Kingdom of the Saints: The Story of Brigham Young and the Mormons

Kingdom of the Saints: The Story of Brigham Young and the Mormons

Kingdom of the Saints: The Story of Brigham Young and the Mormons

Kingdom of the Saints: The Story of Brigham Young and the Mormons

Excerpt

The Mormon story, insofar as it has been told with any degree of sympathy, has usually been seen as a comic episode in American history. Like so many figures of the frontier, the Mormons seemed to the more genteel East to be only a somewhat different version of that legendary world celebrated by our native humorists of the nineteenth century--a world in which the facts of nature and the life in nature could be understood only in terms of fantasy. What were the experiences of the Mormons but the "tall tale" come to life? Claims of visions, rumors of polygamy and of "Destroying Angels," of violent conflict between Mormons and non-Mormons, plus the epic of a mass march into an unsettled wilderness, could be accommodated by the rational mind only by making them the subject of laughter. Joseph Smith could be seen as a harmless fraud, in a tradition which combined two typical figures in American humor--the shrewd rustic, seeing through the affectations of his more elevated compatriots; and the Yankee peddler, whose harmless swindles were a small price to pay for the amusement they afforded. Brigham Young could become the mock-hero of frontier legend, whose incredible exploits rivaled those of the riverman Mike Fink, the Mountain Man Jim Bridger, or the Indian-fighter and frontier politician Davy Crockett; whose marital experiences, in particular, were of a magnitude appropriate to the Great West.

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