By J. Spencer Fluhman
Notwithstanding the U.S. structure promises the unfastened workout of faith, it doesn't specify what counts as a faith. From its founding within the 1830s, Mormonism, a homegrown American religion, drew hundreds of thousands of converts yet way more critics. In "A abnormal People", J. Spencer Fluhman deals a accomplished background of anti-Mormon concept and the linked passionate debates approximately non secular authenticity in nineteenth-century the United States. He argues that knowing anti-Mormonism offers severe perception into the yankee psyche simply because Mormonism turned a effective image round which rules approximately faith and the nation took form.
Fluhman records how Mormonism was once defamed, with assaults usually aimed toward polygamy, and indicates how the hot religion provided a social enemy for a public agitated by means of the preferred press and wracked with social and fiscal instability. Taking the tale to the flip of the century, Fluhman demonstrates how Mormonism's personal ameliorations, the results of either selection and out of doors strength, sapped the energy of the worst anti-Mormon vitriol, triggering the recognition of Utah into the Union in 1896 and in addition paving the best way for the dramatic, but nonetheless grudging, recognition of Mormonism as an American religion.
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Extra resources for "A Peculiar People": Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America
But even the infamous Matthias was not the age’s paramount religious fraud. For Reese, the “most shocking humbug” was the “Mormon oracle” Joseph Smith. ”1 This chapter seeks to account for the momentous shift in the American public perception of religion’s potential for danger. Traditionally, religion had been threatening because of its association with government. Religion in the young nation became dangerous because it was unmoored. In this riotous new social setting, Mormonism functioned for many as it had for David Reese: as a foil against which commentators might imagine a less turbulent legacy for religious liberty.
The details of Smith’s magical beginnings can be summarized as follows. His contemporaries, some acquainted with his use of seer stones and struck by his claims of hidden golden plates, assumed that he had simply taken his trickery to new heights by covering up his antics with a religious gloss. Presbyterian Abram Benton, whom Smith later identified as a chief antagonist in New York, summed up Smith’s career in a characteristic way. 99 Benton’s communiqué reveals only part of a complicated culture, one in which reactions to stone gazing ranged across a spectrum.
I sensed that placing Mormon push-back on par with anti-Mormon attacks or assuming that Mormon growth demonstrates anti-Mormonism’s failure was to misunderstand that power. Mormonism was refashioned Introduction 19 in the crucible of national opprobrium, and while Mormons survived to thrive in the twentieth century, it was hardly on their own terms. Seen in this way, Mormon conceptions of religion or their responses to critics were far less significant in American culture than the considerable indirect influence Mormons exerted, an influence that existed primarily in the form of the questions their lives begged of nonbelievers.