The politics of American religious identity : the seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon apostle

by Flake, Kathleen.

Format: Print Book 2004
Availability: Available at 1 Library 1 of 1 copy
Available (1)
Location Collection Call #
CLP - Main Library Mezzanine - Non-fiction BX8695.S74 F57 2004
Location  CLP - Main Library
Collection  Mezzanine - Non-fiction
Call Number  BX8695.S74 F57 2004
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.

Published Reviews
Publisher's Weekly Review: "This outstanding historical study focuses on the national outrage a century ago when Reed Smoot, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was elected to serve as a Senator from Utah. Millions of Americans signed petitions urging the Senate to unseat Smoot, who endured several years of hearings to determine his status. Although he was not a polygamist, his opponents claimed that his alliance with the Mormon hierarchy would prevent him from being a faithful and patriotic Senator. Flake, a lawyer and professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt Divinity School, draws upon her legal expertise to help readers understand the trial testimony. She discusses the practice of Mormon polygamy, which had been officially abandoned in 1890 but was secretly continued by some church leaders, who persisted in taking multiple wives. Because of the scrutiny and public uproar when this fact became public knowledge during the Smoot hearings, the Church was forced to take more decisive action against polygamy in 1904. The Mormons' sudden sacrifice of their defining ideals raised an urgent question: how could they retain their distinctiveness when polygamy and theocracy, their two most singular features in the 19th century, were removed? In a particularly brilliant chapter, Flake traces the rise of Mormon restorationist impulses in the early 20th century-the period during and just after the Smoot hearings. A new emphasis on founding prophet Joseph Smith and his "First Vision" allowed Mormons to remain theologically unique while making themselves politically non-threatening. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Smoot, Reed, -- 1862-1941.
United States. -- Congress. -- Senate -- History -- 20th century.
Mormon Church -- Apostles -- History -- 20th century.
Legislators -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Christianity and politics -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Polygamy -- Religious aspects -- Mormon Church -- History of doctrines -- 20th century.
Publisher Chapel Hill :University of North Carolina Press,2004
Language English
Description xiii, 238 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages [213]-230) and index.
ISBN 0807855014 (pbk.)
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