Joseph White Musser: A Mormon Fundamentalist

Univ. of Illinois. Mar. 2024. 128p. ISBN 9780252087752. pap. $14.95. REL
Though Mormon fundamentalism is popularly known through books and reports about Warren Jeffs and TV shows such as Big Love and Under the Banner of Heaven, it has an extensive intellectual history. Rosetti (humanities, Utah Tech Univ.) focuses her book on Joseph White Musser (1872–1954), who is credited as the person behind most of the rationale for the Mormon fundamentalist movement. To be sure, most of Mormon fundamentalism’s theology is based in arcane aspects of 19th-century Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints thought, but Musser placed particular importance on plural marriage, which caused him to be excommunicated from the Church. Rosetti details Musser’s life story in the tumultuous years after the end of polygamy in the mainstream LDS Church. She shows how Musser looked to earlier LDS leaders for theological guidance maintaining ideas about the Adam-God theory and the United Order. The latter, an economic communal system, became especially important during the Great Depression.
VERDICT Rosetti is to be commended for writing the first scholarly book about Musser. This accessible volume puts him in his rightful place among Mormon thinkers; recommended for readers interested in American religious and sectarian history.
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