The Fourth Great Awakening and the Political Realignment of the 1990s

Anti-Mormonism, a strange shadow of Mormonism, is itself a social phenomenon. In 1992 the Encyclopedia of Mormonism noted that no comprehensive history of anti-Mormonism has yet been published. Even if such a history had been published, it would need considerable periodic updating because of the changing activity of anti-Mormons.

I have argued elsewhere that the 1982 film The God Makers marked the emergence of a new anti-Mormonism that I have called “postrationalist.” While “rationalist” anti-Mormonism—mostly represented by the “career apostates” Jerald and Sandra Tanner—denied anything supernatural in Joseph Smith’s experiences and regarded him as a mere fraud, postrationalist anti-Mormonism advances the theory “that Joseph Smith was in touch with a superhuman source of revelation and power.” However, according to the postrationalist theory, the superhuman source was not God, but Satan.

While the postrational theory may seem new, this article will show that it is merely an example of old wine in new bottles, being part of a tradition that dates back to the nineteenth century. Although this tradition became somewhat disreputable in the first decades of the twentieth century, it continued to exist in the fundamentalist subculture.

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