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Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  121 ratings  ·  34 reviews
The Protestant white majority in the nineteenth century was convinced that Mormonism represented a racial-not merely religious-departure from the mainstream and they spent considerable effort attempting to deny Mormon whiteness. Being white equalled access to political, social, and economic power, all aspects of citizenship in which outsiders sought to limit or prevent Mor ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 27th 2015 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published December 27th 2014)
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Quinn Rollins
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Short review: This is a well-researched, fascinating look at an American-born religious group that has an intriguing history. If you’re interested in race, religion, history, or the overlap of all three, this is a must-read.

Long review:

I need to start this with a disclaimer that I’m a Mormon. Not only a Mormon, but a “Utah Mormon,” who has family members in the LDS/Mormon Church going back to 1830, the year that religion was founded. So that may bias my reading of this book. I’m also a history
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Candid and powerful with plenty of surprises and ironic turns. An important book on Mormonism, but also on race in America more broadly. Full review to follow.
Samuel Brown
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The definitive treatment of the Mormon racial exclusion policy. Honest and unflinching and sympathetic. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Mormonism or the history of race in America.
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is, currently, the definitive book explore Mormonism and race in the nineteenth century. Thorough, careful, and detailed, Reeve gives context and analysis to the American racial beliefs and rhetoric that shaped Mormonism within and without.

During the 19th Century, critics of Mormons used racial framing to marginalize our religious minority. Mormons were cast as yellow, pale, sickly, unhealthy, part asian, part black, part racial degenerate. Because race is more a social construct and not a
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
W. Paul Reeve has crafted here a much-needed Mormon Studies book exploring the racial dimensions of Mormonism. He cleverly begins with a political cartoon from a 1904 Life Magazine publication that depicts a Mormon "Elder" and his nine six-year-olds to access a less-remembered American cultural objection to Mormon polygamy. Not only did the Protestant white majority in the nineteenth century America object to Mormon polygamy because it offended their Victorian notions of monogamist sexuality/mor ...more
Ryan Ward
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A landmark in Mormon scholarship. By contextualizing Mormonism within a 19th century America in which racism was mainstream and in which any suspect differences were viewed in racial terms, Reeve opens up unexplored relationships between Mormons and a number of different racial groups (native Americans, Blacks, and Asians). Using an enormous array of primary sources, he makes the compelling case that Mormonism's fraught relationship with other racial minorities, particularly blacks, were a produ ...more
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Race has always been a part of Mormonism. Often it is discussed in regard to the priesthood/temple ban that was lifted in 1978. The truth is that the story of race in Mormonism is much greater and longer than that. Racial distinctions are found in Mormon scripture and have been the basis for a variety of attitudes among Mormon people throughout the existence of the church Joseph Smith founded. Racism is the second most popular topic Mormons are known for (Polygamy wins first place) and in the co ...more
Terrance Kutney
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A very poor summary of the main points of this book in bullet point form and in loose chronological order:

- Early Mormons were accused by mainstream American society of being non-white.

- These attacks were especially salient with Americans because of weird racialized attitudes towards polygamy, (some limited) interracial mixing between Mormons and native American groups, and because people already viewed Mormons as being dangerously inclusive during a period in which some believed that interrac
Erik Champenois
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've meant to get to this book for years and am glad I finally read it - this is an absolute must read for anyone with an interest in Mormon studies. It is also a very interesting history from a race studies perspective. A powerful biography of 19th century Mormonism vis-a-vis race, Reeve both reviews the relationship of Mormonism vis-a-vis Native Americans, African Americans, and "Orientals" (Chinese, Turks, etc.) - as well as Mormonism's perception as racially different by mainstream America. ...more
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This has been a great book to help me understand how American in the 19th and 20 centuries viewed, understood, and applied race to people, especially the Mormon religion. I typically thought that the racial issues surrounding Mormons and Americans centered on white and black, but through this book I have come to better understand that there were many racial classifications applied to the Mormon Church.

W. Paul Reeve has done a great job in crafting a narrative that isn't messy and helps one to u
Deborah Brunt
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating exploration of the social constructs of race and whiteness. It demonstrates socio-political views in the 19th century that Mormons were not white enough and were racialised as red/native, black, or oriental. It really hits home the absurdity of race, and racism and demonstrates how fitting in racially, how being accepted by mainstream society was more important than perpetuating Mormonism's universalist vision.
Luke Tielemans
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a FANTASTIC book that everyone should read. It helps you understand the struggles of the early saints and their battle with being "white". It also explains their relationship with the Native Americans as they moved west. Also, gives multiple examples and stories involving "blacks and the Priesthood"and the different controversies surrounding that. Well written and very enlightening.
Abbi Mills
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
from not white enough to too white, the LDS church and its members have always had an interesting, fraught, and complicated relationship with race. if you’re engaged or interested in a study on racism, especially on a local level (local if you’re LDS and/or associated with Utah) then i would certainly recommend this book and Reeve’s highly researched thesis.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book, I learned so much about Mormon history and race. I view this as one of the most important history books I've ever read. Dr. Reeve's work on this topic is an extremely important contribution to contemporary Mormonism.
Devan Jensen
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Required reading if you want to understand the nineteenth-century American dynamics of race in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The research is impeccable, and the author’s tone is respectful and understanding.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mormon-studies
I will be thinking about this book for a long time. There is much here that I was previously aware of but the net effect of reading the sweep of racial history in Mormonism has been a paradigm shift that will bear, I hope, important fruit in understanding my culture more responsibly.
Nathan Hoyt
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting dive into what being "white" has been in the US. A good coverage of very early Mormon issues with being defined as non-white. This book only devotes a few pages to the last few decades dealing with race in the Mormon church.
Andrew Knighton
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Compelling insight into racial issues in 19th century America that may have impacted Mormon thought and may explain in some measure the Mormon quest for white Protestant legitimacy in the 20th century.
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Solidly researched and well written—if you're interested in the history of race or religion (or both) in America, this is an important book. If you're interested in Mormon Studies, this is a must read.
Janet B.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great approach to a challenging period of US/Mormon history.
Michael Farrell
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredible research was done to make this book. It shows throughout the book. What a fantastic contribution to Mormon History.
Aubrey Chaves
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wish we’d take a year to study this in Sunday school. Feels like something every member of the church should I know about our history.
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history, lds
Essential reading for understanding the LDS Church's past racial policies and attitudes.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lds-studies
A fascinating look into how Mormonism began as a religion that wasn't seen as white enough to the surrounding culture, to the point where it's seen as too white to the surrounding culture. A great book on both racial ideas and politics in the greater American experiment. (Oddly enough, some of the plot lines about lost and fallen civilizations in Conan the Barbarian short stories make more sense to me now.) It talks about the views of Americans on blacks, groups we now call white (Italians, Iris ...more
Sam Snideman
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lds
terrific book. exceptionally well written and researched. a very engaging read.
Dave LeFevre
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: church-history
Paul Reeve has written the best history to date on the topic of race and the LDS Church. But it's far more then that, diving into the larger issues of attitudes about race in the 1800s and beyond, throughout the United States. Reeve examines attitudes about Native Americans, Asians, Blacks, and more, and how these predominant cultural beliefs among the White majority of Americans impacted the Church and its desire to fit into that culture and still abide by its divine mandate to take the message ...more
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
In short, a needed and long overdue book that's generally objective and well researched.

The moments of conciseness explaining a vaguely understood topic, if at all understood, make the book more than worthwhile. Similarly, the powerful usage of anecdotes drawn from a variety of grassroots type sources share insights quickly getting to the roots of societal thinking on race. The main focus of the book is getting to the origin of these ideas which often end up in vernacular use. This is the book's
David  Cook
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mormon-history
OUTSTANDING! Perhaps the best modern treatment of race in the early days of the LDS Church ever written. A must read for any student of Mormonism and anyone who still holds outdated and wrong perceptions of the priesthood restriction.

Only in adulthood did I learn that one of my ancestors, the founder of BYU. A. O. Smoot, was one of the first slaveholders in the Utah Territory, having brought his slaves with him from Kentucky. I was at least relieved that he freed them once he got to Utah. In th
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Though this was frustrating and disheartening to read at times because of the subject being treated, I applaud the presentation of historical documents in a complete and fair manner. The flow of the chapters was easy to follow in order to understand the racialization of Mormons as a people as they turned around and racialized others in order to be fully accepted as white Americans. I'll be referencing this book and the references used within for years to come.
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was the most comprehensive treatment of race, Mormonism, and all of American Christianity that I have ever read. Professor Reeve is to be commended for his extremely thorough research, extreme candor, and balanced treatment of this very important subject. This book was an absolute pleasure to read.
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W. Paul Reeve is the Simmons Professor of Mormon Studies in the History Department at the University of Utah where he teaches courses on Utah history, Mormon history, and the history of the U.S. West. His book, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, (Oxford, 2015) received the Mormon History Association’s Best Book Award, the John Whitmer Historical Association’ ...more

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