Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics.

Author:Ellsworth, Brant W.
Position:Book review

Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics. By David E. Campbell, John C. Green, and J. Quin Monson. New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xiv + 294, preface, acknowledgements, data appendix, bibliography, index.

On October 9, 2014, in the midst of a particularly contentious midterm election, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints issued a letter to be read to Church congregations throughout the United States urging members to register and regularly exercise their right to vote. This letter, like those circulated each election cycle, admonished Latter-day Saints to study the candidates and support wise, honest leaders, but it did not recommend specific candidates. Instead, the Church maintained its political neutrality and clarified that admirable characteristics could be found in candidates across the political spectrum. Despite the Church's political ambivalence, its membership is markedly not. In fact, 65% of Mormons in the United States identify as part of, or lean towards, the Republican Party, making Mormons the most Republican religious group and one of the most Republican subcultures in the United States. This has not always been the case. In Seeking the Promised Land, political scientists David E. Campbell, John C. Green, and J. Quin Monson trace the evolution of Mormon political preferences from Joseph Smith's 1844 presidential candidacy to Mitt Romney's bid in 2012. In this excellent work of social science, the authors examine the intersections of Mormonism and American politics by mining twenty-eight surveys and public opinion polls to reveal the political preferences and peculiarities of Mormons in America. These findings expose a paradox in the Mormon experience that is central to the text: have Mormons become both "quintessentially American" and a "peculiar people," simultaneously occupying a spot in the American mainstream and one along the fringes of American society?

The book is divided into the three sections: "Mormons as an Ethno-Religious Group," "Political Behavior of Mormons," and "The Consequences of Distinctiveness." In section one, the authors outline a framework for best understanding the above-mentioned paradox by examining Mormonism as a religion and Mormons as a people, with overviews of their doctrine, culture, and history. As an ethno-religious subculture, Mormons, the authors argue, thrive in a state of tension with the broader culture, at odds...

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