About a week ago, I decided to write my next post on a recurrent popular representation of the Mormons that we didn’t see much of during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign: the image of Mormon violence. I was going to talk about why I think this image didn’t surface during the recent Mormon moment, and whether or not I think it has a future now that the moment is over. But since last Friday, we have all watched in horror as unspeakable violence and its aftereffects have unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut, brought simultaneously into our homes in real time on 24-hour cable news outlets, online news media, and social networking sites.
I don’t want to think about violence right now—real or imagined—or distance myself from it with objective academic arguments. So that left me wondering, what do I want to think about and write about? What aspect of my research can I discuss, in this moment of national grief, that doesn’t feel utterly trivial and irrelevant—not to mention disrespectful?
I decided to focus this post on the major recurrent theme in positive American representations of the Latter-day Saints across the last century. For at least the last one hundred years, in troubled times when Americans have sought to stress national unity over internal differences, representations of the Saints have highlighted Mormon solidarity and community support. In fact, at times, the Saints’ sense of community has been held up as a model to be followed by the nation. [Read more...]