Mormons are famous for their fervent commitment to old-fashioned virtues, like sobriety, sexual probity, and community. With their bulletproof smiles and overwhelming niceness, they often seem like historical reenactors giving us an exaggerated sense of what it was like to live in America circa 1955.
But the church's story is one in which change figures as much as tradition. In its early years, followers were violently persecuted and answered in kind. At one point, the U.S. Army occupied Utah to put down a rebellion. Somehow, though, the armed insurgents eventually gave way to the likes of Mitt Romney.
Like other faiths, they face a younger generation that has a noticeable skepticism about religion—including my newlywed friend. Maintaining the sense of unstoppable divine favor won't be easy. Neither will resisting the powerful influences of modern America, writes Steve Chapman.