All posts by thomas

Story Maps & Content Update

This week I worked on uploading more of our content to the site, filling out the Secession overview page, the Leaders of the Church page, Who are the Mormons? page, updating imagery and trying to organize the website so things were in a more sensible order.

I also worked on the Story Maps – which I got to display as large as I would like in the site. In order to do that, I had to use the embed code from my story, not from the map specifically, on the site (The way it divides these two aspects is a little frustrating and makes navigation take a few more steps on the site, but once you get used to it it is not too bad). I uploaded their basic migratory pattern and the projected State of Deseret as another tap on the Story Map. A few more tabs – on battles and such – will be uploaded before long. The site itself, when you’re first making a map, will walk you through a short questionnaire to tell you which map is the best pick. That was useful because their storymap descriptions weren’t the best. One important distinction is that I’m using storymaps, not storymap, which are two different sites that do really similar things.

Secondary Sources for Website


“Mormon Pioneer; The 1846 Trek”.  National Parks Service.  Accessed 5 March 2017.


“Mormon Pioneer; History and Culture”.  National Parks Service. Accessed 5 March 2017.

“Mormon Trail History”.  Utah Travel Industry.  Accessed 4 March 2017. mormon/pioneer-trail-history

Stack, Peggy Fletcher.  “This is the place for facts you might not know about Mormon pioneers”.  Salt Lake Tribune.  24 July 2014. /sltrib/news/ 58216230-78 /mormon-pioneers-wagon-1847.html.csp.

“Timeline: the Early HIstory of the Mormons”.  PBS.  30 April 2007. /mormons/timeline/timeline2.html

Krakauer, Jon. 2003. Under the banner of heaven: a story of violent faith. New York: Doubleday.

Taylor, Philip A. M. Expectations westward: the Mormons and the emigration of their British converts in the nineteenth century. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966.

Toney, Michael B., Carol McKewen Stinner, and Stephan Kan. “Mormon and Nonmormon Migration in and out of Utah.” Review of Religious Research 25, no. 2 (1983): 114-26. doi:10.2307/3511489.

Belk, Russell W. “Moving Possessions: An Analysis Based on Personal Documents from the 1847-1869 Mormon Migration.” Journal of Consumer Research 19, no. 3 (1992): 339-61.

Taysom, Stephen C. “”There Is Always a Way of Escape”: Continuity and Reconstitution in Nineteenth-Century Mormon Boundary Maintenance Strategies.” The Western Historical Quarterly 37, no. 2 (2006): 183-206. doi:10.2307/25443331.


Duerr discusses Scottish nationalism and secessionism, a topic of importance considering the recent secession referendum of 2014. The UK has an interesting makeup in terms of identities – a makeup Duerr refers to as a multinational state – because many individuals identify as both Scottish and British, and do not find issue with doing so.

I actually read some of my classmate’s responses before doing this reading, and though Maria explained seemingly contradictory identities really well through the idea of hierarchical identities (with the example of Jewish ethnicity on her passport despite being born in the Russian federation and baptized into Orthodox Christianity). For the same reason, individuals can identify as Scottish and British. This dual identity helps understand why many members of the SNP do not support independence, but only want greater autonomy. They maintain their Britishness as a significant part of their identity, but have shifted their Scottish identity to a position of greater importance in their personal hierarchy.

The SNP is portrayed as postmodernist, placing a focus on policy rather than territory or identity. The process of creating a national identity separate from ethnicity is difficult – but in many ways very necessary – in a globalized world. Scotland has an increasing (though still small) number of citizens who are ethnic minorities and there is obvious concern that a nationalist movement, no matter how civic it now claims to be, may still be inherently driven by ethnic concerns. However, examination of SNP issues did show that the focus tends to be on attempts to achieve greater political autonomy and less on issues tied to ethnic identity (like language, culture, etc.).

Given how high support was for independence – 45% of the referendum vote – there’s concern whether further steps towards greater political autonomy will be enough, or if they are simply a long, slow road to full secession. Eventually, it comes down to how individuals in Scotland identify – whether as fully Scottish or British, or as Scottish and British – and how they prioritize their different civil identities.

Madison & Eben Contract Draft


The goal of our project is to create a physical portrayal of the Latter Day Saint secession from the United States Government.  Although this part of history is well known to most Utah residents, it is new or unfamiliar to others in the United States.  We hope to create a user friendly and aesthetically pleasing website to educate general public on the secessionist movement of the LDS.

Our project will include real photos and journal entries from the pioneers fleeing the persecution of the East and early settlements of pioneers in Utah.  Our website will include a timeline of the Mormon secessionism from the United States Government as well as a map for the viewers to follow exactly when and where the Mormon settlers settled or came into conflict with the US government or other US citizens.



  • March 13: Visit to Mountain Meadows Massacre


  • March 17: Visit to Southern Utah University Archives


  • March 27: We will publish a rough start of our website


  • April 24: Final website published




-Timeline Tool

-Mapping Tool (possibly MyMaps)

-Photoshop CS


-SUU Archives



Madison will create the timeline from the start of LDS religion to the arrival in Utah.  She will emphasis the major events that led to secession.

Eben will create the map for website visitors to view the progression of LDS pioneers from Illinois to Utah. Each important stop they made on the way will have a marker and information, as well as any relevant imagery.
We will each be responsible for finding at least 5 primary resources to contribute to our final website.

Lake Wobegon Days – Protestant

Keillor’s account is an immensely entertaining read, not surprising considering he’s the mind behind the genius A Prairie Home Companion. Lake Wobegon Days is his novelization of several parts of the radio show, written more like a series of short stories with re-occurring characters than as a cohesive narrative. The piece satirizes secessionist movements in religious groups, starting with the secession of twenty-one gentlemen who left the Anglican Church in 1865 and founded the Sanctified Brethren, which then began to immediately break up into more and more, smaller and smaller denominations. The church members do not believe in any sort of hierarchy, so any individual has the chance to proclaim revealed truth. Such a structure gives way to trouble when different individuals have different ideas of how the Church should be run and its constituents behave.

The reasons for the severances in the Church are ludicrously minor – can women wear pants, should you take hot or cold baths, when can you listen to the radio, etc. Even after the reasons vanished – the speaker’s family started taking hot baths after all – the different groups would refuse to come to terms with each other. There was even chance of a division within their own family, as his two uncles disagreed intensely on whether or not speaking in tongues was still a blessing from the Holy Spirit present in the world today.

Even though it’s written to be humorous, the situation illustrates a few points about some of the reasons behind religious. The fact that the faith doesn’t have a set hierarchy of officials who have special access to divine knowledge definitely makes it more likely that there will be inter-faith turmoil, as any individual could claim to have greater or more true divine revelation and acquire followers. This individual and his followers would see themselves as the only true adherents to the original church – they are staying true to the path while the others diverge.  It is secession seen as preservation instead of divergence.

The fact that individuals are willing to split with their brethren over things that seem so intensely minor, such as the proper temperature of one’s bath, makes more sense when considering that for these individuals, even the smallest detail of your life can affect the status of your eternal existence. Running a bath risks the soul.

Thus, a lack of organized hierarchy and the eternity-affecting importance given to even the smallest interpretations of Scripture creates a perfect situation for religious division. Each individual believes he has access to the truth that will save everyone he knows, but they must follow it exactly. Obviously, religious divisions happen in groups with hierarchies (often as a response to them), and not every religious group divides over minutiae, but it’s a funny and astute look at how such splits take place.


Jason Sorens explores the nature of secession and various historical secessionist movements in his piece. He pays particular attention to establishing what the contributing factors that cause a group to seek total secession – rather than improving status with the majority or higher levels of self-governing autonomy within the existing state.

There are a variety of standards which must be met by a group in order for secession to even become a possibility. The most important are a shared cultural identity and territorial proximity. Cultural identity – which can be civic, religious, ethnic, etc. – is required to actually create a group and ensure it has common interests it feels are not being met by the present political system. Territorial proximity is needed because there must be a physical space  for purposes of political and economic organization after the separation takes place. Physically disparate groups can still have a shared cultural identity, but their needs will differ as they will exist in differing political and economic situations. (Though I think it’s important to point out some of these groups may seek to leave the lands they occupy and congregate in a single territory in order to establish a single state, such as Zionists, even though their migration would be a cultural, not a secessionist, one.)

Sorens explores the economic and political factors of secessionist movements and the various strategies they use to get their needs met, but essentially it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. Sorens points out that the minority is often unable to trust the actions of the majority, and the majority is often unwilling to commit to lasting compromises. The fact that many nations do not guarantee the right to secede to the populace (or do not guarantee such attempts will be met with violence) is more likely to promote secessionist movements – minorities who cannot legally secede do not feel like they have a final option, or ultimate bargaining chip, to use with the majority (for whom it is economically beneficial for the minority to not divide the state). If greater in-state autonomy is a truly viable option, achieving that status will typically prevent the minority group from seeking further separation.

Sometimes it is economically beneficial to secede – such as in cases where the minority is paying more into the state fiscally then they are receiving in services. In other cases, detrimental economic effects are mitigated by the newly-independent’s state to maintain trade relations in an increasingly globalized world. Even in cases where there will be economic turmoil following a secession, sometimes the minority group will decide that the cultural benefits – typically expression and maintenance – are more important than economic security.

This excerpt was fascinating. Honestly, I had never given much thought to why secession happens in a more general sense before this point. I definitely believe that groups should have the right to secede from their nation, though I had never thought that such a right could actually be a preventative measure against such actions – it seemed simply part of the right to self-determination. The distinctions Sorens made between ethnic and civic common identities in nations is valuable not only in the context of secession but in understanding many political actions within different nations. It’s understandable that majority powers would be disinclined to allow for the right to secede, but I believe a better cost-benefit analysis needs to happen on the part of such decision makers – the U.S.’ attempts to prevent secession were historically disastrous, fiscally and in terms of human life.

Introduction – Eben Lee Thomas

Hello! My name is Eben Lee Thomas and I’m a senior history major at Southern Utah University. My academic focus tends to be on the ancient world (particularly Egypt and Greece), so I’m excited for the opportunity to do something more modern. I really enjoy doing research and as I work in IT on campus I’m very comfortable with the technological side of things.