“A Spirit of Persecution”

When I got out my camera, a Mormon security guard made it clear that he didn’t like what I was doing. “Excuse me sir,” he said. “Please don’t feed the trolls.”

The “trolls” were the anti-Mormon protesters carrying anti-Mormon signs and yelling anti-Mormon slurs—some of them using bullhorns. They amass at dusk on the seven nights in July when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints puts on its annual Hill Cumorah Pageant. It’s here, on a tree-lined hill that rises above the flat farmland of western New York state, that the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, claimed to have unearthed metal plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon. And for each of the last 75 years—except during World War II—Mormons have staged an elaborate production dramatizing the Book of Mormon’s sacred history of a Pre-Columbian Christian civilization.

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