Exceptionally Queer

Mormon Peculiarity and U.S. Nationalism

2022
Author:

K. Mohrman

How perceptions of Mormonism from 1830 to the present reveal the exclusionary, racialized practices of the U.S. nation-state

K. Mohrman offers a powerful rethinking of Mormonism and its place in U.S. history, culture, and politics, arguing that Mormon peculiarity is a potent expression of U.S. exceptionalism. Exceptionally Queer ultimately shows how discussions of Mormonism in this country have been and continue to be central to ideas of what it means to be American.

Are Mormons really so weird? Are they potentially queer? These questions occupy the heart of this powerful rethinking of Mormonism and its place in U.S. history, culture, and politics. K. Mohrman argues that Mormon peculiarity is not inherent to the Latter-day Saint faith tradition, as is often assumed, but rather a potent expression of U.S. exceptionalism.

Exceptionally Queer scrutinizes the history of Mormonism starting with its inception in the early 1830s and continuing to the present. Drawing on a wide range of historical texts and moments—from nineteenth-century battles over Mormon plural marriage; to the LDS Church’s emphases on “individual responsibility” and “family values”; to mainstream media’s coverage of the LDS Church’s racist exclusion of Black priesthood holders, its Native assimilation programs, and vehement opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment; and to much more recent legal and cultural battles over same-sex marriage and on-screen Mormon polygamy—Exceptionally Queer evaluates how Mormonism has been used to motivate and rationalize the biased, exclusionary, and colonialist policies and practices of the U.S. nation-state.

Mohrman explains that debates over Mormonism both drew on and shaped racial discourses and, in so doing, delineated the boundaries of whiteness and national belonging, largely through the consolidation of (hetero)normative ideas of sex, marriage, family, and economy. Ultimately, the author shows how discussions of Mormonism in this country have been and continue to be central to ideas of what it means to be American.

K. Mohrman is clinical teaching-track assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Denver. She received the 2018–19 LGBTQ Religious History Award.

Contents

Introduction: Peculiar, Exceptional, Queer

Part I. Making Mormonism Peculiar

1. Becoming Peculiar, 1830–1852

2. A Peculiar Race with Peculiar Institutions, 1847–1874

3. The Problems of (Mormon) Empire, 1874–1896

Part II. Exceptionally Normal

4. Resignifying Mormon Peculiarity, 1890–1945

5. A Thoroughly American Institution, 1936–1962

6. Making Mormon Peculiarity Colorblind, 1960–1982

Part III. Regulatory Queer Varieties of Mormon Peculiarity

7. Polygamy, or The Racial Politics of Marriage as Freedom

Coda: What Mormonism Can Tell Us about Critical Theory

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index