I spent two years with Mormon people, with Mormon books, and embraced by Mormon history to write American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church. People constantly ask me: Well, what did you think of them? What were the Mormons like?
I respond that I started this project mildly prejudiced in favor of Mormons. More to the point, I'm mildly prejudiced in favor of organized religion. I attend church fairly often, and — even though Mormons often describe their own religion as "weird" or "peculiar" — I regard the Latter-day Saints as part of the American religious mainstream. I've never had a (significant) beef with some of the stretch points of the Saints' beliefs, to wit, the mysterious appearance and disappearance of the "golden tablets" which contained the Book of Mormon. My own religion, Anglicanism, isn't exactly, well, rational.
I also like to say that I ended this project with a mild, pro-Mormon bias. But it's true that a great deal happened in between.
There are about six million Mormons in the United States, and ...