One of the seminal texts in Western American history is Patricia Nelson Limerick’s Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. Limerick’s genius can be found in her defining the West’s importance in terms of convergence of peoples, rather than simply the westward movement of white American males. Unlike many mainstream historians, Limerick does not ignore Latter-day Saints by relegating them to the donut hole. This, I suspect, is due to the fact that Limerick’s father was a Mormon (grew up in Brigham City) and her mother was a gentile living in Salt Lake City. Although Limerick does not consider herself a Mormon, she does attribute many of her character traits to her “Mormon ethnicity.”
Limerick devotes two extended sections in her book to the Latter-day Saints, although neither section deals with “religion” per se. The first section is in a chapter on race and ethnicity in Western history. “Race, one begins to conclude, was the key factor in dividing the people of Western America. Its meanings and distinctions fluctuated, but racial feelings evidently guided white Americans in their choice of groups to persecute and exclude. Differences in culture, in language, in religion, meant something; but a physically distinctive appearance seems to have been the prerequisite for full status as a scapegoat. If this conclusion begins to sound persuasive, then the Haun’s Mill Massacre restores one to a realistic confusion.” Limerick then proceeds to narrate Mormon history, focusing on persecution, which she argues “served to unify the Saints, not to break them; persecution was clearly crucial in the formation of their emerging ethnic identity.” Persecution and radically distinctive beliefs such as polygamy served to mark the Mormons as other, although they were white. “Once polygamy had been formally settled, the ‘differentness’ of Mormons could be subordinated and their essentially American qualities celebrated.” Although there certainly are errors in her analysis to quibble over, I think that the significance here is the the space dedicated to the Mormons, and the framework that she uses to analyze them. Using Mormons to complicate whiteness in the West is full of intriguing possibilities.
Mormons also appear in Limerick’s chapter on the twentieth century. One of her primary theses is that there is continuity in Western history. Too often historians have defined western history (or Mormon history, for that matter) as ending in 1890. But in Limerick’s view the past continues to be present. “Probably no case better represents the problem of history in conflict with faith than does Mormonism.” Using the controversies over racial exclusion from the priesthood, women’s roles and the ERA, the Hoffman forgeries, Fundamentalism, and opposition to the Denver temple. “[I]t was no pleasure to official Mormondom to have the past come back and ask for explanation. The Mormon problem stood for the larger one in Western history. Celebrating one’s past, one’s tradition, one’s heritage, is a bit like hosting a party: one wants to control the guest list tightly.” Again, I think that Limerick presents a fascinating framework in which to situate Mormon history in wider frameworks. Although she doesn’t use the scholary language of collective memory (which would not become common in academic circles until the early 1990s), her analysis points to the politics of memory, something that the church has not been able to avoid. I don’t think it’s too far fetched to say that most of what the New Mormon historians wrote on were things that the church had deemphasized about it’s past.
 Patricia Nelson Limerick, “Peace Initiative: Using the Mormons to Rethink Culture and Ethnicity in American History,” in The Mormon History Association’s Tanner Lectures: The First Twenty Years, eds. Dean L. May and Reid L. Neilson (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006), 189.
 Patricia Nelson Limerick, Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: Norton, 1987), 280.
 Limerick, Legacy of Conquest, 287.
 Limerick, Legacy of Conquest, 288.
 Limerick, Legacy of Conquest, 324.
 Limerick, Legacy of Conqest, 330.