IT HAS OFTEN been observed that America is full of faith. When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in 1830 he was struck by what he called the ‘religious aspect’ of the Republic. In a democracy built on the separation of church and state, Tocqueville found a happy accommodation between the two – the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom ‘reigned together on the same soil’. But even as he published Democracy in America, the rise of the fanatical Mormon church was testing the tolerance of the American state. Two new books about Mormonism and its o&hoots examine the bloody origins of the church, raising serious questions about extremist faith and its relationship to violence that are of particular relevance today.