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Religion and American Society. A Product of Antebellum America: The Mormons Week 5 – Lecture 3. A Product of Antebellum America: The Mormons. Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces of Antebellum Life Joseph Smith The Founding of Mormonism Headed West Preliminary Conclusions.

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Religion and American Society

A Product of Antebellum America: The Mormons

Week 5 – Lecture 3


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A Product of Antebellum America: The Mormons

  • Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces of Antebellum Life

  • Joseph Smith

  • The Founding of Mormonism

  • Headed West

  • Preliminary Conclusions


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Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces of Antebellum Life

  • Evangelicalism made each individual person responsible for his/her theology and salvation

  • Respect for clerics within the context of disestablishment

  • Focus on the immediate conversion of one’s soul

  • Innovation


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Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces of Antebellum Life

  • Societal developments shaping evangelical perspective

  • Like many other evangelicals, Lyman Beecher comes to the conclusion that nothing could temper or restraint society and its depravity except the force of God’s law “written upon the heart” of each individual


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Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces of Antebellum Life

  • Disruptions and bewilderments in the lives of many people in America led them to readily conclude the world was on the verge of a great transformation

  • Pre- and post-millennialism

  • New millennialism of antebellum represents a rationalizing of revelation and a Christianizing of Enlightenment belief


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Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces of Antebellum Life

  • Optimistic and “worldly”

  • Promise of divine destruction of powers of evil and oppressive social structures

  • Step-by-step progress to usher in the millennium

  • Focus on converting individuals to bring about social reforms


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Joseph Smith

  • Joseph Smith (1805-1844)

  • Like many of his earliest followers, Smith grew up in an area of western New York called the "Burned Over District“

  • Area of western New York "scorched" by so many revivals

  • Smith claimed to have been "seared but not consumed" by the exuberant evangelicalism of the era


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Joseph Smith

  • Claims to have had a direct revelation with God (experiential) in which God’s laws/word was passed on to him in a series of golden tablets

  • Translates works into fundamental testament of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day


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Joseph Smith

  • According to Smith he translated the book from golden plates engraved in a language referred to as “reformed Egyptian.”

  • The plates, which were seen and handled by 11 witnesses, deal chiefly with the inhabitants of the American continents spanning the period 600 BCE to 421CE.

  • The plates relate the sacred history of Israelites who, led by a divinely directed righteous man named Lehi, emigrated from Jerusalem to the New World.


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Joseph Smith

  • In the New World, Jesus appeared and gave them his teachings.

  • The record of their experiences, kept by various prophets, was compiled and abridged by the 5th century prophet Mormon


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Joseph Smith

  • Mormon Church cannot be considered as the direct product of revivalism or as a splintering off from an existing Protestant denomination

  • Mormonism was inspired by Smith and created its own sacred text entitled the Book of Mormon in 1830


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Headed West

  • Mormonism: Adherents persecuted from the inception of the movement

  • Move from upstate New York to Ohio and then on to Missouri and Illinois where they settle.

  • 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hiram were attacked by a mob in Carthage, Illinois and murdered


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Headed West

  • Following the murder of Smith, the Mormons under the leadership of Brigham Young migrate in 1846-1847 to Utah where they found a permanent home

  • Exilic motif of ancient Israelites


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Preliminary Conclusions: Mormonism

  • Mormons reflect both the centripetal and centrifugal forces of American religious society at the time

  • The Mormons subscribed to many orthodox Christian beliefs but professed a distinctive doctrine of post-canonical biblical revelation

  • Mormons saw themselves as a restorative effort within Christianity to get back to the primitive church