Between 1901 and 1907, a broad coalition of Protestant churches
sought to expel newly elected Reed Smoot from the Senate, arguing
that as an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, Smoot was a lawbreaker and therefore unfit to be a
lawmaker. The resulting Senate investigative hearing featured
testimony on every peculiarity of Mormonism, especially its
polygamous family structure. The Smoot hearing ultimately mediated
a compromise between Progressive Era Protestantism and Mormonism
and resolved the nation's long-standing "Mormon Problem." On a
broader scale, Kathleen Flake shows how this landmark hearing
provided the occasion for the country--through its elected
representatives, the daily press, citizen petitions, and social
reform activism--to reconsider the scope of religious free exercise
in the new century.
Flake contends that the Smoot hearing was the forge in which the
Latter-day Saints, the Protestants, and the Senate hammered out a
model for church-state relations, shaping for a new generation of
non-Protestant and non-Christian Americans what it meant to be free
and religious. In addition, she discusses the Latter-day Saints'
use of narrative and collective memory to retain their religious
identity even as they changed to meet the nation's demands.