A Jesuit Interpretation of Mid-Nineteenth-Century America: “Mormonism in Connection with Modern Protestantism”

As historians of Mormonism have long since established, Europeans took note of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints almost from the beginning. Mormon missionaries, converts, and expatriates, as well as European visitors to the United States, put the church on the European map early on. The result was a great deal of animated European commentary on, interest in, and interaction with Mormonism itself. Such engagement was illustrated in 1854 when, after a decade in the United States, the ecclesiastical polymath Philip Schaff returned to his native German-speaking regions and included—though reluctantly (“I would fain pass over this sect in silence”)—an account of the Mormons in his landmark lectures entitled America: A Sketch of Its Political, Social, and Religious Character. Schaff did so because so many Germans had asked him about the movement.

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