Recently, while reading Randall Stephens’ excellent new book, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South (review here), I came across the following passage, which naturally intrigued me.
On more than one occasion, early holiness evangelists contended with local antagonists who mistook the new sect for Mormonism, an even greater bête noire of southern orthodoxy [than charismatic groups like holiness Christians]. 
Intrigued, I checked out the footnote Stephens referenced for the information, and after discovering that BYU’s library didn’t have a copy, I ordered via interlibrary loan a 1944 publication penned by southern holiness preacher Dennis Rogers called Holiness Pioneering in the Southland. Rev. Rogers’ book contained the following anecdote from the late 1870s or early 1880s.
A rather amusing incident took place . . . after the close of a Sunday afternoon service. . . . At the close of this meeting according to pre-arrangement, Brother Biggs came with his wagon and team and took our equipment to Weston, where we had arranged for a meeting. When we arrived, he went up town for help to raise the tent. He soon came back with quite a number of men and boys with hoes and pitchforks to clear off the ground. After a time, some one asked, “Where are the preachers?” We said, “We are the preachers.” They looked as though they thought, “If you are the preachers, there is a poor chance for a meeting.” Later some one else asked, “Is this all of you?” We said, “Yes.” He said, “We heard that there were ten wagons and fifty women coming.” (Mormons, you know.)
By Saturday evening, we were ready for the first service. A good crowd came. . . . During this meeting, a man who had been somewhat of a desperate character, but yet a respectable citizen, came to town one night. He saw at a distance the tent lighted up. He asked some friends, “What is that tent doing here?” They said, “O, that is the tent of some Mormons who are holding a meeting.” He said, “Why do you let Mormons hold a meeting in the town?” They said, “We have no one to lead us against them.” He said, “I’ll take the lead,” but they would not go with him. So he said, “I’ll go alone.” He came down to the tent and went around the back, looking for signs of Mormonism, but found nothing. Then he stepped in under the back curtain and took a seat. I was preaching on sin and deliverance from it. He said, “That isn’t Mormon doctrine.” I waxed hotter and hotter. He thought, “That is my idea of Christianity. It will take that kind of a gospel to save a wicked sinner like me.” He went back to town and said to his friends, “Those people are not Mormons. You ought to go down and have them pray for you.” 
There is a lot to unpack in this short passage. From the stereotypical jab at Mormon polygamy (ten wagons and fifty women) to the assertion that “preaching on sin and deliverance from it” “isn’t Mormon doctrine,” it’s unsurprisingly clear that these southerners did not think much of Mormons or Mormonism. But there is also more subtle aspects that intrigue me. Just what were the “signs of Mormonism” the curious individual individual hoped to find outside the tent? The wagons and plural wives? Or something else? Why did the other men refuse to go with the man to confront the Mormon meeting? Why were holiness Christians mistaken for Mormons? Was it the preaching of spiritual gifts and the charismatic nature of their gatherings? Perhaps the lower-class status stereotypes that characterized devotees of each religion in public perceptions?
Finally, this brief excursion from my current studies and research into the religious world of the postbellum South raises larger questions in the field of Mormon history. Why has there not been more work done on the Latter-day Saint experience in the South? Patrick Mason’s dissertation, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Mob: Violence Against Religious Outsiders in the United States South, 1865-1910,” is an excellent start, but the field remains largely wide open. Aside from Mason’s work and a couple of BYU MA theses on the Southern States mission, there is virtually no scholarly literature on the subject. A brief search of BYU’s library catalog yields various primary sources, including many missionary journals and a few interviews and articles from southern newspapers. Any ideas on why there hasn’t been more done? What do you think studies of Mormonism in the American South could contribute to our understanding of the Mormon experience?
 Randall J. Stephens, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2008), 49-50.
 Dennis Rogers, Holiness Pioneering in the Southland (Hemet, CA: Published by the Author, 1944), 16-18.