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Commonwealth of Deseret
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| Commonwealth of Deseret |
Holiness to the Lord
"For the Strength of the Hills"
Wasatch County, Utah, United States
|Official language(s)||English (Deseret alphabet)|
|- Sovereign||Cowdery Young|
|Established||December 23, 2012|
|Time zone||Mountain Time|
The Commonwealth of Deseret (sometimes New Deseret, formerly the Holy Kingdom of Deseret; pronounced [dɛz.əˈrɛt.]) is a landlocked micronation located in the American state of Utah. Based on the religious and political principles of Joseph Smith (1805–1844), Deseret is a self-described "theodemocracy," combining elements of American republicanism and Mormon theocracy. The commonwealth effectively functions as an intentional community amid the larger society and is defined in the 2017 Constitution as "a vassal state of the Kingdom of God, existing imperium in imperio within the United States." In this sense, citizens of Deseret see themselves as voluntary participants in a covenant society dedicated to "the promotion of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the cultivation of personal and civic virtue."
Deseret is considered a fifth world micronation per the Boodlesmythe-Tallini System of Classification.
The word deseret is from the Book of Mormon and means "honeybee." Since the nineteenth century, the beehive has been a prominent symbol of Mormonism and the state of Utah, representing industry and cooperation. The honeybee is the national animal of Deseret and appeared on a coat of arms used during the monarchical period. The symbol was especially apt during the reign of Sariah Thomson (Queen Utahna, 2012–2016), nicknamed the "Queen Bee of Deseret."
The Commonwealth of Deseret declared partial independence from the United States on Sunday, December 23, 2012, after several months of deliberation. The motives cited by the nation's founders included grievances against the U.S. government (namely concerns about said government's failure to protect individual liberties), as well as religious ideals of virtuous government. Among other influences, the founders appealed to the examples of America's Founding Fathers, the Pilgrims, and the Mormon pioneers. Of particular interest were early Mormon attempts at self-government under the leadership of church president Brigham Young (1801–1877), who sought to implement his predecessor Joseph Smith's ideas for a "theodemocratic" government in the American West. (Under Young, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attempted to create the first State of Deseret in 1849.)
The commonwealth initially boasted thirty-six citizens, most of whom held office in both the national government and the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, organized the same day. The commonwealth also claimed its present-day borders within Wasatch County, Utah, bordering Daniels Creek on the north. It was divided into five provinces, each governed by an elected triumvirate known as an "Elder Council." At the national level, there was both a head of state (the sovereign, Sariah Thomson, regnal name Queen Utahna I) and a head of government (the president, Cowdery Young). The national legislature, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was required to meet at least twelve times a year, on the last Friday of every month, but this arrangement soon proved unworkable and only four such meetings were held before the Quorum fell into non-activity. While no formal constitution was ever written, the Twelve drafted thirteen legislative acts during their brief existence, all of which remain in force.
On May 15, 2016, the commonwealth began an ongoing reformation, seeking to bring its form of government into closer conformity with the political theories of Joseph Smith and his successors. In consequence, the system of provinces was abolished, the Quorum of the Twelve was replaced by the Grand Council of the Commonwealth, and the offices of sovereign and president were merged, both being held by Cowdery Young.
Government and politics
From December 2012 to May 2016, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles acted as the unicameral legislature of the Kingdom of Deseret. During the Reformation of 2016, the Quorum was replaced by the Grand Council of the Commonwealth, based on Joseph Smith's Council of Fifty. The Grand Council is described in Deseretan law as "a grand executive council of fifty honorable statesmen," including both Mormons and non-Mormons. As of May 2016, however, the Council has not been fully organized, and until at least twenty-six members are seated, all decision-making power rests with the Sovereign, subject to the approval of the general population.
The formation of political parties has been outlawed in the commonwealth since March 2013.
Uniquely, Deseret classes its citizens into three degrees of citizenship based on religious affiliation and personal conduct. These degrees are patterned after the three degrees of glory in Mormon theology.
|“|| The first and lowest degree of citizenship within the Holy Kingdom of Deseret (hereafter the Telestial Degree) shall belong to those who have not received the ordinances of baptism and confirmation by the correct priesthood authority, including resident Gentiles, honorary citizens residing in foreign nations, and children below the age of accountability. Such persons shall be subject to the civil authority of the Kingdom, including the Order of the Rising Sun, but not to the discipline of the Restored Church. They may hold sectarian religious meetings at their own discretion, but shall not be permitted to proselyte members of the Restored Church, nor to speak publicly against said church. Failure to abide by these laws may result in loss of citizenship and/or deportation from the Kingdom. Citizens of the Telestial Degree residing within the Kingdom may elect their own representatives to the Grand Council, subject to the approval of the Sovereign.
The second and intermediate degree of citizenship within the Holy Kingdom of Deseret (hereafter the Terrestrial Degree) shall belong to members of the Restored Church who have not sworn covenants to uphold, honor, and obey the Sovereign of Deseret, as well as resident Gentiles and honorary citizens deemed worthy of especial commendation. Citizens raised to the Terrestrial Degree should be distinguished not only for service to the Kingdom, but for exemplary personal conduct. Citizens guilty of public misconduct after having been raised to the Terrestrial Degree may be demoted to the Telestial Degree by a majority vote of the Grand Council or the decree of the Sovereign.
The third and highest degree of citizenship within the Holy Kingdom of Deseret (hereafter the Celestial Degree) shall belong to those members of the Restored Church who have sworn covenants to uphold, honor, and obey the Sovereign of Deseret. Exemplary personal conduct shall be expected from all citizens raised to the Celestial Degree, and failure to abide by the laws of the Kingdom may result in loss of citizenship, loss of fellowship, and deportation from the Kingdom, including in some cases a permanent state of exile and excommunication. The Sovereign and President must belong to the Celestial Degree, as should the authorities of the Restored Church and the majority of members of the Grand Council.
—Executive Act XIV, "Degrees of Citizenship within the Holy Kingdom of Deseret"
Law and order
Among the thirteen acts passed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the early days of Deseret were laws protecting citizens' freedoms of religion and association (Act I), the right to bear arms (Act II), and the right to due process (Act IV), in addition to laws outlawing unreasonable searches and seizures (Act III), involuntary servitude, "except as punishment for crime" (Act V), and the sale of "alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and 'hot drinks'" (Act VI). These acts were largely inspired and adapted from the U.S. Constitution.
It is the right of the sovereign to issue Royal Orders considered as binding as legislative acts, but a three-fourths vote of the legislature can override such orders.
The Commonwealth of Deseret establishes formal alliances with other nations via a majority vote of the national legislature, while less binding treaties of mutual recognition may be brokered by the head of government. Deseret favors a policy of isolationism with regards to intermicronational conflicts, so binding alliances are generally restricted to nations whose goals strongly align with the commonwealth's own.
- Decracy of Vilthia (since March 30, 2013)
- Democratic Republic of Orentica (since March 14, 2013; defunct)
The official military of the commonwealth is the Deseret Legion, modeled after the historic Nauvoo Legion and Mormon Battalion. Men and women over sixteen years of age may volunteer to serve in the Legion, which is sworn to defend the commonwealth against invasion and teaches both practical skills, such as marksmanship and outdoor survival, and abstract subjects such as military ethics. The commanding officer of the Legion (currently Cowdery Young) is styled "Lieutenant General." Furthermore, honorary positions in the Legion may be awarded to foreign dignitaries and other persons whom the commonwealth considers worthy of commendation.
In addition to the Legion, the commonwealth is served by the Order of the Rising Sun, a federal intelligence agency and security service notable for its elaborate but secretive rituals of initiation and promotion.
While the Deseret Constitution protects its citizens' right to bear arms, the nation is expressly opposed to preemptive warfare and military involvement in conflicts that do not directly threaten the commonwealth or its allies.
Geography and climate
Located in the American West, Deseret has a dry climate with hot summers and cold winters. It receives less annual rainfall than the United States average, but considerably more snowfall, due in part to the nearby Wasatch Range, part of the larger Rocky Mountains.
Before the Reformation of 2016, Deseret was divided into five provinces: Nauvoo, Zion, Mormon, Alma, and Lehi-Nephi. Since March 2013, most of the former province of Lehi-Nephi has been taken up by Eden National Park, a wildlife preserve. The Deseretan government promotes responsible environmental stewardship and encourages citizens to engage in gardening and animal husbandry. In May 2016, Nauvoo, the most urban and densely populated of the provinces, as well as the capital of Deseret, was rechristened "Preparation," a name with apocalyptic underpinnings.
Deseret vigorously promotes the early Mormon doctrine of the United Order, which encourages citizens to "consecrate" their surplus property for redistribution to the needy. At the same time, the commonwealth defends the rights of private property and free enterprise. There is no requirement that citizens take part in the United Order.
Prominent symbols of Deseret include the honeybee and beehive, the all-seeing eye, and other emblems adapted from nineteenth century Mormon culture.
The flag of Deseret is modeled after the United States flag, but with only thirteen stars, said to represent both the original American colonies and, because one of the stars is significantly larger than the others, Jesus Christ and his twelve apostles. Meanwhile, the blue and white color scheme is said to represent the waters of baptism and the remission of sins, respectively. In patriotic imagery outside of the flag itself, more conventional red, white, and blue regalia is preferred.
In March 2013, Act X of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created the University of Deseret, an organization empowered to grant honorary degrees to individuals distinguished for service to the commonwealth.
Founded alongside the kingdom in December 2012, the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was once the state religion of Deseret. Cowdery Young served as prophet-president of the church as well as president of the kingdom, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles helped govern both church and state. During the Reformation of 2016, the Restored Church was partially disorganized, and the commonwealth has since expressed interest in fostering unity among believers in the Book of Mormon regardless of denominational affiliation, as well as with non-Mormon organizations promoting values similar to those affirmed by the commonwealth.
- Zion's Advocate, "the official mouthpiece of the Commonwealth of Deseret"
Notes and references
- Richard G. Oman, "Beehive Symbol," Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992).
- "Let there be a reformation", Zion's Advocate, May 15, 2016. Accessed May 22, 2016.