Forgotten Kingdom: The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847-1896

It can never be said that Will Bagley, editor of a distinguished series on the American West, and David L. Bigler, author of Forgotten Kingdom: The Mormon Theocracy in the American West, 1847–1896, are guilty of false advertising. In Bagley’s preface to Forgotten Kingdom, he tells us (or warns us—in the case of Latter-day Saint readers) that Bigler is writing from an American rather than an LDS perspective. Bagley claims that the book is original (likely referring to some of Bigler’s eye-popping conclusions) and that it will challenge the cherished beliefs of some readers (likely referring to LDS readers).

In his introduction, Bigler further elaborates on these claims. Unfairly, he implies that Mormons in the West have ended up being the proverbial quintessential Americans, while the true patriots, the gentile appointees and their friends, who busted their backsides to inculcate American principles in a people hopelessly mired in an anti-Union theocracy, have largely been forgotten. In rectifying this injustice, Bigler hopes to help Gentiles who have recently moved to Mormon country better understand how Latter-day Saints, admittedly decent and hardworking but sometimes suspicious and exclusive, came to be what they are. Claiming more than he should, Bigler notes that his is the only volume around “that looks at the theocratic period . . . as a whole in such a balanced way that a newcomer from Peoria . . . might better understand the state [of Utah] and how it became the way it is.”

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