Prologue: On familiarity and contempt -- Introduction: Religious liberty as an American problem -- "Imposter" : the Mormon prophet -- "Delusion" : early Mormon religiosity -- "Fanaticism" : the church as (un)holy city -- "Barbarism" : rhetorics of alienation -- "Heresy" : Americanizing the American religion.
Though the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion, it does not specify what counts as a religion. From its founding in the 1830s, Mormonism, a homegrown American faith, drew thousands of converts but far more critics. In A Peculiar People, J. Spencer Fluhman offers a comprehensive history of anti-Mormon thought and the associated passionate debates about religious authenticity in nineteenth-century America. He argues that understanding anti-Mormonism provides critical insight into the American psyche because Mormonism became a potent symbol around which ideas about religion and the state took shape. - Jacket flap.