Date of Degree

9-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Political Science

Advisor(s)

Corey Robin

Committee Members

Uday Mehta

Bryan Turner

Subject Categories

American Politics | Political Theory

Keywords

Joseph Smith, Theocracy, Mormonism, American Religion, American Political Thought, Political Theory

Abstract

The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith established the quintessentially “American religion” according to religious critics like Harold Bloom, perhaps the last major religion to emerge in the Western world. Founded during the rise of Jacksonian Democracy, early Mormonism espoused many populist and egalitarian tenets, yet behind Smith’s theology of an ever more exalted path to individual godhood lay an extraordinary politics demanding a new, theocratic hierarchy. This dissertation will discuss how Smith’s apocalypticism and exceptional politics of continual revelation confronted a pluralistic Protestant society with the superseding aim of creating a uniquely American kingdom. As a political theorist, Smith’s apocalyptic theology challenges liberal pluralism both in its inception (by emerging out of pluralism itself from a seemingly integrated populace), through prizing unremitting revelation over reason in political discourse, and in the isolating peculiarity of its theocratic tenets. The intensity of these theocratic challenges illustrates that liberal theories have misperceived the true, protean nature of American theocracy and how best to engage it.

This dissertation will follow the tradition of scholars like Fawn Brodie, Marvin Hill, and Richard Bushman in referring to Joseph Smith as “Joseph,” and the primary focus herein will be on his political theology and the resulting religious movement of his time.

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