Playing with Shadows by Polly Aird
Voices of Dissent in the Mormon West

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews


This collection of narratives by four individuals who abandoned Mormonism—“apostates,” as Brigham Young and other Latter-day Saint leaders labeled them—provides an overview of dissent from the beginning of the religion to the early twentieth century and presents a wide range of disaffection with the faith or its leaders.
Instead of focusing on a single disheartened individual or sect, this collection includes dissenters with different motivations and a wide range of experiences. Some devout Mormon converts, finding Brigham Young’s implementation of the Kingdom of God disillusioning, turned their backs on religion in general. Yet most never lost their love for their fellow Mormons or their longing for the ideal society they had dreamed of building.
Newspaper articles, personal letters, journals, and sermons provide context for the testaments collected here—those of George Armstrong Hicks, Charles Derry, Ann Gordge, and Brigham Young Hampton. The four range from those who felt Brigham Young had not lived up to the precepts of Mormonism, to “backouts” who gave up and left Utah, to a plural wife who constructed a rich fantasy world, to a devoted Latter-day Saint who gave his all only to feel betrayed by his leaders. Young warned
one dissenting group that they were “not playing with shadows,” but with “the voice and the hand of the Almighty”; accordingly, many dissenters feared for their livelihoods, and some, for their lives.
Historians will value the range of beliefs, opinions, complaints, hopes, and fears expressed in these carefully annotated life histories. An antidote to anti-Mormon sensationalism, these detailed chronicles of deeply personal journeys add subtlety and a human dimension to our understanding of the Mormon past.


About Polly Aird

See more books from this Author
Polly Aird is an independent historian whose award-winning articles have appeared in the Utah Historical Quarterly, the Journal of Mormon History, and Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. In addition, she is the author of the award-winning book, Mormon Convert, Mormon Defector: A Scottish Immigrant in the American West, 1848-1861. She lives in Seattle, Washington. Jeff Nichols is Associate Professor of History at Westminster College, Salt Lake City, and the author of Prostitution, Polygamy, and Power: Salt Lake City, 1847-1918. Will Bagley is an independent historian who has written about overland emigration, frontier violence, railroads, mining, and the Mormons. Bagley has published extensively over the years and is the author and editor of many books, articles, and reviews in professional journals. Bagley is the series editor of Arthur H. Clark Company's documentary history series, KINGDOM IN THE WEST: The Mormons and the American Frontier. Bagley has been a Wallace Stegner Centennial Fellow at the University of Utah and the Archibald Hannah, Jr. Fellow in American History at Yale University's Beinecke Library. Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows has won numerous awards including a Spur Award from Western Writers of America, the Bancroft History Prize from the Denver Public Library, Westerners International Best Book, and the Western History Association Caughey Book Prize for the most distinguished book on the history of the American West. So Rugged and Mountainous: Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1812-1848 is the first of four volumes of Overland West: The Story of the Oregon and California Trails Series.
Published January 1, 2011 by Arthur H. Clark Company. 518 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Religion & Spirituality.