Make Yourselves Gods: Mormons and the Unfinished Business of American Secularism

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University of Chicago Press, Nov 14, 2019 - Religion - 312 pages
From the perspective of Protestant America, nineteenth-century Mormons were the victims of a peculiar zealotry, a population deranged––socially, sexually, even racially––by the extravagances of belief they called “religion.” Make Yourselves Gods offers a counter-history of early Mormon theology and practice, tracking the Saints from their emergence as a dissident sect to their renunciation of polygamy at century’s end.

Over these turbulent decades, Mormons would appear by turns as heretics, sex-radicals, refugees, anti-imperialists, colonizers, and, eventually, reluctant monogamists and enfranchised citizens. Reading Mormonism through a synthesis of religious history, political theology, native studies, and queer theory, Peter Coviello deftly crafts a new framework for imagining orthodoxy, citizenship, and the fate of the flesh in nineteenth-century America. What emerges is a story about the violence, wild beauty, and extravagant imaginative power of this era of Mormonism—an impassioned book with a keen interest in the racial history of sexuality and the unfinished business of American secularism.

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About the author (2019)

Peter Coviello is professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His books include Tomorrow’s Parties: Sex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-Century America and Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs.

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