018


The transformation of Mormonism from a small, persecuted sect into an established, global faith has attracted scholarly attention for decades. By all accounts, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were critical for the church's evolution and modernization. The rapidity of the change, however, leaves nagging questions. After years of costly, principled resistance, how could Mormons, with any semblance of dignity and self-respect, suddenly embrace the institutions and values of their tormentors? How did members of the nineteenth century's “most despised large group” become so loyal to the United States in the twentieth?

This essay explores the unique, crucial role that American universities played in fostering Mormon-Gentile reconciliation. Right when the animosities were at fever pitch—in the decades between the death of Brigham Young (1877) and Utah's admission into the Union as the forty-fifth state (1896)—the American university became a liminal, quasi-sacred space where Mormons experienced a radical transformation of consciousness and identity. In the process, they developed an enduring devotion to non-Mormon institutions and deference to non-Mormon expertise. These extra-ecclesial loyalties would dismantle the ideological framework of Mormon separatism and pave the way for Mormons' voluntary reimmersion into the mainstream of American life.

Research Article
Copyright © Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Special thanks to the University of Virginia's Faculty Senate, Brigham Young University's Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, and the former Joseph Fielding Smith Institute at Brigham Young University for funding that was indispensable to this research; many thanks also to the tireless archivists in special collections at Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, Utah State University, the Utah State Historical Society, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

1. For the sake of simplicity and brevity, I refer to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) as “Mormons.” Church members themselves customarily used this designation in their published and unpublished writings in the nineteenth century, although they had misgivings about employing the “Mormon” label that outsiders had derisively imposed upon them.

2. For examples of the most influential scholarship on Mormonism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Leone, Mark, The Roots of Modern Mormonism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hansen, Klaus J., Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981)Google Scholar; Shipps, Jan, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985)Google Scholar; Alexander, Thomas G., Mormonism in Transition, 1890–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986)Google Scholar; Gordon, Sarah Barringer, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002)Google Scholar; Yorgason, Ethan R., The Transformation of the Mormon Culture Region (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003)Google Scholar; and Flake, Kathleen, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004)Google Scholar. On the evolution of Mormon marriage patterns, see Daynes, Kathryn M., More Wives than One: The Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840–1910 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001)Google Scholar. Lyman's, Edward Leo Political Deliverance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986)Google Scholar provides the best account of how post-Manifesto political realignment (from Utah's mainly Mormon and anti-Mormon parties to Democratic and Republican ones) strengthened the case for statehood. On the economic history of the Mormons, see Arrington, Leonard, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958)Google Scholar.

3. The claim that Mormons, as late as 1893, were “the most despised large group” in America is Martin Marty's. Marty, Martin E., Modern American Religion, vol. 1, The Irony of It All, 1893–1919 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), 301 Google Scholar.

4. R. Laurence Moore argued that twentieth-century Mormons “forgot their history” as persecuted American outsiders in his landmark 1986 essay on the Mormons. Moore, R. Laurence, Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 42 Google Scholar.

5. Early Mormon theology was distinctive in its sacralization of the American landscape, positing that the origins and destiny of the human race were to be found there. America was indeed the promised land, although during periods of anti-Mormon persecution it looked like cruel “Babylon.”

6. My research has yielded information about fifty Mormon students who studied “abroad” before the Woodruff Manifesto of 1890, which officially discontinued polygamy and coincided with expanding opportunities for an elite university education outside the Utah Territory. The majority (twenty-nine) attended the University of Michigan, for reasons that will become clear. After 1890, the numbers of Mormons enrolled in American universities increased so much that it is virtually impossible to know exactly how many there were between 1890 and 1896, but, in this period, the University of Michigan retained its supremacy, while Harvard, M.I.T., and Stanford began to attract their first Mormon students as well. Just after statehood, the migration expanded to Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Columbia.

7. For a more detailed history of these early academic missions, see Simpson, Thomas W., “Mormons Study ‘Abroad’: Brigham Young's Romance with American Higher Education, 1867–1877,” Church History 76, no. 4 (December 2007): 778–98Google Scholar. For a broader history of Mormon academic migrations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Simpson, Thomas W., “Mormons Study ‘Abroad’: Latter-day Saints in American Higher Education, 1870–1940” (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 2005)Google Scholar.

8. On nineteenth-century persecution and migration as crucibles for the formation of Mormon identity and peoplehood, see Shipps, Mormonism.

9. Judge James B. McKean, President Ulysses S. Grant's notoriously anti-Mormon appointee to the post of Utah's territorial chief justice, used the memorable phrase “polygamic theocracy” in 1871 when Brigham Young stood before him facing the charge of “lascivious cohabitation.” Protestant preacher, politician, and social reformer Josiah Strong, in his widely read nativist book, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, wrote that “Mormon despotism … has its roots in the superstition of the people; and this Congress cannot legislate away. The people must be elevated and enlightened through … the preaching of the gospel.” Strong, Josiah, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis (New York: American Home Missionary Society / Caxton Press, 1885; rev. 1891), 120 Google Scholar.

10. In his history of the modern American university, Lawrence Veysey writes: “Talk about ‘citizenship-training’ as a purpose of the university was eventually to become cheap coin indeed, but in the nineteenth century such affirmations still possessed something of the power of innocence… . Higher education, it was hoped, might affect the conduct of public affairs in at least three ways. First, the university would make each of its graduates into a force for civic virtue. Second, it would train a group of political leaders who would take a knightly plunge into ‘real life’ and clean it up. Finally, through scientifically oriented scholarship, rational substitutes could be found for political procedures subject to personal influence.” Veysey, Lawrence, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 72 Google Scholar.

11. On the ways that a kind of religious pluralism, rather than secularism, characterized the universities of the late nineteenth century, see Reuben, Julie, The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996)Google Scholar.

12. My generational perspective and analysis have been shaped by Gallagher, Gary, The Confederate War (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997)Google Scholar; my understanding of the importance of contingency in American history and historiography is influenced most directly by Edward Ayers, Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War (New York: W. W. Norton, 2000); and my interpretation of Mormons’ tendencies toward separatism and integration—their competing loyalties— is informed deeply by Potter, David, “The Historian's Use of Nationalism and Vice Versa,” American Historical Review 67, no. 4 (July 1962): 924–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Cone, James, Malcolm and Martin and America: A Dream or a Nightmare (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1991)Google Scholar.

13. Sarah Barringer Gordon notes that, as early as 1856, members of the new Republican Party began waging rhetorical war on the 188 Religion and American Culture “twin relics of barbarism,” slavery and polygamy, in U.S. territories. Gordon, The Mormon Question, 55.

14. Nathan Hatch has demonstrated that religious populism was characteristic of the “democratizing” Christian movements of early nineteenth-century America, including Mormon, Methodist, Baptist, “Christian,” and African-American churches. Hatch writes that, in this period, “America exalted religious leaders short on social graces, family connections, and literary education. These religious activists pitched their messages to the unschooled and unsophisticated. Their movements offered the humble a marvelous sense of individual potential and collective aspiration.” Hatch, Nathan, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989), 5 Google Scholar. The Book of Mormon itself gave Mormons ample reason to distrust elites. A characteristic passage, 2 Nephi 26:20, describes potent links between formal education, social inequality, and unbelief: “And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.”

15. Deseret News, September 20, 1877, the Journal History of the Church (hereafter JH), September 20, 1877. The Journal History of the Church is Mormonism's massive, official, chronological compilation of primary source documents relating to LDS church history.

16. Deseret News, April 5, 1878, JH, April 5, 1878.

17. Taylor was the senior member of the Council of Twelve Apostles; he would ultimately succeed Brigham Young as president in 1880, when the church officially reorganized its First Presidency to clarify lines of succession. Cannon, a junior member of the Twelve, was likewise sustained at the October 1880 General Conference of the church as one of two counselors to Taylor. (Cannon also served as Utah's delegate to Congress during this period. Elected in 1872, he served from late 1873 until 1882.) The other counselor to President Taylor was Joseph F. Smith.

18. JH, August 13, 1878. The youngest of the four women, Martha (“Mattie”) Hughes Paul, was the first of several Mormon women to enroll in the University of Michigan's medical department in the late 1870s and 1880s. The University of Michigan had established the first university hospital in 1869, and the school had begun to admit women in

1870. See Peckham, Howard H., The Making of the University of Michigan, 1817–1992, ed. Margaret, L. and Steneck, Nicholas H. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, 1994), 64 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Ruth Bordin's history of women at the University of Michigan calls the 1870s “a golden decade for women students at Michigan,” when they enjoyed “a degree of acceptance that in later years proved almost impossible to duplicate.” Women began to enroll in the school's medical department in 1871, and, after a year of keeping classes segregated by sex, the department began to allow women to attend classes with men. The women, however, still sat apart from men and worked in separate laboratories. Bordin, Ruth, Women at Michigan: The “Dangerous Experiment,” 1870s to the Present (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), 12, 14–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The Woman's Exponent, a Mormon periodical, hailed the University of Michigan for opening its doors to women. It made sure that its readers, like Mattie, knew about the opportunity to study at a school that was neither as expensive nor as distant as schools of similar quality on the East coast. In just its second issue, published in June 1872, the magazine reported that sixty-three women were enrolled at the University of Michigan. “About Women,” Woman's Exponent 1, no. 2 (June 15, 1872): 15. The University of Michigan also attracted Mormons because it offered a special freedom from religious compulsion and prejudice. Like other growing American universities, the university promoted a broad, nonsectarian Christianity. Chapel services were regular but not mandatory. By the 1880s, leading figures in the university, including John Dewey and the university's president, James B. Angell, were deftly and publicly linking the Christian life with the life of the mind. George M. Marsden notes that “Michigan was often mentioned hopefully [by Christians] as a model for the future of religion in higher education. The Ann Arbor example showed not only that a state school could be openly sympathetic to Christianity—the same could be said of most state universities—but also that such sympathy was in fact displayed by a leader among the new research universities.” Marsden, George M., The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 167 Google Scholar.

19. Pratt, Romania B., M.D., “Work for Women,” Woman's Exponent 7, no. 21 (April 1, 1879): 217 Google Scholar.

20. Joseph F. Smith, blessing upon Romania B. Pratt, August 16, 1881, Esther Romania Bunnell [Pratt] Penrose Papers, Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

21. As late as 1890, Susa Young Gates, one of Brigham's daughters and the editor of the church periodical the Young Woman's Journal, prefaced one of Pratt's published articles by assuring the magazine's readers that the learned Dr. Pratt will not “desert us,” since “her heart is in the work of aiding and benefiting the young women of Zion. Although a physician with a large and increasing practice, she says she longs to see the time when we can have faith to enter our temples and be healed instantly. Her whole soul is filled with the love of this gospel.” Gates, Susa Young, “The Editor's Department,” Young Woman's Journal 1, no. 12 (September 1890): 474 Google Scholar. Gates was not ideologically opposed to higher education; she would attend a summer school session at Harvard in 1893.

22. For years, members of the church's women's organization, the Relief Society, had promoted the building project and raised funds for it. When the hospital was finally dedicated in the summer of 1882, Woman's Exponent exulted to see a hospital “where the sick of the Lord's people could be attended and have the benefit of the ordinances of the Church as well as skillful treatment.” “Deseret Hospital,” Woman's Exponent 11, no. 5 (August 1, 1882): 36.

23. Ibid.

24. Wilkinson, Ernest L., Arrington, Leonard J., and Hafen, Bruce C., eds., Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years, 4 vols. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975–1976), 1:394–95Google Scholar. In the early twentieth century, as the head of the church's educational system, Cummings would become powerfully suspicious of universitytrained Mormon faculty, whom Cummings perceived to be too liberal in their embrace of scientific evolution and modern biblical scholarship. Cummings found strong support for his emerging anti-intellectualism in Joseph F. Smith, who, by then, had become the church's president and prophet.

25. James E. Talmage Journal, August 26, 1882, James E. Talmage Papers, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University (BYU), Provo, Utah (hereafter LTPSC).

26. Moyle, James H., Mormon Democrat: The Religious and Political Memoirs of James Henry Moyle, ed. Sessions, Gene A. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988)Google Scholar, cited in Backman, Milton H., “The Pioneer Lawyer,” in Backman, , B.Y.U. Education Week Lectures on the History of Mormon Lawyers (Provo, Utah: BYU Education Week, 1980), 2224 Google Scholar.

27. Arthur Bruce Taylor accompanied Alfales Young to the University of Michigan in 1875 and earned his LL.B. degree in 1877. On the alleged confession, see Collen, O’Donavan, “’The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Humanity’: A Revised History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840–1980,” in Multiply and Replenish: Mormon Essays on Sex and Family, ed. Corcoran, Brent (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994)Google Scholar.

28. Talmage Journal, June 17, 1882.

29. Ibid., May 4, 1884.

30. For an analysis of the fundamentalist-modernist debate in a Mormon key, see Simpson, “Mormons Study ‘Abroad,’” chaps. 4 and 5.

31. Legal pressure on Mormon polygamists and their families had been intensifying steadily since 1884, when Charles Zane, the chief justice of Utah's territorial supreme court, introduced innovations to the war on barbarism. In selecting juries, determining bonds, dealing with witnesses who would not testify, and sentencing, Zane vigorously attacked his Mormon enemies. Apostle Rudger Clawson came under arrest in 1884, and the rest of the decade saw some 1,300 Mormons arrested in the ensuing federal “raid” on Mormon polygamists. By early 1885, President Taylor and his counselor George Cannon had gone to the Mormon underground, helping order the church's affairs in secret. Taylor would remain in exile until his death in July 1887.

32. This phrase was penned by the exiled Martha Hughes Cannon, M.D., plural wife, from Paris, France in 1885. Cited in Crall, Shari Siebers, “'something More’: A Biography of Martha Hughes Cannon” (Honors thesis, Brigham Young University, 1985), 37 Google Scholar.

33. The author had to have been either Richard W. Young, the only Utah Mormon at West Point at the time, or his wife, Minerva, who could have been writing about Richard's experiences for fellow Relief Society women at home. Young was not the first Mormon to attend the prestigious military academy; Brigham Young had sent one of his own sons, Willard, there in 1871 to make a quiet but clear display of Mormon discipline, manhood, and intelligence, while acquiring practical expertise as an engineer.

34. Boy, Wandering, “College Evils,” Woman's Exponent 13, no. 15 (January 1, 1885): 118 Google Scholar; and 13, no. 19 (March 1, 1885): 147. It is no accident that the school in question, West Point, was not one of the universities or professional schools Mormons far more frequently attended. In the late nineteenth century, West Point had Protestant religious affiliations and an established student culture that could easily make a Mormon cadet feel that he was in enemy territory.

35. “College Evils,” Woman's Exponent 13, no. 15 (January 1, 1885): 118.

36. James Henry Moyle Diary, March 31, 1885, James H. Moyle Collection, Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, transcription in Moyle, James H., A View of James Henry Moyle: His Diaries and Letters, ed. Sessions, Gene A. (Salt Lake City: s.n., 1974)Google Scholar.

37. Moyle Diary, September 18, 1882.

38. This group of Mormon law students at Michigan was the first sizeable contingent of Mormons to study “abroad” together. The group included Rolapp (LL.B. 1884); Moyle, Hiram Laney, and Van Cott (LL.B. 1885); Benjamin Driggs (LL.B. 1886); William H. King (LL.B. 1887); and Evans, who enrolled for the year 1884–1885 but did not graduate. The University of Michigan, Catalogue of Graduates, Non-graduates, Officers, and Members of the Faculties, 1837–1921, ed. Sensemann, H. L. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1923)Google Scholar. Of all the students, only Moyle conceived of his studies as a form of church mission, as had been customary in Brigham Young's lifetime. Individual aspirations for a career in law were now just as likely to motivate Mormons as any desire to defend and expand the Mormon kingdom, and the University of Michigan was the school that offered them the best combination of affordability, proximity, and prestige.

39. Moyle Diary, March 8, 1884.

40. Ibid., March 26, 1884. Rolapp did much more than “keep up appearance” in his subsequent church activity. He was a member of the LDS Sunday School General Board for thirty years. “Judge Rolapp Dies on Coast,” Deseret News, January 8, 1936, JH January 8, 1936.

41. Moyle Diary, October 26, 1884.

42. Ibid., May 24, 1885. Van Cott also ended up using his training to serve the interests of Latter-day Saints as an attorney for Mormon apostle and U.S. Senator Reed Smoot. As a regent for the University of Utah, he helped John A. Widtsoe, a Mormon, assume the presidency of the school in 1916 after a bitter controversy over academic freedom had engulfed it.

43. Ibid., August 11, 1884.

44. In 1882, in his first semester at Michigan, Moyle had to contend with the argument that, if Congress left polygamy unchecked, religious freedom would logically have to extend to “heathens” who “believed in murdering or killing or sacraficing [sic] human beings as a religious duty.” Ibid., October 12, 1882. Even though Mormons were used to hearing Gentiles label polygamy as a primitive, barbaric institution— the Supreme Court had done so when it justified abridging religious freedom for polygamists in Reynolds v. United States (1879)—Moyle bristled at the association of Mormons and “heathens.” As evidence of Mormons’ “enlightened” character, he cited their Christ-like devotion and faith, which left them willing to “leave home, friends, relatives, even wives or husbands and children and father and mother and face a scorning world, and suffer martyrdom, imprisonment or anything else for their religion.” Ibid., October 12, 1882. For analysis of the importance of the Reynolds case in American legal and religious history, see Gordon, The Mormon Question, esp. chap.4.

45. Henry Rolapp to William Budge, October 21, 1883, published November 10, 1883, in the Bear Lake Democrat, JH, October 21, 1883.

46. Ibid.

47. Karl G. Maeser to John Taylor, December 8, 1886, Brigham Young University (hereafter BYU) President's Records, 1879–1892, LTPSC.

48. Maeser to Taylor, January 24, 1887, BYU President's Records. Benjamin Cluff, twenty-eight, had been serving as an instructor at the Brigham Young Academy since 1882. During his tenure at the BYA, Cluff had earned Maeser's trust as “a very faithful Latterday [sic] Saint.” Maeser told President Taylor that Cluff “possesses that firmness of character and integrity of heart which entitles him to all confidence possible, that he will maintain his integrity before God, in case you should permit him to go to some eastern College.” Maeser to Taylor, April 19, 1886, BYU President's Records. Granted that permission, Cluff received an official blessing from Taylor before departing to study civil engineering in December 1886. Benjamin Cluff, Jr., Diary, December 19, 1886, LTPSC.

49. Cluff Diary, June 16, 1889. In this case, Cluff referred to Orrice Abram Murdock, an 1890 law graduate, who apparently gave an uninspiring address at a Sunday meeting.

50. Ibid., October 21, 1888.

51. Ibid., June 30, 1889. Garrie Green van Schoonhoven studied pharmacy at Michigan beginning in 1889. He graduated in 1891. Still a teenager when he commenced his studies, Garrie was accompanied by his mother, Mary Emma, who studied homeopathic medicine. She also graduated in 1891 with her Pharmaceutical Chemistry (Ph.C.) degree, awarded after completion of a two-year course. She practiced medicine in Salt Lake City for fifteen years after graduating. She died in 1907. See Noall, Claire Wilcox, “Utah's Pioneer Women Doctors,” Improvement Era 42 (June 1939): 332–33, 372.Google Scholar

52. Ferdinand Ericksen studied law at Michigan from 1889 to 1890 but did not graduate.

53. Cluff Diary, January 7, 1890.

54. Ibid., January 12, 1890. Joseph Hart, according to Cluff, began studying law at Michigan in 1888, but Michigan alumni and nongraduate records do not corroborate Hart's enrollment.

55. The measure provided for the seizure of all church property holdings valued over $50,000; rendered illegitimate the children of polygamous households; and took away Utah women's right to vote.

56. One of my greatest frustrations with this project is that the identity of this enormously important figure has so far eluded me. The dates of her enrollment (1887) and graduation (1889) do not match any information I have gathered from university alumni records and Mormons’ private and published writings. According to university alumni records, the likeliest match, Julia A. MacDonald [Place], was an enrolled student from 1888 to 1891, but the university records say clearly that she did not graduate, while “Cactus” notes that she herself earned the M.D. in 1889. MacDonald went on to be a doctor and writer in Utah. The diary entries of “Cactus” were published in the Young Woman's Journal in 1889 and 1890.

57. “Cactus,” diary entry for September 22, 1887, published in “Leaves from the Journal of a Medical Student,” Young Woman's Journal 1, no. 8 (May 1890): 266.

58. “Cactus,” diary entry for December 21, 1887, published in “Leaves,” Young Woman's Journal 1, no. 12 (September 1890): 474.

59. Hannah Sorenson, “Letters to the Young Women of Zion. From a Graduated Obstetrician,” Young Woman's Journal 2, no. 3 (December 1890): 142.

60. Sorenson, , “Letters to the Young Women of Zion,” Young Woman's Journal 1, no. 12 (September 1890): 471 Google Scholar.

61. Sorenson, , “Letters to the Young Women of Zion,” Young Woman's Journal 2, no. 2 (November 1890): 91 Google Scholar; 2, no. 4 (January 1891): 188; and 2, no. 3 (December 1890): 141.

62. “Cactus,” “Hygiene of Student Life,” Young Woman's Journal 1, no. 2 (November 1889): 59.

63. Cluff's father-in-law and uncle, respectively.

64. Maeser to Cluff, March 17, 1889, BYU President's Records.

65. Ibid.

66. Maeser to Cluff, May 16, 1889, BYU President's Records. Emphasis mine.

67. Maeser told Cluff, “It is the intention of President Woodruff and his bretheren [sic] of the General Authorities to avail themselves of the best educational talent among the Latterday [sic] Saints that is willing to cooperate with us in the line indicated, that our churchschool-service [sic] may reach a standard by and by worthy of Zion's destiny.” Maeser to Cluff, June 7, 1889, BYU President's Records. Historian Thomas G. Alexander has noted that the three “colleges” were still “basically high schools” through the end of the nineteenth century, even though the BYA and the BYC were offering some college degrees. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition, 157.

68. Maeser to Woodruff, June 12, 1889, BYU President's Records.

69. Cluff to Maeser, April 21, 1890, BYU President's Records.

70. Since Tanner had married his three wives before the 1890 Manifesto, he was not subject to prosecution. Only Tanner's third wife, Josephine Snow Tanner, would accompany him all the way to Cambridge. Ward, Margery W., A Life Divided: The Biography of Joseph Marion Tanner (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1980), 2829 Google Scholar.

71. The others were Joseph Jenson, George Swendsen, Moses Davis, and George F. Thatcher. Widtsoe and Thomas were two of the first Mormons to earn the Ph.D. Both served as president of the University of Utah, and Widtsoe would become an apostle and head of the church's educational system.

72. Maeser to Woodruff, March 21, 1891, BYU President's Records.

73. Despite Tanner's departure, the BYC still had its best years ahead of it during the administrations of W. J. Kerr (1894–1900) and J. H. Linford (1900–1913). Garr, Arnold K., “A History of Brigham Young College, Logan, Utah” (M.A. thesis, Utah State University, 1973), 3234 Google Scholar.

74. Jennie Tanner to Daniel Harrington, December 12, 1890, Daniel Harrington Papers, LTPSC. By “another” two-year period of separation, Jennie alluded to a previous separation while Marion proselytized. As one can imagine, not every sentiment of Tanner's wives was this gracious and self-denying. On the occasion of Marion's third marriage, to Josephine Snow, Marion's second wife, Annie Clark Tanner, wrote, “So, within six months of my wedding day [December 27, 1883], he married again and was off to Europe. I had not seen the third wife, but I did wonder wherein I lacked that so soon he should take another wife. Then I remembered the doctrine of the Trinity as taught by the Church—that if one wanted to attain the very pinnacle of glory in the next world there must be, at least, three wives.” Tanner, Annie Clark, A Mormon Mother, An Autobiography (Salt Lake City: Tanner Trust Fund, 1973), 6364 Google Scholar, cited in Ward, A Life Divided, 18–19.

75. Widtsoe, John A., In a Sunlit Land: The Autobiography of John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1952), 28 Google Scholar.

76. Ibid., 37.

77. For a more detailed analysis of Eliot's reforms, see Marsden, The Soul of the American University, 186–89. A few years later, a Mormon student at Stanford, John C. Swenson, would cite similar reasons for feeling so welcome and respected at Stanford. The university's president, David Starr Jordan, valorized unrestrained scientific inquiry, and the institution's promotion of Christianity, though sincere and visible in its prominent chapel, was subsumed into a broader pursuit of truth and morality. Swenson welcomed the change. “The life at Stanford,” he later reflected, “was strangely different from the life at the Brigham Young Academy [where Swenson had studied and taught previously]. It was free and unconventional—no outward evidence of any religious life; but after I had been there two years, I came to feel that underneath it was deeply and genuinely spiritual.” Swenson also enjoyed Stanford's curricular freedom, evidence of President Jordan's conviction “that the average student was mature enough and intelligent enough to know what he wanted.” Swenson, John C., Autobiography of John Canute Swenson (Ogden, Utah: s.n., 1956), 20, LTPSCGoogle Scholar. Swenson would become an extraordinarily thoughtful and articulate member of the BYU faculty, weathering periodic storms of anti-intellectualism as he spent the early twentieth century training generations of Mormon scholars in economics and sociology.

78. Widtsoe, In a Sunlit Land, 34.

79. Erickson, Joseph Glen, “The Life and Educational Contributions of Dr. George Thomas” (M.S. thesis, University of Utah, 1954), 13 Google Scholar.

80. Ibid.

81. Eliot's ultimate destination was California, but he made time for a short stay in Utah. The LDS General Board of Education received Eliot as its guest, inviting him to speak to a public assembly in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. During his stay in Salt Lake City, Eliot met with LDS president Wilford Woodruff; addressed audiences of students at the Fourteenth Ward School and the University of Utah; and took a short train ride, courtesy of the General Board, to see the Great Salt Lake. “President Eliot Entertained,” Deseret Evening News, March 17, 1892, JH, March 17, 1892.

82. “President Eliot Replies,” Deseret Evening News, March 26, 1892, JH, March 26, 1892.

83. Ibid.

84. San Francisco Call article, March 26, 1892, reprinted in “President Eliot's Visit,” Deseret Evening News, March 29, 1892, JH, March 26, 1892.

85. Ibid.

86. Associated Press dispatch from Boston, March 25, 1892, printed in “President Eliot's Visit,” Deseret Evening News, March 29, 1892, JH, March 26, 1892.

87. The summer schools signified the increasing importance of teacher training, or “normal” school work, at the BYA. With the (forced) emergence of a public school system in 1890, Utah's teaching corps had seen a dramatic influx of non-Mormons, many of them trained outside Utah. In the Salt Lake City public schools in 1890, 88 percent of teachers had been trained outside Utah. The rate fluctuated dramatically throughout the decade, however, so that, by 1894, only half of the teachers had been trained outside Utah. Buchanan, Frederick S., Culture Clash and Accommodation: Public Schooling in Salt Lake City, 1890–1994 (Salt Lake City: Smith Research Associates with Signature Books, 1996), 3839 Google Scholar.

88. Swenson, “Autobiography,” 12–13.

89. “Educational Ideas,” Boston Transcript, August 10, 1892, reprinted in the Deseret Evening News, August 12, 1892, JH, August 10, 1892.

90. “Col. Parker's Lecture,” Deseret Evening News, August 8, 1892, JH, August 7, 1892.

91. “Provo Teachers’ Institute,” Deseret Evening News, August 15, 1892, JH, August 15, 1892.

92. “B.Y. Summer School,” Deseret Evening News, August 8, 1893, JH, August 7, 1893.

93. “Provo Summer School,” Deseret Evening News, August 7, 1894, JH, August 6, 1894.

94. “Pedagogical History of the Brigham Young University Class of 1893” (typescript, 1942), LTPSC. Another member of the class, Clinton D. Ray, enrolled at Stanford in the mid-1890s, but I have found no evidence that he graduated. Stanford Alumni|Association, Stanford Alumni, 1891–1955 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University, 1956)Google Scholar. George H. Brimhall also earned the B.Pd. in 1893. Brimhall would serve as BYU president from 1903 to 1921. A key administrator at the BYA for much of the 1890s, he never got the chance to pursue university training outside Utah. His resulting ambivalence about modern scholarship left a lasting mark on BYU, especially during a 1911 crisis over evolution and biblical criticism, which led to the firing of a number of faculty with advanced degrees from elite American universities.

95. Cluff left the BYA in the care of his trusted colleagues George Brimhall and Joseph Keeler, with whom he regularly corresponded. Cluff continued some of the mathematical studies he had undertaken as an undergraduate, but he concentrated most of his attention in the field of education, taking general psychology, physiological psychology, school supervision, and “general pedagogics.” Benjamin Cluff to George Brimhall, October 9, 1893, Benjamin Cluff, Jr., BYU President's Records (1893–1903), LTPSC.

96. Ibid.

97. Benjamin Cluff, address to the students of the Brigham Young Academy, December 16, 1893. Enclosed in undated letter to Brimhall, BYU President's Records.

98. Cluff to Brimhall, November 5, 1893, BYU President's Records. To promote “self culture” among his faculty, Cluff planned to adopt Michigan's furlough policy, which granted faculty a year of paid leave on a rotating basis. He hoped that Brimhall and Keeler would be the first to take advantage, using the opportunity to study somewhere in the east for a year or more, if possible. Although Cluff successfully introduced sabbatical leaves in the 1890s, they would not become regular at BYU until the 1920s. For Cluff, such a policy would instill a sense of pride and professionalism in the faculty, allowing the academy “to take her proper position among the schools of the United States” in just “a few years.” Cluff to Brimhall and Joseph Keeler, November 12, 1893, BYU President's Records.

99. Cluff Diary, December 25, 1894. Cluff's tour of normal schools and universities took him from Michigan through Toronto, upstate New York, Boston, New York City, and Chicago before he finally returned to Utah.

100. Cluff to Brimhall, February 27, 1894, BYU President's Records.

101. Over the course of their conversation, William James gave Cluff the opportunity of a Mormon lifetime. James, who less than a decade later would deliver his massively influential lectures on “the varieties of religious experience,” asked Cluff to describe Joseph Smith's first revelatory experience. Cluff recalled the exchange: “After I had [offered an account of the vision], a student—post-graduate—asked the Doctor how he would explain the vision scientifically. James replied[,] ‘On the theory of hallucination.’ ‘Joseph Smith had an hallucination.’ He then went on to say that if others had seen the angel or the plates it would have been different. I corrected him by informing him that others, three witnesses had seen the angel and the plates and eight had seen the plates. ‘That changes it then.’ The Dr[.] wanted a set of our books from which he could read up on this subject. I wrote to the [First] presidency and they kindly sent him a full set of works.” Cluff Diary, December 25, 1894. Cluff's “correction” of Dr. James could have amounted to an unprecedented proselytizing success for the church, since James apparently conceded that Smith's vision involved something objectively verifiable by witnesses, something manifest outside Smith's interior, subjective consciousness. Yet, in The Varieties, James's brief treatment of Joseph Smith varied little from his original estimation. James judged Smith's first vision to have been “predominantly sensorial,” i.e., on the order of a private hallucination. James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (New York: Modern Library, 1902; 1994 Modern Library ed., 1994), 525 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

102. Maeser to Wilford Woodruff, December 29, 1894, BYU President's Records.

103. Lyman, Richard, “The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,” Juvenile Instructor 29, no. 14 (July 15, 1894): 427 Google Scholar.

104. Ibid., 428. Joseph Smith had been quite clear that the actual Garden of Eden had been closer to Independence, Missouri.

105. Lyman, Richard, “My College Days,” Contributor 17, no. 1 (November 1895): 56 Google Scholar.

106. Lyman, Richard, “My College Days,” Contributor 17, no. 31 (January 1896): 138 Google Scholar. After Angell's warm welcome, Lyman felt secure and confident enough to take his rightful place among his non-Mormon classmates, as Henry Rolapp and James Henry Moyle had done a decade earlier. Like them, he would also be a high achiever; he went on to be elected president of the university's class of 1895 and an apostle in the church. Hickman, Josiah, “Journal of J. E. Hickman,” October 27, 1894, transcript at (accessed August 19, 2010)Google Scholar.

107. Anonymous, “Cornell University,” Juvenile Instructor 29, no. 8 (April 15, 1894): 236 Google Scholar; Lyman, Richard, “The University of Michigan,” Juvenile Instructor 29, no. 14 (July 15, 1894): 426 Google Scholar; Thomas, Arthur, “Harvard College,” Juvenile Instructor 29, no. 17 (September 1, 1894): 531 Google Scholar.

108. Cannon, Lewis T., “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” Juvenile Instructor 29, no. 15 (August 1, 1894): 468 Google Scholar.

109. Lyman, , “The University of Michigan,” Juvenile Instructor 29, no. 9 (May 1, 1894): 265 Google Scholar.

110. Shipp, Ellis Reynolds, “Woman's Progress,” Woman's Exponent 21, no. 13 (January 1, 1893): 102 Google Scholar. Articles in the men's periodicals also highlighted opportunities for Mormon women to study abroad. Lewis T. Cannon took care to note that M.I.T. was a co-educational institution, and the Instructor's piece on Cornell made the same point. Cannon, “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” 469; Anonymous, “Cornell University,” 235.

111. Shipp, “Woman's Progress,” 102.

112. Both Martha and Angus could have won, since they were vying for a number of available seats.

113. Crall, “'something More,’” 32.

114. “A Training School for Nurses,” Woman's Exponent 17, no. 15 (January 1, 1889): 117.

115. Swenson to Cluff, February 7, 1896, BYU President's Records.

116. The Simpsons, “Hurricane Neddy,” Season 8, Episode 8, December 29, 1996.

117. President Joseph F. Smith warned of a “theological scholastic aristocracy” in “Philosophy and Church Schools,” Juvenile Instructor 46, no. 4 (April 1911): 209.

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877–1896
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877–1896
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

The Death of Mormon Separatism in American Universities, 1877–1896
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *