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FBI and ReligionFaith and National Security before and after 9/11$
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Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520287273

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520287273.001.0001

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date: 13 May 2021

A Vast Infiltration

A Vast Infiltration

Mormonism and the FBI

(p.191) 11 A Vast Infiltration
FBI and Religion

Matthew Bowman

University of California Press

From the work of acclaimed authors like the noir novelist James Ellroy to movies like Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, the close connection between Mormons and the Federal Bureau of Investigation became a pop culture trope in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This chapter argues that this connection was most celebrated by an oddly dissonant collection of Americans. The first were Mormons themselves, who believed that the very real presence of FBI recruiters at Brigham Young University indicated that their peculiarities—a command of foreign languages due to missionary service, abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and a general reputation for being clean cut—indicated that American culture had finally accepted them. The second group, however, were artists, conspiracy theorists, and evangelicals suspicious of Mormons who used the presence of Mormons in the FBI to validate broader narratives of government conspiracy, smooth, faceless bureaucracy, and lack of accountability that became popular in post-Vietnam America. The conflict between these two narratives has relevance for the cultural between left and right as the culture wars heated up, but also illustrates the ways in which Americans talked about legitimate and illegitimate religion in the late twentieth century.

Keywords:   Mormons, FBI, culture wars

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