In May 1857, LDS apostle Parley P. Pratt, one of early Mormonism’s greatest defenders, was shot down in Arkansas by Hector McLean, the legal husband of a woman Pratt had taken as a plural wife two years previously. This high-profile incident acts as a prologue to this study of late nineteenth-century southern anti-Mormonism, as Pratt’s murder was a symptom of the broader cultural processes of honor, the unwritten law, and extralegal violence, all influenced by the nation’s revulsion with Mormon polygamy. The remainder of this chapter establishes the historical context of southern violence and religion and the presence of Mormonism in the South, then reviews the relevant literature and introduces the arguments in the remainder of the book.
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