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The Protestant white majority in the nineteenth century was convinced that Mormonism represented a racial-not merely religious-departure from the mainstream and they spent considerable effort attempting to deny Mormon whiteness. Being white equalled access to political, social, and economic power, all aspects of citizenship in which outsiders sought to limit or prevent Mor The Protestant white majority in the nineteenth century was convinced that Mormonism represented a racial-not merely religious-departure from the mainstream and they spent considerable effort attempting to deny Mormon whiteness. Being white equalled access to political, social, and economic power, all aspects of citizenship in which outsiders sought to limit or prevent Mormon participation. At least a part of those efforts came through persistent attacks on the collective Mormon body, ways in which outsiders suggested that Mormons were physically different, racially more similar to marginalized groups than they were white. Medical doctors went so far as to suggest that Mormon polygamy was spawning a new race. Mormons responded with aspirations toward whiteness. It was a back and forth struggle between what outsiders imagined and what Mormons believed. Mormons ultimately emerged triumphant, but not unscathed. At least a portion of the cost of their struggle came at the expense of their own black converts. Mormon leaders moved away from universalistic ideals toward segregated priesthood and temples, policies firmly in place by the early twentieth century. So successful were they at claiming whiteness for themselves, that by the time Mormon Mitt Romney sought the White House in 2012, he was labelled "the whitest white man to run for office in recent memory." Mormons once again found themselves on the wrong side of white.


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The Protestant white majority in the nineteenth century was convinced that Mormonism represented a racial-not merely religious-departure from the mainstream and they spent considerable effort attempting to deny Mormon whiteness. Being white equalled access to political, social, and economic power, all aspects of citizenship in which outsiders sought to limit or prevent Mor The Protestant white majority in the nineteenth century was convinced that Mormonism represented a racial-not merely religious-departure from the mainstream and they spent considerable effort attempting to deny Mormon whiteness. Being white equalled access to political, social, and economic power, all aspects of citizenship in which outsiders sought to limit or prevent Mormon participation. At least a part of those efforts came through persistent attacks on the collective Mormon body, ways in which outsiders suggested that Mormons were physically different, racially more similar to marginalized groups than they were white. Medical doctors went so far as to suggest that Mormon polygamy was spawning a new race. Mormons responded with aspirations toward whiteness. It was a back and forth struggle between what outsiders imagined and what Mormons believed. Mormons ultimately emerged triumphant, but not unscathed. At least a portion of the cost of their struggle came at the expense of their own black converts. Mormon leaders moved away from universalistic ideals toward segregated priesthood and temples, policies firmly in place by the early twentieth century. So successful were they at claiming whiteness for themselves, that by the time Mormon Mitt Romney sought the White House in 2012, he was labelled "the whitest white man to run for office in recent memory." Mormons once again found themselves on the wrong side of white.

30 review for Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness

  1. 4 out of 5

    Quinn Rollins

    Short review: This is a well-researched, fascinating look at an American-born religious group that has an intriguing history. If you’re interested in race, religion, history, or the overlap of all three, this is a must-read. Long review: I need to start this with a disclaimer that I’m a Mormon. Not only a Mormon, but a “Utah Mormon,” who has family members in the LDS/Mormon Church going back to 1830, the year that religion was founded. So that may bias my reading of this book. I’m also a history Short review: This is a well-researched, fascinating look at an American-born religious group that has an intriguing history. If you’re interested in race, religion, history, or the overlap of all three, this is a must-read. Long review: I need to start this with a disclaimer that I’m a Mormon. Not only a Mormon, but a “Utah Mormon,” who has family members in the LDS/Mormon Church going back to 1830, the year that religion was founded. So that may bias my reading of this book. I’m also a history teacher, and I think that the history of the Mormons as a religion, as a culture, and as builders of a secular “kingdom” in the Western United States in the 19th Century is one of the most interesting and compelling stories in American history. Even then, I’ve never considered the story of the Mormons to be that of an entirely different race. W. Paul Reeve, Associate Professor of History at the University of Utah, makes the claim that Mormons were indeed seen as a different race by 19th Century Americans, and that this idea shaped interactions between Mormons and “Gentiles” (church members’ term for outsiders) for the better part of a century. This racialization contributed to the Mormons being forced from homes in Missouri and Illinois, and was part of the impetus for their settling of the Great Basin—pretty much as far away as they could get from other (protestant, white) Americans. This racializing of the Mormons is particularly odd considering the current notion that all Mormons are as white (or fake-tan) as Mitt Romney, or as bland and white bread as my own family ancestry, mostly English, Danish and Scottish. I’m super damn white. But by 19th Century standards, I’d be considered a separate race…which at the time would also mean that I had limited rights. Reeve points to an arc in Mormondom that starts with Mormons being considered as white (as “normal”) as other Americans, but then becoming more and more conflated with various races and traditions, and being forced to prove their whiteness. This racialization goes beyond skin color and into outright deformity, including claims that Mormons had tails and horns. Seriously. Horns. As Mormons were forced to prove their equality with other Americans, they seemed to overshoot the mark, denying rights to African Americans, moving away from perceived alliances with Native Americans, and other races. By the 1950s, they were finally considered as white as other Americans…but by that point, the tides were turning. The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and within a few decades, the Mormons’ denial of priesthood rites to blacks was seen as racist as their own treatment had been a century before. Reeve has written a masterpiece that lays out the thinking of nineteenth century Americans, using a political cartoon showing a “Mormon Elder-Berry” holding hands with his offspring from multiple wives, each a different race. He uses this as the framework for the book, with chapters on African Americans, Native Americans, Oriental, and other races. He points out that other newcomers to the United States, like Irish and Italians, were also considered “other,” but were generally adopted into the body as Americans within a generation. Mormons were still a separate race. Using letters, journal entries, newspaper articles, and remarkable political cartoons, Reeve gives us the historical evidence. It ends up being a fascinating look at how Americans constructed the very concept of “race.” How did they decide who was in, how did they decide who was out? How long would it take a group of people to be considered an American? Most poignant, and most troubling, are the chapters about the evolution of the Mormon policy, and eventual beliefs, regarding African Americans. In the earliest years of the church, there were black members in congregations, they held the priesthood, they had access to “saving” ordinances. Over the course of a few decades, all of that changed. Reeve gives us the evidence explaining when and how and why it happened, and the fallout that lasted for a century. When you have a hundred years of a policy that discriminates against a race, is it any wonder that the modern LDS Church is still trying to get over that hurdle of racism? The priesthood ban based on race was lifted in 1978, but still, nearly forty years later, it’s an issue. This book explains why, and in a concluding chapter “From Not White to Too White: The Continuing Contest over the Mormon Body,” Reeve gets into 21st Century issues that are still bubbling to the surface. Some scholarly books are just written for other historians to read. This is one that is still academic, but is able to be read and (I think) enjoyed by those who are interested in the topic. Reeve has a conversational style, with enough irony and humor to take some of the sting out of what is at times a very controversial book. Especially for those of us who are Mormon, and who are confronted with the racism of our ancestors or our religious peers. Besides enjoying the information found in the book, I enjoyed reading the book. This was a readable, well-researched, fascinating look at an American-born religious group that has an intriguing history. If you’re interested in race, religion, history, or the overlap of all three, this is a must-read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    BHodges

    Candid and powerful with plenty of surprises and ironic turns. An important book on Mormonism, but also on race in America more broadly. Full review to follow.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Brown

    The definitive treatment of the Mormon racial exclusion policy. Honest and unflinching and sympathetic. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Mormonism or the history of race in America.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This is, currently, the definitive book explore Mormonism and race in the nineteenth century. Thorough, careful, and detailed, Reeve gives context and analysis to the American racial beliefs and rhetoric that shaped Mormonism within and without. During the 19th Century, critics of Mormons used racial framing to marginalize our religious minority. Mormons were cast as yellow, pale, sickly, unhealthy, part asian, part black, part racial degenerate. Because race is more a social construct and not a This is, currently, the definitive book explore Mormonism and race in the nineteenth century. Thorough, careful, and detailed, Reeve gives context and analysis to the American racial beliefs and rhetoric that shaped Mormonism within and without. During the 19th Century, critics of Mormons used racial framing to marginalize our religious minority. Mormons were cast as yellow, pale, sickly, unhealthy, part asian, part black, part racial degenerate. Because race is more a social construct and not a biological one, attempts at casting these largely anglo-danish Americans Mormons as racially different never had a consistent physical description. But, this racial critique influenced how Mormon leadership presented themselves to the world. In an effort to legitimize themselves, they frequently went through great efforts to show that they were white and respectable. Joseph, in Nauvoo, who had taught racial universalism, sought to establish stronger ties with the Native American tribes in the region and be friendly. After pushback from the gentile neighbors of accusations of race mixing, Joseph backed off his friendly promises. Reeve, who authored the Church's 2013 essay on Race and the Priesthood, gives a full account of the events that lead Brigham Young, who once also expressed racially universalist doctrines, evolved in the 1840's to teach a fiercer and dogmatic racial white supremacy. While, many of his biting racial beliefs did not pass on to later generations, such as blood atonement for race mixing, his temple and priesthood ban did last for another 130 years. Subsequent generations creatively sought to resolve the scriptural conflict of "all are alike into God, both black and white" with the racially exclusive temple practice. So, the memories of early black converts, black priesthood holders, and blacks participating in temple rituals, were forgotten. False memories replaced them. Not until historians did work in the 1970's were these false memories exposed to reveal the truth of Mormonism's universal core foundation. Reeve paints with tremendous nuance, probably more so than my review, here. Early Mormon leaders were not simple racists believing any ol' cartoon depiction of racial minorities. Reeve goes through our experience with Indians, Blacks, and Asians. All were different. All had various causes and results. For example, initially mission presidents were hopeful and thought highly of Chinese immigrants as a potential source of converts. They were a hard working, diligent, moral people. However, once American prejudice against the Chinese increased, so, too, did Mormon prejudice against them, some calling them lazy, filthy and "bloody, and cruel." This desire by the marginalized Mormon to be accepted by the broader white protestant American society came at a cost of being less accepting of blacks, natives, and chinese. Once we left polygamy behind us and acquired political autonomy through statehood, we turned a corner. We finally had become White in the eyes of the broader American public. In fact, the church owned newspaper ran a cartoon inviting President Teddy Roosevelt to Utah to demonstrate our fertility and propagation of white children. "No race suicide here," read the 1903 illustration. Today, we are still known as being largely White. We became White on purpose and will need to do more work to dispel it. Notably, the "I'm a Mormon" marketing campaign prominently featured mixed race couples and families. Books and research such as Reeve's will do much to help us understand our racial past. Only when we know where we came from can we true direct where we are going.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    W. Paul Reeve has crafted here a much-needed Mormon Studies book exploring the racial dimensions of Mormonism. He cleverly begins with a political cartoon from a 1904 Life Magazine publication that depicts a Mormon "Elder" and his nine six-year-olds to access a less-remembered American cultural objection to Mormon polygamy. Not only did the Protestant white majority in the nineteenth century America object to Mormon polygamy because it offended their Victorian notions of monogamist sexuality/mor W. Paul Reeve has crafted here a much-needed Mormon Studies book exploring the racial dimensions of Mormonism. He cleverly begins with a political cartoon from a 1904 Life Magazine publication that depicts a Mormon "Elder" and his nine six-year-olds to access a less-remembered American cultural objection to Mormon polygamy. Not only did the Protestant white majority in the nineteenth century America object to Mormon polygamy because it offended their Victorian notions of monogamist sexuality/morality, but it also was feared as contributing to racial amalgamation and degradation. Put another way, Americans viewed Mormon polygamy as both a cause and a sign of racial degradation; Mormons were viewed as a race separate from the white Americans of a "purer" European heritage. In the eyes of nineteenth-century American protestants, converts to Mormonism not only participated in a religious-departure but also a racial-departure from the mainstream. Mormon whiteness, which would have granted them equal access to political, social, and economic power and citizenship, was denied by the larger American society and subsequently contested by Mormon leaders. The collective American body suggested that Mormons were physically different and racially more similar to non-white marginalized groups and medical doctors even went on record to explain that Mormon polygamy was spawning a new race. In response, Mormons aspired toward whiteness by differentiating themselves and segregating non-whites in various cultural ways. Mormons ultimately emerged white by mid-twentieth century. This came at the expense of Mormonism's own black converts, who were withheld certain priesthood privileges and temple ordinances. In winning a seat at the "white" table, the Mormons stayed too long such that by the time Mormon Mitt Romney sought the White House in 2012, he was labelled "the whitest white man to run for office in recent memory." Mormons were again on the wrong side of white. Coming back to the political cartoon, Reeve points out that in the present day one might rightly suspect that the church might recruit several of Elder Berry’s children for its “I’m a Mormon” media campaign: an effort to promote a heterogeneous, global identity for Mormonism in the twenty-first century. In 1904, however, the Life magazine cartoon was not a celebration of Mormon diversity, but a lingering nineteenth-century construction of mythic mixed-race Mormon families. Mormon leaders were struggling to orchestrate a new image for Mormonism: transitioning from a polygamous, racially suspect past to a monogamist, racially sure and pure future. This "racial" transition is organized into chapters that reveal the amount of sources and most controversial aspects of Mormon racial history. The first chapter deals with the most forgotten aspects of nineteenth century Mormon history: "Mormonism" was depicted as a degraded racial category in American society. Then there are two chapters on Native American relations with Mormonism. While rhetorically more sympathetic toward Native Americans--who were the believed descendants of Book of Mormon people--than Protestant Americans at large, their actual relations played out in ways that were tragically American. There are then four chapters on African American relations with Mormonism. This is where the work gets particularly interesting. Reeve unpacks the complicated history in which Joseph Smith baptized, ordained, and sealed black converts to Mormonism before the policy of not ordaining nor allowing sealing ordinances to take place for black converts was institutionalized by Brigham Young. There was a messy transition period in which African-American priesthood holders were living among the Mormons without their children (or family) being able to follow in their footsteps of ordinance-reception. Eventually, as the nineteenth-century African Americans died, early twentieth-century Mormon leaders helped to reconstruct memory and Mormon doctrine to link the racial ban to the Church's origins. Reeve reveals the more nuanced process of racial and memory construction with thorough research and careful writing. The final chapter collapses Chinese, Mongolian, Muslim, and all other "oriental" considerations associated with Mormonism during the nineteenth century. While the polygamous parallel is fairly straightforward, Reeve does some interesting work with how a particular Protestant minister favored Chinese converts to Christianity over Mormons, who he saw as too corrupt and racially unable to assimilate. This was not common in that most Americans lumped both groups together as unable to assimilate (see the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882), but it does reveal how much of a distinct, racial construct had been built. This book is a fascinating read for all Mormons and any one curious about how race has been constructed in American history. Reeve successfully demonstrates that race is both ascribed from the outside and aspired to from within. Race is a slippery category for historical analysis, but it is essential to grapple with it in order to more fully understand American (including Mormon) history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Ward

    A landmark in Mormon scholarship. By contextualizing Mormonism within a 19th century America in which racism was mainstream and in which any suspect differences were viewed in racial terms, Reeve opens up unexplored relationships between Mormons and a number of different racial groups (native Americans, Blacks, and Asians). Using an enormous array of primary sources, he makes the compelling case that Mormonism's fraught relationship with other racial minorities, particularly blacks, were a produ A landmark in Mormon scholarship. By contextualizing Mormonism within a 19th century America in which racism was mainstream and in which any suspect differences were viewed in racial terms, Reeve opens up unexplored relationships between Mormons and a number of different racial groups (native Americans, Blacks, and Asians). Using an enormous array of primary sources, he makes the compelling case that Mormonism's fraught relationship with other racial minorities, particularly blacks, were a product of Mormons themselves being racialized by white Protestant Americans. In essence, Mormons had to fight hard to assert and maintain their whiteness in the face of accusations of race mixing and degradation brought primarily by their adherence to polygamy, a practice which turned white Protestant America firmly against them and caused them to be viewed in derogatory racial terms, a position that carried serious political consequences. In order to assert and protect their own whiteness, Mormons officially adopted many of the racial views of their contemporary Americans, eventually codifying a priesthood and temple ban for blacks and rewriting church history and doctrine in an effort to distance themselves as much as they could from their own racialization. By the mid 20th century Mormons had successfully reclaimed their whiteness but the collateral damage reverberates to this day. Remarkable and fascinating.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Race has always been a part of Mormonism. Often it is discussed in regard to the priesthood/temple ban that was lifted in 1978. The truth is that the story of race in Mormonism is much greater and longer than that. Racial distinctions are found in Mormon scripture and have been the basis for a variety of attitudes among Mormon people throughout the existence of the church Joseph Smith founded. Racism is the second most popular topic Mormons are known for (Polygamy wins first place) and in the co Race has always been a part of Mormonism. Often it is discussed in regard to the priesthood/temple ban that was lifted in 1978. The truth is that the story of race in Mormonism is much greater and longer than that. Racial distinctions are found in Mormon scripture and have been the basis for a variety of attitudes among Mormon people throughout the existence of the church Joseph Smith founded. Racism is the second most popular topic Mormons are known for (Polygamy wins first place) and in the contemporary church justification for past racist doctrines and practices have been officially disavowed as theories and folklore and have been enthusiastically traded for more inclusive teachings and scriptures that express a view of a more benevolent God that "denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, ... [for] all are alike unto God." While this current inclusive approach, with respect to race, is morally correct it seems equally good to know and come to understand the incorrect thinking of the Mormon past. W. Paul Reeve has provided us with a phenomenal guide into the 19th century american psyche (both Mormon and non-Mormon) as well as the documents that substantiate the shifting attitudes surrounding race within the broader american culture and within Mormonism. The entire book is a trove of historical statements and actions as well as analyses of the thinking behind such statements and actions. Often when learning or discussing racial practices of the past, be it slavery, segregation, or violent hate crimes the superficial context we frame the disgusting views and actions of people from our past is "products of their time" or some similar iteration that seems to diffuse the rage and confusion that jumps into our minds when thinking of our ancestors treating fellow human beings badly solely for the color of their skin. In Religion of a Different Color's first chapter Reeve illustrates an in-depth understanding of exactly how 19th century american people thought about and used racial designations both as a way to explain away groups they found to be offensive that were already visually distinct from themselves (any group other than white anglo-saxons) and as an effective means of making those that appear similar (white anglo-saxons) to be "the other" because of differences in religious beliefs and practices. Reeve continues to illustrate the many ways in which Mormons tried to show America that they were indeed fully white (i.e. fully human) throughout the 19th century and continued well into the 20th century. This effort backfired on them because by the time they achieved their whiteness the country and turned against them and finally made changes to be more inclusive and dismantle the white supremacy that was once universally valued. Each chapter focuses on a particular ethnic group and specific doctrines, attitudes, and practices that all changed and morphed over time in response to public perception and changing internal values. Eventually the church forgot about it's early black members and black men ordained to the priesthood and simultaneously moved the justification of race doctrines from the bible, to Joseph Smith, and finally to God (and who can question God?). LDS leadership stood behind God as a shield during their march towards full american acceptance and whiteness. A complete reversal of race-based restrictions in 1978 was then followed by outsider scrutiny of Mormonism's racist past and more recently a renewed focus on Mormon bodies being whiter than ever. Read a longer review of mine here. http://www.amazon.com/Mormon-Church-B...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Terrance Kutney

    A very poor summary of the main points of this book in bullet point form and in loose chronological order: - Early Mormons were accused by mainstream American society of being non-white. - These attacks were especially salient with Americans because of weird racialized attitudes towards polygamy, (some limited) interracial mixing between Mormons and native American groups, and because people already viewed Mormons as being dangerously inclusive during a period in which some believed that interrac A very poor summary of the main points of this book in bullet point form and in loose chronological order: - Early Mormons were accused by mainstream American society of being non-white. - These attacks were especially salient with Americans because of weird racialized attitudes towards polygamy, (some limited) interracial mixing between Mormons and native American groups, and because people already viewed Mormons as being dangerously inclusive during a period in which some believed that interracial marriage would literally result in extinction. - They didn't like being called black, oriental, Turkish or whatever other group they were compared to in an attempt to "other" them. The Mormons at this time were also politically vulnerable - during the early years, they were driven out of Missouri and Illinois by mob violence and in Utah were only a territory. Being perceived as being "non-white" was an invitation to being lynched, expelled or mobbed. - At first, the Mormons didn't do anything about those perceptions. Joseph Smith was reasonably sympathetic to black people and allowed black people to recieve temple ordinances and hold the priesthood (although there were only two black priesthood holders, maybe because there just weren't that many black members when Joseph Smith was alive?). He was, however, very against interracial marriage. -Anyways, the Mormons eventually sold out and adopted exclusionary policies in order to convince people that they were white. This happened during Brigham Young's presidency, and the priesthood ban was adopted a few years after Brigham Young and everyone else started talking about "Cain's curse." - These policies evolved and in some cases became harsher than the original rule. For instance, there was a long-running sporadic debate over what percentage of black heritage would make a person ineligible for full membership. At first, a person that was part black could maybe be considered white. But by the 1900s, if you had even "one drop" of black ancestry, you were subject to the racist restrictions. - The Mormons forgot that the restrictions had all started with Brigham Young and ascribed the priesthood restrictions and ban on interracial marriage to Joseph Smith in an attempt to give the explanations greater authority. - Despite these attempts by Mormons to blend in, Americans mostly ignored these attempts to be white until the 1950s. But the Mormons really bought in and even developed ideological explanations for the exclusionary policies. These explanations were eventually considered to be doctrine so much so that church leaders said that the priesthood ban was "God's commandment." - The result is that Mormons are overwhelmingly perceived as white just when people start caring more about "diversity" than "whiteness." Good job everyone. Most of what I just wrote is probably incorrect, so I would recommend reading this book yourself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erik Champenois

    I've meant to get to this book for years and am glad I finally read it - this is an absolute must read for anyone with an interest in Mormon studies. It is also a very interesting history from a race studies perspective. A powerful biography of 19th century Mormonism vis-a-vis race, Reeve both reviews the relationship of Mormonism vis-a-vis Native Americans, African Americans, and "Orientals" (Chinese, Turks, etc.) - as well as Mormonism's perception as racially different by mainstream America. I've meant to get to this book for years and am glad I finally read it - this is an absolute must read for anyone with an interest in Mormon studies. It is also a very interesting history from a race studies perspective. A powerful biography of 19th century Mormonism vis-a-vis race, Reeve both reviews the relationship of Mormonism vis-a-vis Native Americans, African Americans, and "Orientals" (Chinese, Turks, etc.) - as well as Mormonism's perception as racially different by mainstream America. The latter might be a surprise to some, but Reeve clearly shows how Mormons in the 19th century were perceived as being so different from the rest of America that they were even ascribed as racially different. This is illustrated well through multiple pictures from magazines and periodicals of the time depicting Mormons as multiracial, a negative portrayal for a racist white America. Polygamy was the biggest reason for this racial othering, buoyed by theories about polygamy producing a racially inferior people, as well as by polygamy's association with Orientals, especially Muslims and Chinese. Mormons were also said to attract the "dredges" of society, or the most inferior white people, in turn producing an inferior race. This form of racializing Mormonism acknowledges the ironic truth that Mormons were largely white - but had to be distinguished as different regardless. Reeve's history clearly shows how the LDS Church transitioned from being relatively more racially inclusive under Joseph Smith to becoming less so under Brigham Young. In the process we learn more about the background for the Church's infamous Priesthood ban, which wasn't lifted until 1978. The book also shows how Mormons sought "whiteness" - acceptance within the majoritarian white mainstream of America - and eventually achieved this acceptance in the 20th century. The irony being that Mormons ended up becoming too "white" as the American center moved from discriminatory segregation to a multiracial multiculturalism (in spite of the current white supremacist backlash). I also find this book fascinating from a more global race/ethnicity studies perspective. The fact that 19th century Americans thought of Mormons as racially different clearly shows how race exists in the mind more than, or rather than, in reality. It is also a clearly documented case of ethnicity being constructed. One can almost imagine this history having an alternate ending of Mormons becoming recognized as a different race. This has fascinating implications for studies on the construction of ethnicity in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, where European colonialism shaped or even created new ethnic identities.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kole

    This has been a great book to help me understand how American in the 19th and 20 centuries viewed, understood, and applied race to people, especially the Mormon religion. I typically thought that the racial issues surrounding Mormons and Americans centered on white and black, but through this book I have come to better understand that there were many racial classifications applied to the Mormon Church. W. Paul Reeve has done a great job in crafting a narrative that isn't messy and helps one to u This has been a great book to help me understand how American in the 19th and 20 centuries viewed, understood, and applied race to people, especially the Mormon religion. I typically thought that the racial issues surrounding Mormons and Americans centered on white and black, but through this book I have come to better understand that there were many racial classifications applied to the Mormon Church. W. Paul Reeve has done a great job in crafting a narrative that isn't messy and helps one to understand each racial term used for the Mormon church in its perspective element and time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Brunt

    A fascinating exploration of the social constructs of race and whiteness. It demonstrates socio-political views in the 19th century that Mormons were not white enough and were racialised as red/native, black, or oriental. It really hits home the absurdity of race, and racism and demonstrates how fitting in racially, how being accepted by mainstream society was more important than perpetuating Mormonism's universalist vision. A fascinating exploration of the social constructs of race and whiteness. It demonstrates socio-political views in the 19th century that Mormons were not white enough and were racialised as red/native, black, or oriental. It really hits home the absurdity of race, and racism and demonstrates how fitting in racially, how being accepted by mainstream society was more important than perpetuating Mormonism's universalist vision.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Luke Tielemans

    This is a FANTASTIC book that everyone should read. It helps you understand the struggles of the early saints and their battle with being "white". It also explains their relationship with the Native Americans as they moved west. Also, gives multiple examples and stories involving "blacks and the Priesthood"and the different controversies surrounding that. Well written and very enlightening. This is a FANTASTIC book that everyone should read. It helps you understand the struggles of the early saints and their battle with being "white". It also explains their relationship with the Native Americans as they moved west. Also, gives multiple examples and stories involving "blacks and the Priesthood"and the different controversies surrounding that. Well written and very enlightening.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abbi Mills

    from not white enough to too white, the LDS church and its members have always had an interesting, fraught, and complicated relationship with race. if you’re engaged or interested in a study on racism, especially on a local level (local if you’re LDS and/or associated with Utah) then i would certainly recommend this book and Reeve’s highly researched thesis.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Camerons

    Amazing book, I learned so much about Mormon history and race. I view this as one of the most important history books I've ever read. Dr. Reeve's work on this topic is an extremely important contribution to contemporary Mormonism. Amazing book, I learned so much about Mormon history and race. I view this as one of the most important history books I've ever read. Dr. Reeve's work on this topic is an extremely important contribution to contemporary Mormonism.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Devan Jensen

    Required reading if you want to understand the nineteenth-century American dynamics of race in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The research is impeccable, and the author’s tone is respectful and understanding.

  16. 4 out of 5

    George

    I will be thinking about this book for a long time. There is much here that I was previously aware of but the net effect of reading the sweep of racial history in Mormonism has been a paradigm shift that will bear, I hope, important fruit in understanding my culture more responsibly.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Hoyt

    A very interesting dive into what being "white" has been in the US. A good coverage of very early Mormon issues with being defined as non-white. This book only devotes a few pages to the last few decades dealing with race in the Mormon church. A very interesting dive into what being "white" has been in the US. A good coverage of very early Mormon issues with being defined as non-white. This book only devotes a few pages to the last few decades dealing with race in the Mormon church.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Knighton

    Compelling insight into racial issues in 19th century America that may have impacted Mormon thought and may explain in some measure the Mormon quest for white Protestant legitimacy in the 20th century.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Solidly researched and well written—if you're interested in the history of race or religion (or both) in America, this is an important book. If you're interested in Mormon Studies, this is a must read. Solidly researched and well written—if you're interested in the history of race or religion (or both) in America, this is an important book. If you're interested in Mormon Studies, this is a must read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Janet B.

    Great approach to a challenging period of US/Mormon history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Farrell

    Incredible research was done to make this book. It shows throughout the book. What a fantastic contribution to Mormon History.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey Chaves

    I wish we’d take a year to study this in Sunday school. Feels like something every member of the church should I know about our history.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Essential reading for understanding the LDS Church's past racial policies and attitudes. Essential reading for understanding the LDS Church's past racial policies and attitudes.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    A fascinating look into how Mormonism began as a religion that wasn't seen as white enough to the surrounding culture, to the point where it's seen as too white to the surrounding culture. A great book on both racial ideas and politics in the greater American experiment. (Oddly enough, some of the plot lines about lost and fallen civilizations in Conan the Barbarian short stories make more sense to me now.) It talks about the views of Americans on blacks, groups we now call white (Italians, Iris A fascinating look into how Mormonism began as a religion that wasn't seen as white enough to the surrounding culture, to the point where it's seen as too white to the surrounding culture. A great book on both racial ideas and politics in the greater American experiment. (Oddly enough, some of the plot lines about lost and fallen civilizations in Conan the Barbarian short stories make more sense to me now.) It talks about the views of Americans on blacks, groups we now call white (Italians, Irish, etc.), Chinese, and Indians, all through the lens of how Mormons were seen in relations to those other groups, both from the Mormon perspective (in the 19th century trying to be seen as white) and the outside perspective (seeing Mormons as degenerating the white race through their actions and thereby becoming like the other races). Also probably the most thorough discussion of blacks and Mormons I've yet seen, so chapters 4-7 are a great primer on race relations regarding African-Americans in Mormonism, all in light of the greater American cultural context. The book itself was well-organized around a single political cartoon, "Mormon Elder-Berry—Out With His Six-Year Olds, Who Take After Their Mothers" (seen on the cover) and that provides a nice overarching structure to the book as well that I found most welcome. I'd suspect that, in 10-15 years, this will be required reading for anybody wanting to understand the history of Mormonism and race relations. It will be a classic. Also, for a believing Latter-day Saint such as myself, a great look into the missteps we've made in the past with regard to our non-white brothers and sisters, and how we as a church are doing much, much better with regard to the injunction from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26:33: For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sam Snideman

    terrific book. exceptionally well written and researched. a very engaging read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dave LeFevre

    Paul Reeve has written the best history to date on the topic of race and the LDS Church. But it's far more then that, diving into the larger issues of attitudes about race in the 1800s and beyond, throughout the United States. Reeve examines attitudes about Native Americans, Asians, Blacks, and more, and how these predominant cultural beliefs among the White majority of Americans impacted the Church and its desire to fit into that culture and still abide by its divine mandate to take the message Paul Reeve has written the best history to date on the topic of race and the LDS Church. But it's far more then that, diving into the larger issues of attitudes about race in the 1800s and beyond, throughout the United States. Reeve examines attitudes about Native Americans, Asians, Blacks, and more, and how these predominant cultural beliefs among the White majority of Americans impacted the Church and its desire to fit into that culture and still abide by its divine mandate to take the message of salvation to all. Reeve does an especially masterful job plotting the various activities and decisions that led to the priesthood ban, its justification over several generations, and its ultimate dismissal as non-doctrinal by later leaders. He demonstrates that the ban was a complex decision involving attitudes generally present in the larger culture but also reactions to specific events that leaders feared would dramatically hinder the Church in its larger outreach efforts. If you read it with a desire to truly understand those times and influences, this book makes it much easier to understand the forces that drove those decisions and even empathize with those who did so. Bottom line is that this book should simply be required reading for anyone interested in this topic. The conversation about this part of the Church's history begins on the Topic pages on lds.org, but it reaches a critical depth in the pages of Reeve's book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    In short, a needed and long overdue book that's generally objective and well researched. The moments of conciseness explaining a vaguely understood topic, if at all understood, make the book more than worthwhile. Similarly, the powerful usage of anecdotes drawn from a variety of grassroots type sources share insights quickly getting to the roots of societal thinking on race. The main focus of the book is getting to the origin of these ideas which often end up in vernacular use. This is the book's In short, a needed and long overdue book that's generally objective and well researched. The moments of conciseness explaining a vaguely understood topic, if at all understood, make the book more than worthwhile. Similarly, the powerful usage of anecdotes drawn from a variety of grassroots type sources share insights quickly getting to the roots of societal thinking on race. The main focus of the book is getting to the origin of these ideas which often end up in vernacular use. This is the book's strongest point. It does lose some of its focus as it seems to devote quite a bit of the middle portion of the book reexamining and reexplaining what it has already made clear in first quarter of the book. Also, while it does attempt to broaden the focus into how 19th century racial views also impacted immigration from Ireland, China, Turkey and other places, it is very clear that this was a relatively tiny portion of his research and focus, which does leave the reader feeling the topic is only very lightly touched outside the African American racial issues, upon which the majority of the book dwells. Very insightful book and very interesting to see how rapidly the shifts in ideas of race have oscillated back and forth in the past couple hundred years.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Cook

    OUTSTANDING! Perhaps the best modern treatment of race in the early days of the LDS Church ever written. A must read for any student of Mormonism and anyone who still holds outdated and wrong perceptions of the priesthood restriction. Only in adulthood did I learn that one of my ancestors, the founder of BYU. A. O. Smoot, was one of the first slaveholders in the Utah Territory, having brought his slaves with him from Kentucky. I was at least relieved that he freed them once he got to Utah. In th OUTSTANDING! Perhaps the best modern treatment of race in the early days of the LDS Church ever written. A must read for any student of Mormonism and anyone who still holds outdated and wrong perceptions of the priesthood restriction. Only in adulthood did I learn that one of my ancestors, the founder of BYU. A. O. Smoot, was one of the first slaveholders in the Utah Territory, having brought his slaves with him from Kentucky. I was at least relieved that he freed them once he got to Utah. In the early days of the church in Utah, many of the black saints settled in Ogden, my hometown. This has caused me to wonder if some of my classmates growing up were descendants of my great grandfather's slaves.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Niecie

    Though this was frustrating and disheartening to read at times because of the subject being treated, I applaud the presentation of historical documents in a complete and fair manner. The flow of the chapters was easy to follow in order to understand the racialization of Mormons as a people as they turned around and racialized others in order to be fully accepted as white Americans. I'll be referencing this book and the references used within for years to come. Though this was frustrating and disheartening to read at times because of the subject being treated, I applaud the presentation of historical documents in a complete and fair manner. The flow of the chapters was easy to follow in order to understand the racialization of Mormons as a people as they turned around and racialized others in order to be fully accepted as white Americans. I'll be referencing this book and the references used within for years to come.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Curtis

    This book was the most comprehensive treatment of race, Mormonism, and all of American Christianity that I have ever read. Professor Reeve is to be commended for his extremely thorough research, extreme candor, and balanced treatment of this very important subject. This book was an absolute pleasure to read.

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