Playing with Shadows
Voices of Dissent in the Mormon West
Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier Series
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: The Arthur H. Clark Company
496 Pages | 6 x 9 | 25 photos
This collection of narratives by four individuals who abandoned Mormonism—“apostates,” as Brigham Young and other Latter-day Saint leaders labeled them—provides an overview of dissent from the beginning of the religion to the early twentieth century and presents a wide range of disaffection with the faith or its leaders.
Instead of focusing on a single disheartened individual or sect, this collection includes dissenters with different motivations and a wide range of experiences. Some devout Mormon converts, finding Brigham Young’s implementation of the Kingdom of God disillusioning, turned their backs on religion in general. Yet most never lost their love for their fellow Mormons or their longing for the ideal society they had dreamed of building.
Newspaper articles, personal letters, journals, and sermons provide context for the testaments collected here—those of George Armstrong Hicks, Charles Derry, Ann Gordge, and Brigham Young Hampton. The four range from those who felt Brigham Young had not lived up to the precepts of Mormonism, to “backouts” who gave up and left Utah, to a plural wife who constructed a rich fantasy world, to a devoted Latter-day Saint who gave his all only to feel betrayed by his leaders. Young warned
one dissenting group that they were “not playing with shadows,” but with “the voice and the hand of the Almighty”; accordingly, many dissenters feared for their livelihoods, and some, for their lives.
Historians will value the range of beliefs, opinions, complaints, hopes, and fears expressed in these carefully annotated life histories. An antidote to anti-Mormon sensationalism, these detailed chronicles of deeply personal journeys add subtlety and a human dimension to our understanding of the Mormon past.