Saturday's Warriors and Mormon Correlation

Paul Harvey

Today's must-read for ya'll: Matt Bowman, "Saturday's Warriors: How Mormons Went from Beard-Wearing Radicals to Clean-Cut Conformists." Aside from covering the short-lived, cute-if-cringe-inducing history of "Mormon rap," the piece expertly details the origins of the policy of "correlation" in early twentieth-century progressivism's emphasis on efficiency and order, its translation in the world of the modern corporation, its usefulness in creating a church capable of handling growth and expansion, and the struggles to translate mid-century corporate correlation into a more contemporary idiom of pluralism and self-expression. A little excerpt:

Saturday’s Warrior
—the title alludes to the latter days—was an unprecedented pop phenomenon in the small world of midcentury Mormondom at least in part because it struck with perfect pitch the tone of that Mormon moment. In the 1960s and ’70s, many Mormons were disappointed with American culture, which seemed to them to be spinning wildly out of control. The musical’s heroes urge their wayward siblings to protect themselves by embracing a rigorous code of personal morality and loyalty to the clean-cut church that teaches it. Saturday’s Warrior is, essentially, a tract from Mormon parents desperate to keep their children out of the dangerous clutches of hippies.

But Saturday’s Warrior is not only an amusing bit of Mormon cultural ephemera. It is also a remarkable relic of the midcentury bureaucratic reform effort that gradually became the defining force of 20th-century Mormonism. This program went under the vague and harmless-sounding name of “correlation.” If you’ve ever wondered how Mormons went from beard-wearing polygamous radicals (think Brigham Young) to your well-scrubbed, wholesome, and somewhat dorky next-door neighbors (think Mitt Romney—albeit with not quite so much money), the short answer is “correlation.”

The piece also makes a nice intro into Matt's book The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith. And it's an entree, too, into the culture, with both its strengths and its weaknesses, that has helped to shape and inform Mitt Romney. 


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