God and Country: Politics in Utah

In this volume, editor Jeffery E. Sells, former associate priest at the Cathedral of St. Mark in Salt Lake City and current rector of St. David of Wales Church in Shelton, Washington, has assembled an impressive array of legal, religious, and historical scholars along with political and community leaders to contribute essays to a “multi-faceted scholarly investigation of the issues” accompanying the overshadowing political presence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah. The handsome dust jacket, depicting Brigham Young wearing the cupola of the state capital as a crown, cleverly depicts the book’s underlying position. Many authors in this volume argue that Utah functions as a theocracy in a nation where the separation of church and state is sacrosanct; the arguable breech of the First Amendment in Utah is particularly repugnant to those who find themselves outside the Mormon and Republican majority. God and Country is primarily intended to represent the views of the religious and political minorities in Utah who feel disenfranchised because the political system is dominated by Mormons. Though not advocating that the LDS Church or any other sect should have no influence on politics in Utah, Sells asserts the essays contained in God and Country are intended to offer suggestions for the future interaction of religion and politics.

The essays are divided into two sections. Part one comprises primarily historical treatments of the development of the First Amendment and Utah’s political past. In part two, the essays are geared toward identifying “the social consequences of religious dominance.” As with any volume containing contributions from numerous authors, the quality and relevance of the scholarship varies from essay to essay. Because this tome contains some twenty contributors, I shall discuss only examples that are indicative of the strengths and weaknesses of this compilation.

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