A Moral Blight

Justin B. has excerpted some interesting information from a 1971 article on slavery in the Utah territory during the 1850s (i.e. before the Civil War and the 1862 federal abolition of slavery). The article is Dennis L. Lythgoe, “Negro Slavery in Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly vol. 39.1 (Winter 1971), p. 43.

I tried to leave a comment over there but there is a problem with Justin’s comment feature. I am always very interested in Justin’s posts and his excerpts of research re Mormon history. At the same time, I am always slightly nervous since I don’t know what Justin’s agenda is. On the one hand, he seems merely interested as a historian in the Church; on the other hand, the subject matter of his posts is quite often very controversial and topics that cannot avoid portraying the Church in a bad light.

As to slavery in the Utah territory I would just say that the very thought of slavery makes me sick. I’m glad that this people largely rejected slavery and that only a very few (mostly converts from the deep South) brought it here. The fact, however, that no law was passed expressely prohibiting it should not be an indictment of the Church or this entire people or our religion. The Church of those days existed in the cultural setting of those days. In many aspects the doctrines led the Church’s adherents to be more enlightened than other nineteenth-century Americans. In other respects, the members were just as blind; apparently, slavery was one of those areas to some members of the day.

4 Responses to A Moral Blight

  1. Anonymous says:

    Agreed that slavory is a great human tragedy.

    I think that Justin is simply interested in the truth. He does an excellent job. 

    Posted by J. Stapley

  2. Anonymous says:

    Joseph clearly preached against slavery so if a few converts ignored him that is a blight on them and not on the church in general.

    I think J. is right about Justin — just going for accuracy even when it is uncomfortable. Besides every marketer knows controversy sells (maybe I should add more controversy to my blog…)

    PS — I like J’s typo “slavory”. Rhymes with unsavory. 

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

  3. Anonymous says:

    John, You are right to point out that in many ways 19th century LDS were just the same as 19th century Americans in general, with all that that entailed. I don’t judge them as we are all products of our time. One wonders what ideas and practices we have today that 22nd century LDS will find distasteful! Don’t judge us too harshly, O you future Saints! 

    Posted by Ronan

  4. Anonymous says:


    If this SL Tribune article is accurate, slavery was only legal in the Utah Territory between 1852 and 1862. Furthermore, there were very few slaves, perhaps under a hundred, and those that were in the Utah territory apparently enjoyed a relatively greater status as “colored servants” than their southern counterparts. 

    Posted by Pete

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