Maxwell Institute

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Professor Anthea Butler’s MI Guest Lecture is now available to watch online: “Caught in the Tentacles: American Baptist Home Missions to Mormons in Utah in the Late 19th and Early 20th Century.”


In 1898, the Woman’s American Baptist Home Mission Society published a startling tract called “The Mormon Octopus.” The Baptist group warned the nation about a severe danger lurking in the newly-established state of Utah:

Mormonism is an ecclesiastical and, since statehood, a political DESPOTISM. Like a huge octopus, the Mormon hierarchy is fastening its tentacles throughout the Rocky Mountain States, and is sapping the very life-blood of American freedom.”

In this Maxwell Institute Guest Lecture, Anthea Butler sheds light on a long-forgotten mission Baptists undertook to rid the nation of this deadly octopus—they took their fight straight to the heart of Utah.

P.S.—Coming on Friday, Butler will be featured on the Maxwell Institute Podcast talking about her book, Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making A Sanctified World.

About Anthea Butler

Anthea Butler is Graduate Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Butler’s research and writing spans religion and politics, religion and gender, African American religion, sexuality, media, religion, and popular culture. A sought-after media commentator on the BBC, MSNBC, CNN and other media outlets, Professor Butler also provides op-ed on contemporary politics, religion, and race at The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Guardian. She has also served as a consultant on the PBS series God in America and the American Experience feature about Aimee Semple McPherson. She is the author of Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making A Sanctified World and is currently completing a book on religion, politics, and evangelicals from the U.S. presidential elections of 2008 and 2016. Her website is

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