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Book review: 'Exhibiting Mormonism' is a captivating book

By Shelby Scoffield

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Jan. 21 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

"EXHIBITING MORMONISM: The Latter Day Saints and the 1893 Chicago World's Fair," by Reid L. Neilson, Oxford University Press, $29.95, 240 pages (nf)

“Exhibiting Mormonism: The Latter-day Saints and the 1893 Chicago World Fair” by Reid L. Neilson is a captivating account of a massive public relations effort by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1893, the Chicago World’s Fair gave Latter-day Saints the opportunity to show the best of their religion for both a national and international audience and became a pivotal moment in Mormon history.

LDS women played an essential role in improving the church’s image. The women used the fair as a platform to change their social status of their gender and their religion. The women also represented the interests and achievements of Utah and its main religion.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir also played a role in the church’s involvement with the fair. The choir participated in a musical competition that was held in conjunction with the fair.

“Exhibiting Mormonism” brings to light a minuscule part of Mormon history. It is an enlightening account of the church’s effort to be known as an American mainstream religion.

The book is full of many details about the Mormon religion and The Chicago World Fair. Though informational, the tone of the book is relatively dry. It will appeal to those who are interested in American and Mormon history.

One of the most poignant parts of the book is titled “Breaking Down Barriers through Friendship.” It is an account of the role the Young Women organization and the Relief Society had in the fair.

Neilson is the managing director of the LDS Church History Department.

“Exhibiting Mormonism” is an important part of Mormon scholarship. It is a worthwhile read for those seeking to understand Mormon public relations.

Shelby Scoffield is a graduate of Brigham Young University and a graduate student at California State University, Stanislaus.

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