“Whereas anti-Mormon violence had been characteristic of virtually every northern locale of Mormon settlement during the antebellum period,” Patrick Mason writes in his history of the subject, “violent assaults on Mormon missionaries became an increasingly southern practice in the years after the Civil War” (93). What distinguishes Mason’s book from other chapters in the sad saga of religious persecution is his excellent analysis of the complexities that result when political agendas, regional norms and interests, and theories on the proper role and limits of government all collide in the face of religious heterodoxy. Virtually all late nineteenth-century citizens and politicians were united in their desire to extirpate polygamy—which became synonymous in their minds with Mormonism—but they differed greatly in their strategies. The familiar, broad issue framing Mason’s study is the conflict between religious liberty and social norms, between an idealized pluralism and a rigorously delimited orthopraxy. But he breaks new ground in his lucid exposition of how messy the management of religious difference could become in the complicated politics of the mid-nineteenth century.

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Copyright © 2011, Cambridge University Press. This article first appeared in Church History 80:4 (2011), 954-56.

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