"A Peculiar People": Anti-Mormonism and the Making of by J. Spencer Fluhman

By J. Spencer Fluhman

Even though 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 millions of converts yet way more critics. In "A bizarre People", J. Spencer Fluhman deals a finished background of anti-Mormon concept and the linked passionate debates approximately spiritual authenticity in nineteenth-century the USA. He argues that figuring out anti-Mormonism offers serious perception into the yankee psyche simply because Mormonism turned a effective image round which rules approximately faith and the country took form.
Fluhman files how Mormonism was once defamed, with assaults usually geared 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 differences, the results of either selection and outdoors strength, sapped the energy of the worst anti-Mormon vitriol, triggering the popularity 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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20 Introduction CHAPTER 1 “Impostor” The Mormon Prophet For New Yorker David Reese, antebellum physician and self-appointed social critic, too much in American culture amounted to a mere counterfeit. His 1838 tirade against a host of “humbugs” warned that the “unsophisticated” and “weak sisters” were dangerously prone to deception. Deceivers deserved most of the blame, but Reese thought it unflattering that so many Americans had already been led astray. Though his humbugs ranged from animal magnetism to phrenology, he reserved special venom for religious frauds.

Theology, it turns out, could either trump history or be trumped by it depending on the author’s needs. Theology held considerable sway in various early American imaginings of religion; most Protestants considered it the essence of true religion. 17 More typically, though, Mormon theology was dismissed as a smokescreen. History could also be invoked to dismiss theology, in other words, argumentative 26 “Impostor” circularity notwithstanding. 18 Such a framework for understanding fraudulent religions in the past thus provided unintended but perhaps not unwanted consequences when attached to contemporary movements.

They also agreed, at least in principle, to the denominational theory that versions of the truth might reside (and should coexist peacefully) among the various Protestant churches. Even so, the catalogs of faith amounted to more than lists because not all movements claiming to be religious were accepted as valid. Disquieted by fears of deception, antebellum Protestants found the old grounds for determining heterodoxy to be problematic and, as a result, routinely collapsed their interreligious comparisons into the simplistic framework of fraud.

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