Four essays toward the middle of God and Country consider the question of whether Utah in the second half of the 20th century presents a case of informal (or de facto) establishment. The four authors are familiar, but the verdict is surprisingly mixed. It's fair to say that Quinn's contribution in Chapter 7 will likely get the most attention, but the other three chapters help balance out Quinn's characteristic overkill and remind the reader that religious political influence may be real but is often only apparent, even in "Mormon Utah."
In Chapter 4, "The Persistent Pattern of Establishment in Mormon Land," Jan Shipps is surprisingly open, for a Christian scholar, about "the nation's de facto Protestant establishment" and how it battled against the rival but nascent Mormon establishment during the 19th century (ARC, p. 63). In fact, she goes so far as to speculate that Mormonism, filling the unfortunate but indispensable role of the common enemy, "came along at exactly the right time to fill that need" and unite the divided Protestant denominations into an effective coalition supporting de facto Protestant establishment in the United States (p. 69). The pioneer era in Utah was a battle between rival establishments, but the 20th century saw the Protestant version go into substantial eclipse and the Mormon version reemerge to claim a tardy victory in the state.
In Chapter 5, "Toleration of Religious Sentiment: Helping It Work From the Governor's Chair," Calvin L. Rampton, three-term governor of Utah from 1964 to 1976, is skeptical: "I have heard it speculated that the [LDS] church covertly sends word out to local congregations about how its members should vote for candidates and issues that appear on the ballot. This is pure fantasy. It does not occur" (p. 89). Furthermore, he notes that when specific candidates now attempt to play the Church card in local elections, it generally backfires at the polls (p. 92-93).
In Chapter 6, "The LDS Church and Utah Politics: Five Stories and Some Observations," Rod Decker, a KUTV reporter, gives what most readers probably expect to find in a book with the subtitle "Politics in Utah": a capsule version of the stormy role of the Church in Utah political history. The five episodes he summarizes are: (1) Moses Thatcher and the "Political Manifesto" of 1896; (2) Reed Smoot and the Federal Bunch; (3) Utah's surprising role in the repeal of Prohibition; (4) David O. McKay's role in allowing defeat of legislative reapportionment favoring rural and heavily Mormon districts in the 1950s; and (5) the fight to defeat the ERA, which he called "the church's first national victory" (p. 118). I was surprised at how much of this material was new to me.
In Chapter 7, "Exporting Utah's Theocracy Since 1975: Mormon Organizational Behavior and America's Culture Wars," D. Michael Quinn unleashes 17 pages of text and 22 pages of footnotes to document the increasingly effective role of the Church and its "chain of command" in defeating first the ERA, then a series of still-ongoing state same-sex marriage initiatives. This is the chapter that will send politically conservative Mormons (whom he describes as "act[ing] like army ants when given instructions about political matters") into orbit, until they realize that what Quinn has done is to carefully document the fact that the LDS Church is now the most effective political mobilization organization in the United States. Is that good news or bad news? Political power creates political enemies, as Mormon history demonstrates, but one can only marvel at the deep historical irony of this surprising development.