The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle

Univ of North Carolina Press
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Between 1901 and 1907, a broad coalition of Protestant churches sought to expel newly elected Reed Smoot from the Senate, arguing that as an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Smoot was a lawbreaker and therefore unfit to be a lawmaker. The resulting Senate investigative hearing featured testimony on every peculiarity of Mormonism, especially its polygamous family structure. The Smoot hearing ultimately mediated a compromise between Progressive Era Protestantism and Mormonism and resolved the nation's long-standing "Mormon Problem." On a broader scale, Kathleen Flake shows how this landmark hearing provided the occasion for the country--through its elected representatives, the daily press, citizen petitions, and social reform activism--to reconsider the scope of religious free exercise in the new century.
Flake contends that the Smoot hearing was the forge in which the Latter-day Saints, the Protestants, and the Senate hammered out a model for church-state relations, shaping for a new generation of non-Protestant and non-Christian Americans what it meant to be free and religious. In addition, she discusses the Latter-day Saints' use of narrative and collective memory to retain their religious identity even as they changed to meet the nation's demands.

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About the author

Kathleen Flake practiced law for fifteen years and is now assistant professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Univ of North Carolina Press
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Published on
Dec 15, 2005
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780807863541
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Constitutional
Religion / Christianity / Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
Religion / Clergy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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“From one of the brightest of the new generation of Mormon-studies scholars comes a crisp, engaging account of the religion’s history.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
With Mormonism on the nation’s radar as never before, religious historian Matthew Bowman has written an essential book that pulls back the curtain on more than 180 years of Mormon history and doctrine. He recounts the church’s origins and explains how the Mormon vision has evolved—and with it the esteem in which Mormons have been held in the eyes of their countrymen. Admired on the one hand as hardworking paragons of family values, Mormons have also been derided as oddballs and persecuted as polygamists, heretics, and zealots. The place of Mormonism in public life continues to generate heated debate, yet the faith has never been more popular. One of the fastest-growing religions in the world, it retains an uneasy sense of its relationship with the main line of American culture.
 
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