The day before I presented the Smith-Pettit lecture at the 2022 meeting of the Mormon History Association at Utah State University, I entered the Eccles Center and ran into someone who asked me if I was the person speaking about the missionary grin. I quickly corrected him, “No, on the Mormon smile.” Missionary grin seemed to me an epithet, implying a smile with a mischievous or sly intonation.2 But this interlocutor wouldn't accept my correction. “No, no, my Dad always said it, he hated that missionary grin,” he asserted. After shaking my hand firmly, he moved on with, yes, a broad smile.

This interaction underlines how the author enters this subject without confidence that she possesses the right language.3 I am neither LDS nor an expert in Mormonism. I am, instead, a historian of religion and student of popular culture, interested in what thinking about Mormonism reveals...

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