By J. Spencer Fluhman
Notwithstanding the U.S. structure promises the loose 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 atypical People", J. Spencer Fluhman bargains a complete background of anti-Mormon inspiration and the linked passionate debates approximately non secular authenticity in nineteenth-century the USA. He argues that knowing anti-Mormonism offers severe perception into the yank psyche simply because Mormonism turned a powerful image round which rules approximately faith and the nation took form.
Fluhman records how Mormonism used to be defamed, with assaults frequently aimed toward polygamy, and exhibits how the recent 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 variations, the results of either selection and outdoors strength, sapped the power of the worst anti-Mormon vitriol, triggering the popularity of Utah into the Union in 1896 and in addition paving the way in which for the dramatic, but nonetheless grudging, recognition of Mormonism as an American religion.
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105 Smith’s dabbling in “the arts of necromancy” functioned in another, subtler way in anti-Mormon literature. In E. D. Howe’s account, folk magic provided a training ground where Smith could hone skills of deception. 106 Like the magician’s audience, anti-Mormons could be assured Smith’s prophethood was a hoax but at the same time remain uneasy because much was obscured from view. The magic charges, then, both exposed the prophet and added to the sense of alarm. Ezra Booth, a Methodist preacher and eventual Mormon defector, described the magic allegations’ twin functions memorably.
It ostensibly resolved the danger lurking in the term “religion” because it granted that fake religion could mimic the “form of godliness” even if it lacked the power. Religion thus claimed two meanings in period writing: one leaning toward “religion in general” and the other meaning “true” religion. Since writers rarely formally distinguished the two, religion often emerged paradoxically in the narratives. This is no surprise given the notion’s tangled roots. The imposture thesis, after all, had been wielded by Enlightenment skeptics against religion generally and by Protestant polemicists against Catholicism.
Counterfeiters of Faith and Currency If the Book of Mormon served anti-Mormons as the quintessential sign of Smith’s fraud, other aspects of his life provided supporting evidence. ” Importantly, each of these controversial elements pressed on indeterminate cultural boundaries and, in arguing against the authenticity of Mormon religion in each case, anti-Mormons constructed an image against which Christian piety and religious expression could be defined. No aspect of Smith’s life has been so accentuated by anti-Mormons and so deemphasized by Mormons as his involvement with treasure hunting and the folk supernaturalism associated with it.
"A Peculiar People": Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America by J. Spencer Fluhman