Home > Uncategorized > Review: “The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Antebellum South”

Review: “The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Antebellum South”

Arson, death threats, massacres–and that’s just in Tennessee. If most LDS today understand “anti-Mormonism” as primarily verbal assaults on their faith, it’s sobering to remember that not to longer ago, many Mormons lived under a threat of violence and forced expulsion. And more than just the tumultuous periods in Missouri and Illinois. Throughout the late nineteenth century, Mormons and Mormon missionaries in the American South faced a harsh climate of vigilantism, Southern honor, and anti-polygamy fervor that not too rarely resulted in physical attacks.

This is the tale of “The Mormon Menace,” by Patrick Mason, a research professor here at Notre Dame in the Kroch Institute for Peace Studies. Patrick, a close friend of mine, asked me to help edit his book over the summer, and I’m excited to see that it’s finally in print. Not only because I get to see my name in the acknowledgments, but it’s a fine piece of scholarship and a captivating yarn which explores the fraught relationship between religious outsiders and the post Civil-War South.

I was planning on giving a full account of the book, but now that my friend Blair has already put together something much better, I’ll point you to his review. He captures the focus and tenor of the book pretty well. I just want to reiterate Blair’s point that this work helps push Mormon Studies out of its enclave and connect it with the broader trends of American history and culture. Patrick is not solely interested in telling the Mormon story but to examine how America and Southerners responded to Mormons and what it says about the legal, religious, and political climate of America nearing the end of the 19th century (and, perhaps, the 21st as well). All in all, I highly recommend (just don’t look to carefully for typos!).

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