Mormonism’s ‘9/11 mosque moment’ came in 1903

Before a proposed mosque in Manhattan focused the nation’s attention on “terroristic” tendencies of everyday Muslims, Mormons faced the same scrutiny.

The Mormon “9/11 Mosque” moment happened more than 100 years earlier. In 1903, the Utah Legislature elected LDS Apostle Reed Smoot as U.S. senator from Utah (this was before the 17th Amendment, which provided for election to the Senate by popular vote). The vote in the Legislature broke along party lines: 46 for Republican Smoot, 16 for his Democratic rival.

The nation nearly had kittens.

Pent-up suspicion and venom against Mormons erupted in furious broadsides by Christian ministers, politicians and self-appointed committees of public and moral safety. About 3,100 petitions arrived in Washington demanding that Congress not seat the Mormon from Utah.

Historian Kathleen Flake noted, “What remains of these public petitions fills 11 feet of shelf space, the largest such collection in the National Archives.”

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