Professor Sarah Barringer Gordon, J.D., Ph.D., will discuss her new book The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America on Wednesday, June 19, at 5:45 p.m., at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St., Philadelphia.
The Mormon Question explores the conflict that produced the first national crisis involving religion and religious life. The conflict generated a political compromise that still governs the nation’s treatment of religious life: Americans are free to believe, but they may not be free to act on their beliefs.
In the book, Dr. Gordon, a professor of law and history at the University of Pennsylvania, explores the struggle between Utah Mormons, who practiced polygamy, or the marriage of one man to several women, and those who opposed them. Antipolygamists argued that freedom, democracy and humanitarian sensibility all dictated that polygamy should be prohibited. Mormons responded that they had the right to choose how to live, and how to govern themselves. The controversy involved states’ rights, constitutional theory, and women’s rights, as well as the separation of church and state.
“This conflict over law and religion is a vital and largely unexplored venue for the study of constitutional history, marriage, and women’s rights. We cannot understand American history without appreciating the vital role that the Mormon faith, and debates over it, have played,” said Gordon.
“Gordon is a fine scholar whose penetrating research . . . breaks new ground in the fields of Mormon studies and legal history,” states Publisher’s Weekly.
A reception before Gordon’s program will be held at the Historical Society starting at 5 p.m. Copies of The Mormon Question, published by the University of North Carolina Press, will be available for purchase and signing.
The program, co-sponsored by The Library Company of Philadelphia, is free and open to the public. To reserve a seat call 215-732-6200 ext. 412 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, including The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, documents, preserves, and shares the histories and cultures of the diverse communities in the Greater Philadelphia region, across Pennsylvania, and throughout the nation. The Society brings together people and documents to explore and interpret history, enriching the lives of the individuals and communities drawn to the stories of the United States and its people.
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
1300 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (215) 732-6200 ext. 246
Fax: (215) 732-2680
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