Recreating Utopia in the Desert

A Sectarian Challenge to Modern Mormonism

By Hans A. Baer

Paperback : 9780887066825, 248 pages, July 1988
Hardcover : 9780887066818, 248 pages, July 1988

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Table of contents

Figures and Tables



1. The Rise and Institutionalization of Mormonism

2. The Aaronic Order as a Modern Revitalization Movement

3. The Levite Conversion Experience

4. The Levite Community: The Search for Gemeinschaft

5. The Eskdale Commune: An Enactment of Levite Ideals

6. The Development of the Aaronic Order as a Mormon Sect

7. Epilogue






Recreating Utopia in the Desert: A Sectarian Challenge to Modern Mormonism is the account of a millenarian sect, officially known as the Aaronic Order, one of the main splinter groups of the Mormon Church. Their story tells us much about the social tensions, particularly along class lines, that have emerged in Mormonism.

The Aaronic Order, or Levites, emerged as the Mormon Church evolved from a religious utopia in the Midwest, to a near nation-state in the Intermountain West, to finally an international theocratic corporation. Drawing upon the concept of revitalization movements, the Levite sect is viewed as an attempt by working-class Mormons to resurrect the communitarian ideals they perceived as characteristic of earlier nineteenth-century Mormonism. From their beginnings in the Depression, the Levites have developed a series of cooperative and communal ventures in Utah, based upon the revelations of Maurice Glendenning.

We see in the Levites the seemingly inevitable processes of institutionalization and fission characterizing revitalization movements that survive. By explaining the impetus for the development of sectarian groups such as the Levites, the author offers important insights for the discussion of religious communitarianism and schizmatic movements in contemporary religion.

Hans A. Baer is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


"It is a tastefully written examination of a religious sect. The work illuminates much about the development of American religious sects generally in the process of dealing with this one. " — Armand L. Mauss, Washington State University