History of Mormons: APUSH Topics to Study for Test Day

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. American Idol winner David Archuleta. The Killers front man Brandon Flowers. Grammy winner Lindsey Stirling. Dancing with the Stars pro Chelsie Hightower. What do these people have in common? They are practicing Mormons, or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Did you know that this religion was founded in America? Here are some key facts to prepare for Mormons APUSH exam questions.

Who are the Mormons?

The Mormons are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There are Mormons in over 150 countries across the world today. However, the religion started in New York in the 1800s. Founded by Joseph Smith during the Second Great Awakening, members believe that they belong to the restored church created by Jesus Christ.

In the early Mormon history, members were often persecuted because they didn’t keep slaves, they practiced polygamy, and they were outsiders for their religious beliefs. Many people also worried about the Mormons’ political power due to their cooperative community environment.

Because of this persecution, the Mormons migrated from New York to Ohio to Illinois. Then, they made the trek out west to the Salt Lake Valley.

Why is the history of Mormons important to American history?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only new religious tradition founded in 19th century America.

It’s also one of the fastest growing world religions. In 1845, there were 40,000 members. By 1870, there were 120,000 members. Fast forward to 2017, there are 15.8 million members around the world. Half of these members reside in America.

The Mormons also migrated to Utah, which became the 45th state of the United States of America in 1896.

What are some important historical figures and events that might come up in Mormons APUSH questions?

Key terms and people

  • Mormon: The name given to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It started out as a derogatory nickname from the Book of Mormon. Now, it’s a nickname commonly used by members and non-members.
  • Joseph Smith: As the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he served as the first prophet-leader in this dispensation. According to his accounts, he saw God and Jesus Christ. He also saw the angel Moroni, who led him to golden plates. Through divine revelation, he translated these plates into the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith led the Mormons until he was martyred by an angry mob on June 27, 1844.
  • Brigham Young: Brigham Young was Joseph Smith’s successor as the prophet and leader of the Mormon church. He led members west to the Rocky Mountains and served as the governor of the territory. Also, he led the efforts in expanding the telegraph and railroad lines, and founded BYU and the University of Deseret (now known as the University of Utah).
  • Polygamist: Select members of the Mormon church practiced polygamy from about 1847-1890. A man who practiced polygamy would have multiple wives.


Grandin Building-Mormons APUSH-magoosh

Photo of the Book of Mormon Historical Publication site by JonRidinger

Key years

  • Spring 1820: Joseph Smith’s first vision
  • March 1830: The Book of Mormon first published
  • April 6, 1830: Church organized
  • June 27, 1844: Joseph Smith martyred
  • 1847-1869: Mormons migrate to Utah


Key events

  • First Vision: In the Spring of 1820, Joseph Smith went to a grove of trees in Palmyra, New York. He said that he knelt to pray and was visited by God and Jesus Christ, who instructed him to restore the church Jesus Christ founded when he lived on the earth.
  • The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: After being visited by the angel Moroni on September 22-23, 1823, Joseph Smith learned about golden plates hidden in the Hill Cumorah in New York. He received these plates on September 22, 1827 and started translating them through divine revelation. He completed this translation in June 1829 and published the translation as the Book of Mormon
  • Church Organized: The Church was officially organized on April 6, 1830 in Fayette Township, New York. Joseph Smith followed the laws of the state of New York for the creation of new churches.
  • Gathering in Ohio: As missionaries spread the message of the Mormon church and people converted to this new religion, they started to gather in Ohio. This occurred between December 1830 and January 1831. Due to persecution, the Mormons moved to Nauvoo, Illinois a short time later.
  • Martyrdom: Joseph Smith was martyred on June 27, 1844. After being jailed on false charges, an angry mob broke down the doors and shot Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum.
  • Migration to Utah: Due to persecution and a revelation from God, Brigham Young led the migration to the Rocky Mountains. The Mormons left Illinois on February 6, 1846. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

What are some example Mormons APUSH questions?

1. What delayed the statehood for Utah?
A. The President had to send troops to Utah to squash a Mormon uprising.
B. The railroad lines didn’t extend to Utah, making it hard to communicate with people there.
C. Polygamy was practiced in Utah, which was illegal in the United States.
D. Mormons wanted an oligarchy government with the prophet as the leader.

2. One of the reasons Mormons settled in Utah was:
A. because they followed the Gold Rush in hopes of striking it rich.
B. to escape persecution at the hands of non-members in the East.
C. because the angel Moroni told the prophet to lead the people there.
D. to find more fertile soil for the utopian society they hoped to create.

3. All of the following are reasons for Mormon persecution EXCEPT:
A. they didn’t own slaves, worrying slave owners that they would fight to end slavery.
B. the cooperative community feel, which could give them greater political power.
C. polygamy, or plural marriage, that some members practiced.
D. an unwillingness to vote for local or presidential elections.

4. Who was the first latter-day prophet of the Mormon religion?
A. Brigham Young
B. Wilford Woodruff
C. John Taylor
D. Joseph Smith


Correct answers:

1. C. Laws passed in the United States made the practice of polygamy illegal. The president at the time, Woodruff Wilson, sent a Manifesto to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to end the practice of polygamy on October 6, 1890.

2. B. Mormons moved from place to place, persecuted for their beliefs and way of life. Although they first gathered in Ohio, they eventually moved to Illinois and then Utah.

3. D. Because they didn’t own slaves, practiced polygamy, and enjoyed a cooperative community, some non-members persecuted Mormon members. Mormons were assaulted, their homes were burned, and their property was destroyed. This led them to eventually migrate to Utah.

4. D. Joseph Smith is the founder of the Mormon religion. Also, he’s the first prophet and president of the church.

During the Second Great Awakening in America, there was a religious revival. Many religions were created, including Mormonism. It continues to be a fast-growing religion in America and around the globe.

Prepare for Mormons APUSH exam questions by reviewing the founding and history of Mormonism, and thinking about how it relates to the Second Great Awakening. Good luck!

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  • Jamie Goodwin

    Jamie graduated from Brigham Young University- Idaho with a degree in English Education. She spent several years teaching and tutoring students at the elementary, high school, and college level. She currently works as a contract writer and curriculum developer for online education courses. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her boys!

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