Beginning in the year 1846, the Mormons embarked on a search for religious freedom and peace. Up until then, the new religion- started in 1830- was headquartered out of Nauvoo, Illinois. Fleeing persecution and hostility, groups of Mormons departed towards the West, hoping to find a home they could be accepted in.

“There is no parallel in the world’s history to this migration from Nauvoo. The exodus from Egypt was from a heathen land, the land of Canaan. The pilgrim fathers in flying to America came from a bigoted and despotic people — a people making few pretensions to civil or religious liberty. But this exodus was from a people that were civilized and claimed to have all the rights of enjoying the religious freedom guaranteed to them by the fathers of their country.” – J. Fish

The Mormons were willing to secede from the U.S. itself in order to achieve a level of true religious freedom they did not feel they had access to. They swore that the government would never be able to stop them from practicing plural marriage, an aspect of their faith they considered absolutely central. But after the Utah territory was bought by the U.S., and facing drastic financial and security difficulties, the Mormons relented. Their fourth president released a letter disavowing plural marriage and they were granted statehood. They had left the bounds of the United States for their own safety, and then recognized that in order to ever be politically or financially secure they would have to rejoin it, even at the cost of some of their core beliefs.


Secession, for the purposes of this project, is understood as “the action of withdrawing formally from membership of a federation or body, especially a political state.”, as opposed to separatist movements, which can be related to secession but simply seek greater autonomy from the controlling body instead of a full withdrawal.