restricted access Joseph B. Keeler, Print Culture,and the Modernization of Mormonism, 1885–1918
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The years flanking the start of the twentieth century comprised a time of transition for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Seventy years old in 1900, the Church and the larger Mormon society in which it resided still displayed much of their traditional character. Although some members congregated in urban densities that edged out along the Wasatch Front from Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital and the Church’s headquarters, most still lived in small, relatively self-contained agricultural communities in the Great Basin’s interior; wherever they lived, however, they expected charismatic leaders to continue organizing the Church, directing devotional life, and keeping the federal government at arm’s length. That formula had held sway during the Saints’ halfcentury -long occupation of the intermountain West, allowing a unique intermixing of civil and ecclesiastical institutions to develop. Change was in the wind, however, and indeed had been for decades. Increasing contacts with the gentile (non-Mormon) world had resulted in Utah’s increasing implication in national economic and political networks. Brigham Young, who directed the migration to Utah in 1846–47 and led the Church until his death thirty years later, had 105 > Joseph B. Keeler, Print Culture, and the Modernization of Mormonism, 1885–1918  .  steered the economy in the direction of Mormons’ self-sufficiency, preferring short-haul exchange to national trade, stressing local, cooperative manufacturing over mining (which in California and Nevada had quickly attracted outside interests), and accepting commercial banking only grudgingly. Completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 had, however, begun Utah’s integration into American capitalism, a process well along by the 1880s.1 The long struggle to obtain Utah’s statehood had culminated successfully in 1896, but only after Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) leaders agreed to abandon their unique marriage system and extricate the Church from its long-standing embrace of the civil state. Latter-day Saints were once again full-fledged citizens of the United States, but any lingering sense they might have entertained that old gentile enmities had died and that they could continue to live without overmuch federal surveillance were dashed by the uproar over seating Reed Smoot, a Mormon Apostle, to the United States Senate . As Kathleen Flake has suggested, the public hearings that exercised the Upper House and many Americans between 1903 and 1907 gave the American people a fuller understanding of Mormonism and left no doubt among the faithful that the federal government would regulate and, if necessary, defang any religious group it deemed un-American.2 All of these changes worked their influence on Temple Square. As Utah’s gentile population increased, free markets took hold, and the government in Washington struck down Mormon legal and matrimonial arrangements , the Church moved to bring its internal workings in line with the new circumstances, developing a more rationalized bureaucracy , systematizing its internal workings (including its theology), and altering its relationship to the civil state. Joseph Keeler played an important role in these changes. Although virtually unknown to non-Mormon scholars, Keeler, whose life spanned the transitional era, helped transform the Church from a body bent on building the Kingdom of Zion in relative isolation to a dynamic, corporate religious institution that, by the end of the twentieth century, had established itself internationally. His writings, emblematic of a shift in Mormon print culture noteworthy in itself, facilitated the rationalization of the LDS Church. Joseph B. Keeler (1855–1935): An Overview of His Life Keeler’s roots thrust deep into the soil of Mormon historical experience. His father, Daniel, a first-generation convert born in New Jersey, 106  .  apprenticed as a stonemason in Philadelphia and worked in various places along the East Coast, including New York City, where he joined the Church in March 1840. That summer, he journeyed to western Illinois , joining those Saints building the city of Nauvoo. Daniel laid stone for a number of Mormon buildings, including the Nauvoo Temple, prior to the Mormon Exodus. Keeler’s mother, Ann, joined the Church in New Jersey following her migration from Lancashire, England. Both Keeler’s parents had married, raised children, and been widowed before finding each other.3 Joseph, their first child, was born in Salt Lake City on 8 September 1855. His given names, Joseph Brigham, paid tribute to the Church’s past and present prophets, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. During the Utah War of 1857–58, when U.S. troops threatened Salt Lake City, the Keelers abandoned the capital...


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