Welcome to the New Mormon Identity

The so-called "Mormon moment" sparked by Mitt Romney's unsuccessful run for the U.S. presidency marks an important moment of transition for the Latter-day Saints. In Mormon history, it will likely rank with the Church's final renunciation of polygamy and theocracy in the 1907 Smoot Hearings as a seminal moment in the movement's evolving identity.

For much of the 19th century Mormonism carved out a niche for itself at the confluence of various streams of radical Protestantism. It was primativist, utopian, theocratic, and willing to redefine the boundaries of the family. All of these were elements that appealed to particular kinds of religious believers, garnering Mormonism its first wave of converts. By the end of the 19th century, however, this model of Mormonism had run its course. Faced with unsustainably high levels of antagonism in the wider American culture, Mormonism evolved into a religion centered on the sanctification of the nuclear, middle-class family and the preservation of "good Christian values" in an increasingly permissive world. In doing this, Mormonism positioned itself within the American mainstream, riding the powerful current of that stream in the mid-20th century to garner a second, massive wave of converts.

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