Race and the Making of the Mormon People

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UNC Press Books, Aug 8, 2017 - Religion - 352 pages
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The nineteenth-century history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Max Perry Mueller argues, illuminates the role that religion played in forming the notion of three "original" American races—red, black, and white—for Mormons and others in the early American Republic. Recovering the voices of a handful of black and Native American Mormons who resolutely wrote themselves into the Mormon archive, Mueller threads together historical experience and Mormon scriptural interpretations. He finds that the Book of Mormon is key to understanding how early followers reflected but also departed from antebellum conceptions of race as biblically and biologically predetermined. Mormon theology and policy both challenged and reaffirmed the essentialist nature of the racialized American experience.

The Book of Mormon presented its believers with a radical worldview, proclaiming that all schisms within the human family were anathematic to God's design. That said, church founders were not racial egalitarians. They promoted whiteness as an aspirational racial identity that nonwhites could achieve through conversion to Mormonism. Mueller also shows how, on a broader level, scripture and history may become mutually constituted. For the Mormons, that process shaped a religious movement in perpetual tension between its racialist and universalist impulses during an era before the concept of race was secularized.

 

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Contents

Prologue Visions
1
Introduction Race on the Page Race on the Body
8
A White Universal Gospel
31
2 Marketing the Book of Mormon to Noahs Three Sons
60
3 From Gentile to Israelite
92
4 Aunt Jane or Josephs Adopted Daughter?
119
5 People Building on Bodies
153
6 People Building on Paper
181
Epilogue Performing Red Black and White American
212
Notes
233
Bibliography
293
Index
319
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About the author (2017)

Max Perry Mueller is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Nebraska.

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