"A Peculiar People": Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America [NOOK Book]

Overview

Though the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion, it does not specify what counts as a religion. From its founding in the 1830s, Mormonism, a homegrown American faith, drew thousands of converts but far more critics. In "A Peculiar People", J. Spencer Fluhman offers a comprehensive history of anti-Mormon thought and the associated passionate debates about religious authenticity in nineteenth-century America. He argues that understanding anti-Mormonism provides critical insight into the ...
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Overview

Though the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion, it does not specify what counts as a religion. From its founding in the 1830s, Mormonism, a homegrown American faith, drew thousands of converts but far more critics. In "A Peculiar People", J. Spencer Fluhman offers a comprehensive history of anti-Mormon thought and the associated passionate debates about religious authenticity in nineteenth-century America. He argues that understanding anti-Mormonism provides critical insight into the American psyche because Mormonism became a potent symbol around which ideas about religion and the state took shape.
Fluhman documents how Mormonism was defamed, with attacks often aimed at polygamy, and shows how the new faith supplied a social enemy for a public agitated by the popular press and wracked with social and economic instability. Taking the story to the turn of the century, Fluhman demonstrates how Mormonism's own transformations, the result of both choice and outside force, sapped the strength of the worst anti-Mormon vitriol, triggering the acceptance of Utah into the Union in 1896 and also paving the way for the dramatic, yet still grudging, acceptance of Mormonism as an American religion.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fluhman has successfully captured the dynamic process of nineteenth-century religious otherness by crafting a wonderfully entertaining, illuminating, and concise book."
-Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"An important work to the growing field of historical treatments of anti-Mormonism . . . I wholeheartedly recommend Fluhman's excellent volume."
-Journal of Mormon History

"The world needs more books like Fluhman's deft account of nineteenth-century anti-Mormon literature and the fascinating American dialogues about religion that anti-Mormonism produced. Interdisciplinarity and historicity thrive simultaneously in "A Peculiar People," and Fluhman's marvelously succinct book as much elevates him as a historian of synoptic breadth as it uplifts his subject."
-Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"General readers interested in American religious history will find this a worthwhile read."
-Library Journal

"Recommended. All levels/libraries."
-Choice

"As Fluhman shows in marvelous detail, Mormonism was the great scandal of American nineteenth-century religion."
-The New Yorker

"A comprehensive history of anti-Mormon thought."
-American Catholic Studies Newsletter

"Few books deserve to be longer. This is one of them. . . . A must-read for anyone seriously interested in the study of American religion."
-Journal of American History

Library Journal
Modern Mormons work hard to promote themselves as Christians and über-Americans. But they have had to work against deeply entrenched prejudice and stereotypes that linger from the 19th century, as Fluhman (history, Brigham Young Univ.) ably demonstrates. Mormons themselves have accepted their public image as "a peculiar people"—separate from others, but not too separate or weird. Fluhman is interested in how others have viewed Mormons and molded their image. His 19th-century primary sources range from popular periodicals to various religious and political exposés. Anti-Mormonism has been both a religious phenomenon (misunderstanding Mormonism as a non-Christian religion) and a political one, particularly in the 19th century, as non-Mormons tried to limit the power of Mormon leaders over their followers. The controversy over polygamy was an important contributor to anti-Mormon sentiment, and Fluhman gives the subject its due here. Some of the great illustrations Fluhman includes may seem particularly outlandish to 21st-century sensibilities. VERDICT Though an academically oriented book, general readers interested in American religious history will find this a worthwhile read as well.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807837405
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/17/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 786,965
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

J. Spencer Fluhman is assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University.
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Table of Contents

Prologue. On Familiarity and Contempt 1

Introduction. Religious Liberty as an American Problem 9

Chapter 1 "Impostor": The Mormon Prophet 21

Authenticity and Disestablishment 24

Interlopers in the Protestant Historical Pantheon 29

Counterfeiters of Faith and Currency 39

Chapter 2 "Delusion": Early Mormon Religiosity 49

Mormon Spirituality and the Threat of Enthusiasm 52

Religion, Madness, and the Search for Rational Faith 61

Enlightened Christianity and the Problem of Mormon Evidence 66

Chapter 3 "Fanaticism": The Church as (Un)Holy City 79

The Political Burden of the Mormon Gathering 83

The Discovery of a Mormon Theology 91

The Politics of Expulsion 95

Chapter 4 "Barbarism": Rhetorics of Alienation 103

Empire(s) in the West 105

The Problem of Mormon Whiteness 110

Mormon Women, the Ungrateful Objects of American Pity 117

Chapter 5 "Heresy": Americanizing the American Religion 127

Mormonism in the Crowd of World Religions 129

Textbook Mormons and the Weight of Mormon History 134

Conclusion: Mormonism (Almost) Defanged 140

Notes 149

Bibliography 183

Acknowledgments 219

Index 223

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