Date of Award

Fall 2013

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Jessica M Lepler


Emerging stronger than ever in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, "orientalism" was more than just pictures of Turkish girls in a sultan's harem; it was a process of information sharing through art, literature, military campaigns, and politics. Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, colloquially known as Mormonism, in the midst of this information exchange. A product of his era, he used orientalist rhetoric and imagery to connect the ideas he preached to ancient Judaism, thereby legitimizing the new religion within the context of a much older and more respected holy past. But he was not the only one incorporating perceptions of the Middle East into his writings. Non-Mormons used orientalism, specifically their perceptions of Islam, to understand a seemingly bizarre new religious movement. Through this process, both groups managed to transform otherwise ordinary Americans into strangers in their own land.