This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of fictional depictions of Mormonism, which often involve ridicule and hostility toward the religion. It then sets out the book's purpose, which is to show how fiction has served, in the case of Mormonism, to obscure the theological aspects of a century and more of discord and confrontation between Mormonism and American society. These religious roots of the conflict preceded the first allegations of polygamy, permeated the Missouri War and Illinois expulsion, continued into the Utah period, and inform the marginalization of Mormonism in contemporary American society. In the process, the book seeks to illuminate both the peculiar nature of the Mormon “heresy” and the contortions by which that heresy was reconstructed into a target more amenable to social censure and political solutions. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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