I recently mentioned to an English friend that my parents don’t drink because they’re Mormons. ‘So, Dave,’ he asked sheepishly, ‘how many wives does your father have?’ I explained that the Mormon Church outlawed polygamy in 1890; Utah wouldn’t otherwise have been allowed to join the Union. I didn’t mind the question, though. Mormons may no longer be subject to extermination in Missouri (that legislation was rescinded in 1976), but the eleven million Latter-Day Saints – a little under half live in the US – are generally thought to be peculiar, when they are thought of at all.
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[*] Oxford, 320 pp., £20, March 2002, 0 19 513818 x.