Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement

Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement

by Thomas Carter


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For Mormons, the second coming of Christ and the subsequent millennium will arrive only when the earth has been perfected through the building of a model world called Zion. Throughout the nineteenth century the Latter-day Saints followed this vision, creating a material world—first in Missouri and Illinois but most importantly and permanently in Utah and surrounding western states—that serves as a foundation for understanding their concept of an ideal universe.

Building Zion is, in essence, the biography of the cultural landscape of western LDS settlements. Through the physical forms Zion assumed, it tells the life story of a set of Mormon communities—how they were conceived and constructed and inhabited—and what this material manifestation of Zion reveals about what it meant to be a Mormon in the nineteenth century. Focusing on a network of small towns in Utah, Thomas Carter explores the key elements of the Mormon cultural landscape: town planning, residences (including polygamous houses), stores and other nonreligious buildings, meetinghouses, and temples. Zion, we see, is an evolving entity, reflecting the church’s shift from group-oriented millenarian goals to more individualized endeavors centered on personal salvation and exaltation.

Building Zion demonstrates how this cultural landscape draws its singularity from a unique blending of sacred and secular spaces, a division that characterized the Mormon material world in the late nineteenth century and continues to do so today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780816689576
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication date: 03/17/2015
Series: Architecture, Landscape and Amer Culture Series
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Thomas Carter is emeritus professor of architectural history in the University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning. He is coauthor of Utah’s Historic Architecture, 1847–1940: A Guide and Invitation to Vernacular Architecture: A Guide to the Study of Ordinary Buildings and Landscapes.

Table of Contents


Note on Illustrations

Introduction: A Landscape of Difference

1. Faith and Works: A Historical Framework
2. The Settlement Matrix: Towns and Temples
3. According to Need: Family Stewardships and the Distribution of Resources
4. Frontier Fashion: Domestic Architecture and Individual Display
5. Polygamy and Patriarchy: Women in the Landscape
6. Business as Usual: The Americanization of the Mormon Main Street
7. Meetinghouses: The Search for Mormon Identity
8. Mansion on the Hill: The Temple as Ritual Space

Conclusion: The Enduring Zion


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