“As a Thief in the Night”
by Dan Erickson

Chapter 3
Modern Revelation: Origins of a Separatist Theology

[p.33]The quest for perfectionism, to bring Jesus Christ into all aspects of one’s life, became a catalyst for interest in revivalism.1 Religious revivals would initiate a change of heart among the people inaugurating Christ’s thousand-year reign prior to the end of the world.2 In the explosive revival atmosphere described by Perry Miller as a “volcano,” ministers found converts with dreams of millennial empire.3 Preaching in 1823 western New York, Charles Finney reported how those attending revivals became “so thoroughly wrought up that they literally fell off their seats in a state of shock and ecstasy.”4 Others also preached the imminence of the Millennium, some believing it would occur within fifty to 200 years. John Noyes remembered the year 1831 was “almost as fanatical as the [future] [p.34]Millerites.” The whole decade of the 1830s saw intense millennial expectations.5 Founded in 1830, Mormonism was one of many religious movement then occurring in New York’s revival-driven, burned-over district.6

Revivalism gave people new-found freedom. Sin was no longer permanently ingrained in humanity but could be eliminated by action and exertion. And because the relationship with God was now an individual one, people could move from sect to sect or join new religious groups while still seeking signs, prophets, visions, or millennial hope.7 Although the Second Great Awakening caused more Americans to be church goers, institutional churches lost appeal to individual delineation and denominational schisms. Church members argued endlessly over doctrine, and the new ability to drift caused rivaling sects to vie for converts. Religious unity unraveled as old sects broke into factions, some fanning new denominations around dynamic leaders, others organizing their own congregations, while isolated evangelicals “roamed the countryside in search of lost souls.”8 This religious milieu caused many to conclude that only the [p.35]coming of Christ could transform the competing sects into a united body.

The economic uncertainties of this period reinforced a sense of social displacement. Colonial patterns and customs had begun to dissolve under economic uncertainty and the expansion of republicanism. Previous stabilizing institutions fell to commerce and real estate transactions, with families moving frequently leaving roots and security behind. Millennialism became a means of explaining the upheaval and displacement society experienced following the Revolution.9

To the socially disoriented, the message of the revival movement was that they must belong to a church. This only further augmented the religious guilt feelings of those who had not found spiritual solace in any contemporary denomination.10 Religious revivals instilled in those affected by the Second Great Awakening, who later became Mormon converts, an unfulfilled desire to find a place where true Christianity was left undefiled by clerical disputations.11 As Nathan Hatch concludes, Mormonism’s followers were gathered mostly from a faithful remnant whose social and religious aspirations had been destroyed by changing Jacksonian values.12

New York’s burned-over district was settled primarily from western New Englanders who brought their towns and cultures with them, including a millennial world view.13 Vermont immigrants in particular moved west into New York. Somewhat isolated from the rest of New England, their rural mountain roots and relative seclusion had created an ideological atmosphere which was less rigid than in more [p.36]traditional New England environments. But after moving to New York, many still did not find the promised economic prosperity and security they sought. Three decades of disasters and the inability of western New England farmers to withstand continuing crop failures called into question their postmillennial world view.14

At the same time the traditional family structure was challenged as both natural and economic disasters demonstrated that the central economic unit, the family farm, could no longer protect individuals and families from economic upheaval.15 Back country economic realities failed to keep pace with expectations, leading some to search for the supernatural in their economic pursuits as well as in their religious ones.16 Joseph Smith Sr.’s family is an example of New Englanders who never broke the bands of poverty despite the post-Revolutionary era of hope. Early in his life Joseph Smith, Jr., displayed a gift as a charismatic seer and developed a reputation for having mystical, revelatory powers. It was a “spiritual gift,” says historian Hatch, that Joseph Jr. and his family “hoped would lead to the discovery of treasure.”17

[p.37]Millennialism flourished more strongly in upper New York than anywhere else in the country, and those seeking the coming Millennium were inspired to participate in the revival conversion spirit.18 In the New York town of Palmyra the local newspaper voiced the common sentiment: “The millennial state of the world is about to take place; that in seven years literally [1830], there would scarce a sinner be found on earth; that the earth itself, as well as the souls and bodies of its inhabitants, should be redeemed, as before the fall, and become as the garden of Eden.”19

Yet the pressures of sectarian competition caused many to be guilt-ridden and frustrated in their millennial anticipations.20 Like other Americans, the Joseph Smith, Sr., family were seekers, searching for the right place to raise a family, pursue material security, and find the right church.21 Dan Vogel differentiates between primitivists, [p.38]such as Alexander Campbell, who saw a need to restore the concepts of the original apostolic church, believing the Bible contained all the necessary authority to accomplish the task, and true “seekers” who believed that a literal, direct, divine endowment of power and authority was necessary for Christ’s true church to be restored, and anxiously anticipated its arrival. Mormonism came into being at the same time orthodox religious belief was giving way to individual consciousness, morals, and standards. Religious seekers in Joseph Smith Sr.’s day wanted God’s rule in their lives, and many who “found” Mormonism were seeking religious authority, stability, and certainty, longing for solid ground and relatively few choices.22 The secular influences of pluralism needed to be put aside for unity under God’s one plan.23

The intense rivalry among sects in upper New York forced churches to compete for converts and numerical strength, and the conflicting denominations caused the young Joseph Smith, Jr., great personal anxiety.24 Marvin Hill describes Smith’s inter-[p.39]nal conflict as follows: “It was the excitement of the revivals with their appeal for Christian conversion which stirred him and the war among contending sects which repelled him.”25 Joseph’s alienation from society had many internal sources. These included contending protestant sects, his own spiritual conscience, and reconciling religious differences between his mother and father.26 Smith’s personal tension also had deep roots. Poverty leading to treasure-seeking activities, court trial embarrassment, in-law disputes, elopement, and expulsion from contact with his wife’s Methodist church in Harmony, Pennsylvania, all fed his sense of social displacement.27

[p.40]Based on Joseph Smith Jr.’s confusion regarding his place in society, Mormonism from its earliest beginnings held a deep aversion to religious diversity. In the early Mormon newspaper Messenger and Advocate, Book of Mormon scribe Oliver Cowdery expressed the Mormon view that “Certain [it is that] the Gentile world, with all its parties, sects, denominations, reformations, revivals of religion, societies and associations, are [sic] devoted to destruction.”28 In rejecting pluralism, Joseph Smith and his early followers repudiated the basic social/political tenets of developing Jacksonian democracy.29

In Smith’s town five denominations competed for members and this multiplicity confirmed his belief that the whole religious world abounded in turmoil.30 Smith saw the existing religious sects as [p.41]corrupt, hypocritical, and full of contention, falling far short of the unity preached in the Bible. Smith expressed deep personal disturbance, saying that “great confusion and bad feeling ensued; Priest contending against priest, and convert against convert.”31 Seeking personal solace, Smith retired to a wooded area near his home to pray for answers to his religious questions.32

According to Smith’s account, while petitioning deity, he was seized by a force of darkness, then released and overcome by a pillar of light. Two beings, pronouncing themselves to be God the Father and Jesus Christ, then appeared to Smith. They counseled him to join no contemporary church, “they were all wrong, and… their Creeds were an abomination in his [God’s] sight,” with “none acknowledged of God, as his church and kingdom.”33 Warning the [p.42]petitioner that his “anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth,” Christ promised the young Joseph that he would soon return to the earth for “lo I come quickly… in the glory of my Father.”34 Joseph Smith’s vision, declaring that all religious denominations were false, is more than just a conversion story; it proclaims the “radical discontinuity of Mormonism with the Christianity of its day.”35 Smith’s vision contradicted the optimism of contemporary postmillennialism, leaving little hope for the plight of humankind.

Smith’s first religious experience became a metaphor for the future restored Mormon gospel. “The light of the latter day glory begins to break forth through the dark atmosphere of sectarian wickedness” that had, he said, “enveloped the Christian world since the age of the apostles.”36 The official account of this vision, Mormonism’s “creation myth,” employs classic millenarian allegorical [p.43]symbols by contrasting two opposing forces, sacred and secular, representing heaven and earth. As the narrative develops, the sacred or heavenly kingdom of God is magnified, and the worldly earth diminished, until God’s kingdom overcomes the world transforming it into a new heaven. Once reduced to writing, the first vision story itself is an example of Smith’s conceptual hope for the Mormon kingdom.37 In spite of not knowing the first vision’s specifics, early converts commonly believed that Smith had received personal and direct communication from God.38 The guiding notion of that revelation was divine condemnation of all existing religious denominations.39

According to Smith, some three years later he experienced a second religious manifestation, a visit from a heavenly messenger, which inaugurated his soon prophet-to-be role. Smith’s account reports the “angel” identified himself as Moroni, an ancient prophet who had lived on the American continent among a people known as Nephites. Moroni cited eschatological prophecies familiar to Smith from both the Old and New Testaments, including passages associated with the Millennium, the last days, and the coming of Christ.40 Moroni warned Smith, “For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”41 Moroni’s admonition validated much of what the local clergy’s numerous revival teachings had passionately proclaimed: Christ’s return was near. The texts quoted by Moroni were those used by preachers to point to the [p.44]imminence of the Millennium. Either the verses were well known to Smith or Moroni’s repetition of the theme four times planted the text distinctly in Smith’s mind.42

Most important, Smith learned he was to be an instrument to prepare humankind for Christ’s return. This was to be accomplished by bringing forth the record of an ancient American people whose prophets had recorded God’s teachings and prophecies.43 This record, and the gospel it contained, was to be restored in the last days to bring both Jew and gentile to a knowledge of Christ, who was to return to the earth in short order.44 The records would be found on metal plates buried in a hill near the Smith farm. With this ancient source of scripture Joseph would be an instrument in God’s hand. Moroni’s millennial announcement was clear, although “the day had not yet come ‘when they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,’ but soon would come.”45 Prophecy was soon to be fulfilled.

Moroni’s message held three primary themes. First, Christ’s return was imminent. Moroni’s appearance to Smith was merely the beginning of “The ushering in of the fullness of the gospel, to prepare the way for the second advent of the Messiah.”46 Second, those who were not prepared for his coming would be cut off and destroyed. Third, Smith would be God’s agent in fortifying a righteous community worthy to possess Christ’s kingdom at his return. A great work “was speedily to commence … that a people might be prepared with faith and righteousness, for the Millennial reign of universal peace [p.45]and joy.”47 The records would be God’s means for restoring the gospel prior to the Millennium. Mormon eschatology, alluded to in Smith’s first vision experience, now took on a new urgency with Smith occupying a central role.

In 1827 Smith finally obtained the plates and over the next three years the translation and publication of the record was completed. Thematically the Book of Mormon fit the concerns of the day. Criticizing the new “Mormon Bible,” Disciples of Christ founder Alexander Campbell claimed Smith’s Book of Mormon brought together “every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years.48 But to Smith and his followers, the purpose of the Book of Mormon was clear: to “be united with the Bible for the accomplishment of the purposes of God in the last days.”49

Three Book of Mormon themes characterized the relationship between God’s Saints and the rest of humanity, both in ancient times and in the latter days, predicting the shape of the new millenarian movement. First, all contemporary churches were wrong and a new restored gospel was necessary to return ancient/pure Christianity to the world. The Book of Mormon prophesied that all churches of the last days had fallen into apostasy. “They have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men” (2 Ne. 28:14). Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, declared the Book of Mormon’s message was: “the eyes of the whole world are blinded; that the churches have all become corrupt, yea every church upon the face of the earth; that the Gospel of Christ is nowhere preached.”50

Second, the book internally described two great civilizations. Much of its nearly 600-page narrative contrasts these two warring [p.46]peoples—the Nephites, righteous, fair, and delightsome; and the Lamanites, wicked, wild, ferocious, bloodthirsty.51 Both groups descended from one family that had left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., led by divine guidance to a new “promised land” the American continent. Both Nephites and Lamanites were literal branches of the tribe of Israel, although through wickedness the Lamanites had lost claim to the blessings of Abraham’s lineage. Emphasizing scriptural literalism, and placed inside a sacred historical narrative, dualist early Mormons envisioned themselves as God’s new covenant people. As the new Israel in America, they were analogous to the Book of Mormon Nephites, and the parallel between the ancient unrighteous Lamanites and the gentiles of Smith’s day soon became a part of early Mormon cosmology.

Third, the book signaled the beginning of the promised winding up scene prior to the glorious day of Christ’s return. Smith’s Palmyra neighbors understood the book predicted “the Millennium day [and]… when it is going to take place.” Early converts found in Mormon eschatology the answers they were seeking regarding the Second Coming.52 Emphasizing the great reversal, the Book of Mormon confirmed biblical prophecy which promised reward for the righteous and destruction of the wicked at Christ’s return.53 Smith warned [p.47]a cousin in St. Lawrence County that “the sword of vengeance of the Almighty hung over this generation and except they repent and obeyed the Gospel, and turned from their wicked ways, humbling themselves before the Lord, it would fall upon the wicked, and sweep them from the earth.”54 Believing impending doom was near, Martin Harris, financial supporter of the first edition of the Book of Mormon and one of the book’s three witnesses, told Columbia College Professor Charles Anthon that the book would “produce an entire change in the world and save it from ruin.”55 To early Mormon apostle Parley Pratt, the Book of Mormon confirmed the arrival of a new dispensation, “in fulfillment of prophecy, and for the restoration of Israel, and to prepare the way before the second coming of the Lord.”56 Rather than following postmillennialism’s model of America’s profound destiny, the Book of Mormon stressed the premillennial tenet that society had fallen into disrepair and that religious and cultural decay was beyond repair (2 Ne. 28:11-14; Morm. 8:31).57

Emphasizing America’s role in God’s plan, the Book of Mormon recognized two “Jerusalems” where Jews and believing gentiles would congregate. The Jews would gather in the ancient holy land of Israel and converted gentiles in the “New Jerusalem” on the American continent. The Book of Mormon also identified Native American Indians as Lamanites, a remnant of “lost Israel.” Zion, the new Jerusalem in America, was designated to be the gathering site for [p.48]converted gentiles and Indians. The unique Mormon theology of two gatherings, Jews to Jerusalem and others to Zion in America, gave American Indians an unprecedented role in the last days.58 In Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy, Mormons saw God’s hand in gathering the Indians (Lamanites) by the borders of Zion (Missouri) where they would assist in building the New Jerusalem and become a tool in God’s hand to destroy the gentiles (3 Ne. 20:10-22, 21:14, 22-25).59

America was a promised land to both the ancient Nephites and believers in the restored gospel living in the latter days. The Book of Mormon doctrine associating American Indians with the lost tribes Of Israel supported theories dating back to before the Puritan era.60 Early Mormon converts William W. Phelps and Parley Pratt acknowledged that Indian origin questions were “done away [with] by the Book of Mormon,” declaring it “reveals the origin of American Indians, which was before a mystery.”61 The new Mormon “Zion was to be built in the American West, and that in the near future,” giving Mormon kingdom building an urgency.62 Mormon millennialism was [p.49]not just for the future but for the here and now, and Mormons were directed to begin building an empire worthy of Christ at his return.63 The Book of Mormon would precede the last act of history and Israel’s triumph would be the hour of judgement for the world. The Jews in the East and the New Israel in the Western Hemisphere would each prepare and enthrone the returning Messiah who would then inaugurate his millennial reign (2 Ne. 6:8-18; 30:3-18; 3 Ne. 16:1-20; 21:1-29, 25:1-6; Morm. 8:27-41).64 Believers would become part of Israel and “be a blessed people upon the promised land forever” (1 Ne. 14:2). Those who rejected the restored gospel would be cast off. In either case the last days had arrived. Israel would soon be restored to righteousness, not by any existing Christian denomination, but by the Book of Mormon (1 Ne. 13:4-41; 14:2-7; 2 Ne. 10:18-19; 28:1-32, 29:1-14, 30:1-18; 3 Ne. 16:1-20, 21:1-29).65

But the Book of Mormon did more than address the mystery of Indian origins, it also answered basic theological questions regarding God’s relationship to humankind, good versus evil, and personal salvation. By offering security to the soul, religious seekers could find in the Book of Mormon certainty and the spiritual and moral solutions to life’s problems. Once chosen, the road to redemption was clearly marked, its travelers easily identified.66 Gordon Wood recognized the Book of Mormon as “undoubtedly the most distinctive and important force in establishing the new faith.”67 Mormon apostle Parley Pratt’s sentiments typify the book’s significance to early converts, declaring it “was the principal means … of directing the entire course of my future life.”68 Characterized by Smith as “the most correct of any book on earth,” the new scripture symbolized Mormon-[p.50]ism’s break with conventional Protestantism.69 The book itself was of revolutionary intent for it circumvented all human reforms. The Book of Mormon, it was believed, came to Smith without the corruption of time, bypassing imperfect Christian practices and the problems of translation inherent in the Bible. True Christianity was brought to America, not through human agents, but by heavenly messengers directly to Joseph Smith.70

Within the Book of Mormon narrative, the destruction in the New World at Christ’s death and his arrival in America as a resurrected being portrayed earth’s imminent destruction prior to the Second Coming, something not missed by the book’s readers (see Matt. 24; 3 Ne. 8).71 Drawing from the religious culture of his time, Smith and his contemporaries took biblical accounts, the Millennium, and the primitive church seriously. Bible events were actual, and prophecies would be literally fulfIlled.72 Even before the church’s official organization, Smith saw events in his own life as a fulfillment and continuation of scriptural history contained in the Bible.73 Not [p.51]only did Smith place himself inside the biblical narrative, so did his followers. On the church’s move to Kirtland, the prophet’s mother reflected, “I then called the brethren and sisters together and reminded them that we were traveling by the commandment of the Lord, as much as [Book of Mormon] father Lehi was, when he left Jerusalem; and if faithful, we had the same reason to expect the blessings of God.”74

The new church combined New Testament Christian primitiveness with Old Testament Hebrew-covenant consciousness, Mormons perceiving themselves as the new Israel, the chosen people of the last days.75 Mormons were not merely re-creating past biblical narrations, they were living as God’s new Israel in the latter days, “reestablishing the covenant, gathering the Lord’s elect, separating Israel from the Gentiles, organizing the church, preaching the gospel, building up the kingdom, living in sacred space and time.”76 Smith’s continuing revelations fed the theological assumption that as recipients of new scripture, paralleling ancient Israel, Mormons were living biblical-like events reserved by God for his people in the last days.77

Although in the “enthusiasm” of the Second Great Awakening visions in general were not unheard of, Smith’s heavenly messengers were supplemented by literal/physical things. Items such as gold [p.52]plates, a Urim and Thummim, and eventually new holy scripture all provided additional legitimacy to Smith’s message.78 Enough of the old folk traditions and belief in godly intervention, angels, divine interpreters, and ancient prophets remained for Book of Mormon origins to be accepted by common people. Yet sufficient societal turmoil existed for people to cast off previous religious loyalties to find a religion which answered their quest for revelation, visions, and authority. To religious seekers, Smith’s Book of Mormon convinced them that a new dispensation had arrived, the silence between humanity and God had ceased, and a new apostolic order was to be established.79 In many ways Mormonism offered the best of all worlds, evangelical millennialism under the guidance of a restored church structure, backed by mysterious truths, rituals, and a priesthood which traced its authoritative lines back to apostolic times.80 Mormonism combined religion with the emerging secular need for verification producing a literal book of scripture sustained by living witnesses.

But Mormonism took literalness to new heights, further separating the new church from other religious traditions. Mormon conviction revolved around actual events, not mere theology or doctrine. The historical certainty of what had happened to Smith, to ancient Nephite prophets, and what would happen to the restored church was as important as religious tenets. Mormonism was rooted in history not theology. Richard Bushman affirms, “The test of faith was [p.53]not adherence to a certain confession of faith but belief that Christ was resurrected, that Joseph Smith saw God, that the Book of Mormon was true history.”81 Early Mormons interpreted the Bible to say that Christ’s second coming would coincide with renewed revelation from God. Thus the Book of Mormon became a tangible fulfillment of prophecy.82

Smith’s early religious experiences and the Book of Mormon clearly initiated Mormonism’s premillennial eschatology. By collectively gathering the elect at the Mormon “Zion” in America, Smith’s new movement hoped to effect a dualist separation from the rest of society.83 Specifically, Smith and his early followers believed the Book of Mormon’s description of two main factions—true Christians under a theocratic government, and atheists who waged war against the righteous—prophesied the reality of their day. Never the aggressors in the Book of Mormon, the Nephites defended liberties, families, wives, and children, sending out missionaries to convert the wicked, while the Lamanites continually battled the people of God.84 Written from a Christian prophet’s perspective, dissent and pluralism were always destructive and evil. The ideal Book of Mormon government was led by a prophet-king, and only when separated from the wicked was ancient Nephite society able to remain pure to God’s teachings and laws (Mosiah 29:13; 4 Ne. 1-18). By gathering the righteous, Smith hoped to achieve a society led by a modern prophet, prepared for the total, imminent, miraculous transformation of the earth into a millennial kingdom at Christ’s coming.

The Book of Mormon also predicted that an ominous cloud of apocalyptic judgement hung over businessmen of Jacksonian America. The book testified against contentions and class differences where people are “distinguished by ranks, according to [p.54]their riches and their chances for learning” (3 Ne. 6:12).85 As such, Nathan Hatch calls the Book of Mormon “a document of profound social protest,” which guaranteed the rich, the proud, and the learned would be judged of God.86 Smith declared, “We rejoice that the time is at hand, when the wicked who will not repent will be swept from the earth as with a besom of destruction, and the earth become an inheritance of the poor and the meek.”87 Mormonism, at its heart, rejected entrepreneurial ventures, religious competition, and freedom of thought which led to secularization.88 The Nephites, like the Puritans, wanted religious freedom to preserve their own “true religion” but were unable to concede the same rights to others.89 In speculating about a kingdom of peace, the Mormon newspaper Evening and Morning Star expressed nostalgic desire for a theocratic kingdom where prophets “put an end to all strife” and were “of one heart and one mind.”90 One of the Book of Mormon’s dominant themes is that only under a theocratic government, ruled by men of God, can a society survive and prosper (Mosiah 29:13; Alma 30).91

[p.55]The Book of Mormon revered America, the continent, as sacred; American civilization held no such honor.92 The volume not only described the destruction of two great ancient American civilizations, but uttered looming predictions which would befall its latter-day American readers’ own society. The Book of Mormon declared a dualistic world view, proclaiming two realms of society only—the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil (1 Ne. 14:10; Moro. 7:12-19).93 In an 1832 revelation Smith defined the “wicked” as those who rejected Mormon professions, for, “whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin … and by this you may know the righteous from the wicked.”94 Believers were described as Saints, Israel, the elect; non-believers as sinners, gentiles, and the wicked. For early Latter-day Saints, good-evil, saint-gentile, friend-foe, were easily defined. James Davidson describes this phenomenon as the “rhetoric of polarization” and Mormonism is a classic example of millenarian dualism.95

[p.56]The new religion declared that all existing denominations lacked authority or legitimacy, including Protestants, Catholics, Masons, all who were not Mormons.96 Condemning the proliferation of sects, the Book of Mormon predicted there would be in the last days many “churches which are built up … not unto the Lord,” and promised to end religious conflict and confusion by resolving doctrinal differences dividing 1830 Protestantism (2 Ne. 28:3-4; 26:2021).97 The Book of Mormon paralleled contemporary anti-Catholic rhetoric condemning the sale of indulgences and labeling the Catholic church as the “whore of all the earth,” a “church which is most abominable above all other churches” (1 Ne. 14:9-10; 13:2629).98 Mormon apostle John Taylor associated Babylon with the Catholic church, declaring that the identity of the mother of harlots in John’s Apocalypse was not in dispute, “it needs no prophetic vision to unravel such mysteries. The old church is the mother, and the protestants are the lewd daughters.”99 Martin Harris identified the Book of Mor-[p.57]mon as “the Anti-masonic Bible, and that all who do not believe it will be damned.”100 Both Mormons and non-Mormons would have agreed on the Book of Mormon’s anti-Masonic sentiments, which warned that democracy would be destroyed by “secret combinations.”101 On the other hand, Jacksonian values would not have comported with the book’s anti-factional stance and its notion of combining church and state under a prophetic theocracy.102

For Mormons, who saw non-Mormons as part of Satan’s forces who would block the kingdom’s progress, persecution soon validated their millenarian, dualistic world view and intensified apocalyptic expectations. Opposition only proved to the believer that “the millennium was indeed approaching, and that his zeal should be redoubled,” for the Lord has “in reserve a swift judgement… for them all.”103 Religious dualism quickly led to social dualism as only the [p.58]elect accept God’s call. Wicked, non-Mormon unbelievers, on the other hand, rejected the latter-day message. Steeped in dualism Mormons expected opposition. Viewed as the refiner’s fire, persecution both fulfilled prophecy and was necessary prior to Christ’s return. This in turn led to a siege mentality.104 When the Saints’ early mistreatment validated their dualist philosophy, a cycle of apocalyptic belief and rhetoric led to additional persecution which further fed millennial anticipation. 105 As Grant Underwood described it, “Dualist distinctions coupled with vivid apocalyptic imagery did not augur well for peaceful interaction between Mormons and Gentiles.” Mormon millenarianism must be identified as a major source of the animosity felt towards the Saints.”106

During and immediately following the Book of Mormon’s translation/publication phase, Smith also began producing revelations. Although many of these pronouncements addressed specific individuals or temporal problems associated with the new movement, a number centered on the Second Advent, the coming Millennium, and the building up of the New jerusalem.107 In September 1830 Smith pronounced a revelation declaring,

[p.59]For the hour is nigh, and the day soon at hand, when the earth is ripe: And all the proud, and they that do wickedly, shall be as stubble, and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth: For the hour is nigh, and that which was spoken by mine apostles must be fulfilled; for as they spoke so shall it come to pass; For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand.108
Smith’s revelations advised the Saints to prepare “the way of the Lord for his second coming: for behold, verily I say unto you, the time is soon at hand, that I shall come in a cloud with power and great glory, and it shall be a great day at the time of my coming, for all nations shall tremble.”109

Since the world’s destruction was assured, the only safety was in accepting the restored gospel.110 But early church members did not fare well with their non-believing neighbors and began to suffer both social ostracism and physical persecution. Propelled by dualist literalism, the new religious movement soon began to fall into sect development patterns where the difference between its values and those of secular society necessitated separation from the world.111 In January 1831 Joseph Smith resolved early Mormonism’s separatism dilemma by relocating the church to the nation’s frontier.

[p.60]Months after the Book of Mormon’s publication, Smith received a revelation commanding the Saints in western New York to gather in Ohio.112 The move was motivated by fear of their enemies, and by missionary success among Campbellites near Kirtland.113 The Saints interpreted the migration as initiating the long awaited gathering of Israel prior to Christ’s return.114 Dictating a revelation, Smith told the church, “Ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect,… Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father, that they shall be gathered in unto one place, upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts, and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.”115 He declared in the west they would find their anticipated inheritance, a “land of promise”…upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord comes,” and which would endure as the “inheritance of your children forever.”116 The prophet’s mother confided to her brother that God “has now made a new and everlasting covenant, … He says they shall be gathered together into a land of promise and He himself will come and reign on earth with them a thousand years.”117

Millennial prophecies began to arrive in a flurry setting the tone for the new millenarian movement. When Smith, now relocated in Ohio, produced revelations promising soon to identify the location “where the New Jerusalem shall be built … that ye may be gathered,” [p.61]hope began to mount that the much anticipated Millennium was upon them.118 Smith’s declarations warned, “Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh; And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.”119 Gathered in the west, and awaiting command to initiate building the City of Zion, the New Jerusalem, the Saints were posed to abandon the gentiles to their doom, to inaugurate the Millennium, and to receive their own paradisiacal reward with the Savior at his return.

Mormon eschatology was explicitly American, incorporating the nation’s landscape into God’s teleological plan. Reserved by God for the last days, America, the land and the people, had special characteristics allowing the restored gospel to be born and to flourish.120 Patterned on the New England heritage of their Puritan grandfathers, Mormonism sought to establish a society which rejected Jacksonian progressive ideals and individualism. As a quest for order, Mormonism’s total theology provided a “counter ideology” acting against the basic assumptions built into the new civil religion.121

Smith’s movement differed from other primitivist-seeking churches for he offered not only a literal interpretation of the Bible, but direct revelation from God—a link of authority Mormons felt none could challenge. To Smith the unaided Bible was inadequate for guidance in one’s life. But where contemporaries sought scholarly insight to overcome perceived biblical inadequacies, Smith produced more scripture, both in the form of restored historical records and in personal and visionary revelation. The return to primitivism that Alexander Campbell and others taught was merely a way-station to Christ’s true church.122

Mormons remedied the problem of religious authority through [p.62]divine communication to prophets, their modern scripture transcending denominational rivalry and conflict, uniting under one head the true apostolic church. Established in an era of tension, Mormonism defied both old established religions and new revivalist movements. When Alexander Campbell said Mormonism’s Book of Mormon answered “every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years,” he was not exaggerating but commenting on the many divisions Mormonism was attempting to breach: mystical-empirical, spiritual-secular, pessimistic-progressive, collective-individualist, authoritative-democratic, sacred-profane.123

Modern revelation gave Mormonism an authoritative position unmatched by other religions. The Book of Mormon broke through denominational disputes over scriptural interpretation, updating the Bible, giving common people plain doctrine, carrying biblical history from the Old World to the New, testifying of God’s presence in their everyday lives.124 Although new, Mormonism did not see itself as another denomination; it was to be unique, the only true church on the face of the earth, in a sense hoping “to establish a sect to end all sects.”125

[p.63]Meeting a variety of needs, Mormonism offered hope and promise to the troubled who had sought in vain the primal manifestations of divine power.126 Those who accepted the restored gospel would be saved from divine wrath and prepared for Christ’s millennial reign. As summarized by Nathan Hatch: “[P]rimitive Mormonism was a radical, apocalyptic sect that invoked and anticipated divine wrath upon the core institutions and values of Jacksonian America—its pluralism, enlightened rationality, religious optimism, and reform, and its successful entrepreneurs and managers.”127

When in April 1830 believers in the Book of Mormon became a church, sect-like development patterns began to emerge. Mormons were joined together by a sense of central religious values, beliefs, regulations, and loyalty to a modern prophet. A community of believers now derived their identity from a common conviction that they were endowed with supernatural power, coupled with a sense of distinctiveness which established the boundary between themselves and outsiders. As a peculiar people, they were distinguished by their opposition to and separation from the larger society.128

[p.64]Modern revelation, both in the form of direct communication with the divine and in new scripture, proclaimed great messages to the Saints of the latter days. Convinced that all existing sects and denominations were wrong, a new restored religion was believed necessary to redeem humankind. As such, the Book of Mormon had been brought forth both to profess Christ to the world and to testify of the mission of the young prophet Joseph Smith. With society on the brink of destruction, restoration of apostolic power would prepare a people for Christ’s return.129 Based on apocalyptic literalism, the Saints would attempt to initiate immediately the building of God’s kingdom on earth. Soon the elect would be gathered from the gentiles and the lost house of Israel (Indians) to build the New Jerusalem, the holy City of Zion in America, where the righteous would flee for safety and security while Christ’s cataclysmic return destroyed the wicked and purified the earth.



1. For the connection among revivalism, perfectionism, and millennialism during this period, see Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972), 474-81; Marvin S. Hill, “The Rise of Mormonism in the Burned-over District: Another View,” New York History 61 (Oct. 1980): 421.

2. Michael Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium: The Burned-Over District Of New York in the 1840s (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986), 24-27.

3. Perry Miller, The Life of the Mind in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965), 7-34.

4. William G. McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 123.

5. Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1950), 200-201.

6. Kenneth H. Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty: Mormons in America, 1830•1846 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 40-44. Other groups which are claimed to have originated in the burned-over district were Anne Lee’s Shakers, the Millerites, followers of Jemima Wilkinson, the Fox sisters, the Spiritualists, and the Oneida community. See Carl Canner, Listen for a Lonesome Drum (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1936), 115. Marvin Hill disputes the notion that all of these groups came from the burned-over district. See Hill, “The Rise of Mormonism in the Burned-over District,” 415-16. For a discussion of Mormonism in the context of Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis, see Alexander Evanoff, “The Turner Thesis and Mormon Beginnings in New York and Utah,” UtahHistorical Quarterly 33 (Spring 1965): 157-73.

7. A valuable work on the effect of 1830 revivalism on one New York town is Paul E. Johnson, A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978).

8. Gordon S. Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” New York History 61 (Oct. 1980): 375.

9. Ibid., 376; Kenelm Burridge, New Heaven, New Earth: A Study of Millenarian Activities (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 9-11.

10. Hill, “The Rise of Mormonism in the Burned-over District,” 422-23.

11. Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty, 47.

12. Nathan O. Hatch, “Mormon and Methodist: Popular Religion in the Crucible of the Free Market,” Journal of Mormon History 20 (Spring 1994): 38.

13. Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 103-104; Stephen A. Marini, Radical Sects of Revolutionary New England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), 27-30.

14. Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 105-17; Cross, The Burned-over District, 55-57, 65, 83; Michael Barkun, Disaster and the Millennium (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1974), 1. Marvin Hill and David Rowe disagree with Cross’s frontier explanation for the rise of sects. See Hill, “The Rise of Mormonism in the Burned-over District,” 421; David Rowe, “A New Perspective on the Burned-over District: Millerites in Upstate New York,” Church History 47 (Dec. 1978): 408•20.

15. Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 117-19.

16. Alan Taylor, “The Early Republic’s Supernatural Economy: Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830,” American Quarterly 38 (1986): 18-19.

17. Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), 114. Joseph Smith’s pre-Book of Mormon treasure-seeking activities are detailed in Dan Vogel, “The Locations of Joseph Smith’s Early Treasure Quests,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Fall 1994): 197-231; D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987), 27-52; and H. Michael Marquardt and Wesley P. Walters, Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994), 63-87. An apologetic approach to Smith’s pursuit of buried treasure is in Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching,” Brigham Young University Studies 24 (Fall 1984): 489-560. Many of Anderson’s arguments are examined and rejected in Rodger 1. Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990),43-62. On placing the Smith family’s treasuring seeking in the context of the late-eighteenth-early-nineteenth-century American treasuring hunting tradition, see Marvin S. Hill, “Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion,” Brigham Young University Studies 24 (Fall 1984): 473-88; Ronald W. Walker, “The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting,” Brigham Young University Studies 24 (Fall 1984): 429-59.

18. Cross, The Burned-over District, 79; Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium. 2.

19. Wayne Sentinel, 23 Oct. 1823, in Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 8.

20. Hill, Quest for Refuge, 4-8.

21. Many “seekers” were the socially disinherited. a label which would certainly have fit the Joseph Smith. Sr., family’s seven moves in fourteen years in the early 1800s. See Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” 361-65. Nathan Hatch identifies “seekers” as believers in a better life where God would level the playing field between them and their social betters. See Nathan O. Hatch, “The Christian Movement and the Demand for a Theology of the People,” Journal of American History 67 (Dec. 1980): 546-61; Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 68-81. See Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), ix-xiii.

22. Mario S. DePillis, “The Quest for Religious Authority and the Rise of Mormonism.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Mar. 1966): 68-88; Klaus J. Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 20; John Lofland, Doomsday Cult (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 7-8. Although early Mormon converts often came from economically disadvantaged circumstances, most still held a marginal degree of respectability. Most early converts were simply young people who had yet to establish themselves economically with over 80 percent of Mormon converts before 1846 under the age of thirty, the median age falling between twenty and twenty-five. See Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty, 47; Hill, “The Rise of Mormonism in the Burned-over District,” 421-28; Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 121-22.

23. Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory Of Religion (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1967); 106-35; Hill, Quest for Refuge, 14.

24. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., 2d ed. rev., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974-76), 1:3-4; Susan Curtis, “Early Nineteenth-Century America and the Book of Mormon,” in The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture, ed. Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 88.

25. Hill, Quest for Refuge, 11.

26. Dan Vogel contends Smith’s parents differed on religious matters. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith Sr.’s wife, and some of her children Eventually joined the Palmyra Presbyterian church, while both Joseph Smith Jr. and Sr. remained aloof. See Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism, 25-31; William Smith, William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, IA, 1883), in William Mulder and A. Russell Mortensen, eds., Among the Mormons: Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1958), 25.

27. Hill, Quest for Refuge, 12; Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, Prophet’s “Elect Lady,” Polygamy’s Foe, 1804-1879 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1984), 25. Jan Shipps has emphasized the need to understand Smith’s total character within the ambiguities and complexities of nineteenth-century America. See Shipps, “The ‘Prophet Puzzle’; Suggestions Leading Toward a More Comprehensive Interpretation of Joseph Smith, Journal of Mormon History I (1974): 3-20. See also Marvin S. Hill, “The ‘Prophet Puzzle’ Assembled; or, How to Treat Our Historical Diplopia Toward Joseph Smith,” Journal of Mormon History 3 (1976): 101-105. The earliest psychological approach to Joseph Smith is Isaac Woodbridge Riley, The Founder of Mormonism: A Psychological Study of Joseph Smith, Jr. (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1902). Perhaps the most well-known work is Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, 2d enl. rev. ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985),405-25. Marvin Hill’s “Secular or Sectarian History? A Critique of No Man Knows My History,” Church History 33 (Mar. 1974): 78-96, criticizes a number of Brodie’s assumptions. See also Bernard De Voto, “The Centennial of Mormonism,” American Mercury 19 (Jan. 1930): 1-13; Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (1981; reprint, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 128-80; Foster, “First Visions: Personal Observations on Joseph Smith’s Religious Experience,” Sunstone 8 (Sept.-Oct. 1983): 39-43; Foster, “The Psychology of Religious Genius: Joseph Smith and the Origins of New Religious Movements,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26 (Winter 1993): 1-22; Louis J. Kern, An Ordered Love: Sex Roles and Sexuality in Victorian Utopias-The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981), 137-43; Robert D. Anderson, “Toward an Introduction to a Psychobiography of Joseph Smith,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Fall 1994): 249-72; Gary James Bergera, “Toward ‘Psychologically Informed’ Mormon History and Biography.” Sunstone 15 (Dec. 1991): 27-31; T. L. Brink, ‘Joseph Smith: The Verdict of Depth Psychology.” Journal of Mormon History 3 (1976): 73-83. Contrast J[ohn]. F. C. Harrison, The Second Coming: Popular Millenarianism, 1780-1850 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1979), 203-205, 217.

28. “Is the End Near?” Messenger and Advocate, July 1835; see also Times and Seasons 15 (Mar. 1842).

29. Hill, Quest for Refuge, xii; R. Laurence Moore, Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 27-38.

30. For a discussion of the specific revivals in the immediate area surrounding the Joseph Smith, Sr., home, see Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Awakenings in the Burned-over District: New Light on the Historical Setting of the First Vision,” Brigham Young University Studies 9 (Spring 1969): 301-20. For a dissenting view, see Wesley P. Walters, “New Light on Mormon Origins from a Palmyra Revival,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 (Spring 1969): 60-81; Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism, 15-41.

31. Dean C. Jessee, comp. and ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), 198; Smith, History of the Church, 1:3.

32. Smith, History of the Church, 1:4-5; Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 199.

33. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 200; Smith, History of the Church, 1:6; Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989-92), 1:7, 273; Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations (1912; reprint, Independence, MO, 1969), 80; Orson Pratt, “A[n] Interesting Account, 1840,” in Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:391. Although Smith did not record an account of this first religious experience for over a decade, the significance of his interpretation of the experience became part of Mormonism’s theological framework from its beginnings. For discussion of the first vision narrative’s development, see Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision: The First Vision in Historical Context (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971); James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’ in Mormon Thought,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 1 (Autumn 1966): 30; James B. Allen, “Emergence of a Fundamental: The Expanding Role of Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Mormon Religious Thought,” Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 43-61; Dean C. Jessee, “Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” Brigham Young University Studies, 9 (Spring 1969): 275-94; Richard L Anderson, “Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision Through Reminiscences,” Brigham Young University Studies 9 (Spring 1969): 373-404; James B. Allen, “Eight Contemporary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision: What Do We Learn from Them?” Improvement Era 73 (Apr. 1970): 4-13; Walters, “New Light on Mormon Origins from Palmyra Revival.” 60-81; Richard L Bushman, “The First Vision Story Revived.” Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought 4 (Spring 1969): 82-93; Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience, 22-24, 221n30; and Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 23-25.

34. Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (1987; reprint, Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1989), 6; Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:7; Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 6.

35. John G. Gager, “Early Mormonism and Early Christianity: Some Parallels and Their Consequences for the Study of New Religions,” Journal of Mormon History 9 (1982): 59. Smith’s nineteenth-century social disorientation was not unique. David Rowe contends that the formation of radical Millerites was a protest against both existing churches and society; see his “A New Perspective on the Burned-over District.”

36. Joseph Smith, Jr., to N. C. Saxton, 4 Jan. 1833, in Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 272; Hatch, “Mormon and Methodist,” 36.

37. Steven L. Olsen, “Joseph Smith and the Structure of Mormon Identity;” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14 (Autumn 1981): 89-99.

38. Allen, “Emergence of a Fundamental,” 44-45. Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1977), 53. Early Mormons Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Parley Pratt, and Peter Whitmer spoke of heavenly beings appearing to Smith in dreams. See Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 114-15.

39. Olsen, “Joseph Smith and the Structure of Mormon Identity,” 92.

40. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 203-204, 214.

41. Smith, History of the Church, 1:12.

42. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 7; Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 6; Philip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 18.

43. Smith, History of the Church, 1:12-13; Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984),62.

44. Smith, History of the Church, 1:12-13; Book of Mormon, title page.

45. Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors, 85.

46. Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:73, 279.

47. Ibid., 1:393.

48. “The Mormonites.” Millennial Harbinger 2 (Feb. 1830): 93.

49. Joseph Smith to John Wentworth, in Times and Seasons (1 Mar. 1842). emphasis mine.

50. Lucy Mack Smith to Solomon Mack, 6 Jan. 1831, in Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 140.

51. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 43-44.

52. Lucius Fenn to Birdseye Bronson, 12 Feb. 1830, in Mulder and Mortensen, Among the Mormons, 28. See also Timothy L. Smith, “The Book Of Mormon in a Biblical Culture,” Journal of Mormon History 7 (1980): 6; Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 13-27; David Arthur, “Millerism,” in The Rise of Adventism: Religion and Society in Mid• Nineteenth-Century America, ed. Edwin S. Gaustad (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 154-61. In his first encounter with Mormon missionaries in July 1831, early Mormon convert William E. McLellin learned the Book of Mormon would show “when the Savior shall come to destroy iniquity off the face of the earth, and reign with his saints in the Millennial Rest.” See Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 1994), 80.

53. The parts of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon are some of the Bible’s most dramatic prophecies regarding the destruction to occur in the last days and the peace of the Millennium. See Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 117-19.

54. Joseph Smith to George A. Smith, 1828, in Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 83-84.

55. Charles Anthon to Eber D. Howe, 17 Feb. 1834, in Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America, 2 vols. (1942; reprint, Salt Lake City: Utah Printing Co., 1967), 1:415.

56. Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt (1938; reprint, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979), 38.

57. See also Thomas F. O’Dea, The Mormons (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 26: Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism, 13, 22; Marvin S. Hill, “The Shaping of the Mormon Mind in New England and New York,” Brigham Young University Studies 9 (Spring 1969): 354.

58. Ronald W. Walker, “Seeking the ‘Remnant’: The Native American During the Joseph Smith Period,” Journal of Mormon History 19 (Spring 1993): 1-33.

59. Independence, Missouri, would later be designated as the site of the New Jerusalem. In Missouri this pro-Indian rhetoric would feed Mormon-gentile antagonism as non-Mormons envisioned a Mormon-Indian conspiracy against established settlers, a view unwelcome on the western frontier. See E[ber] D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed: or A Faithful Account of that Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time (Painesville, OH: E. D. Howe, 1834), 145-46, 197; Grant Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 81.

60. Dan Vogel, Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986); B[righam]. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1930; reprint, Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:219-20.

61. Evening and Morning Star, Jan. 1833; Parley P. Pratt, A Voice of Warning… (New York: W. Sanford, 1837), 135.

62. Harrison, The Second Coming, 181-82.

63. Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1970), 28-31.

64. See also Smith, “The Book of Mormon in a Biblical Culture,” 8.

65. See also Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 139.

66. Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 45.

67. Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” 380.

68. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, 37.

69. Smith, History of the Church, 4:451; James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 3.

70. Gager, “Early Mormonism and Early Christianity,” 59•60; Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), 242.

71. See also Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool, Eng.: F.D. Richards, 1855-86), 8:123.

72. Perry Miller, “The Old Testament in Colonial America,” in Historical Viewpoints, ed. John A. Garraty (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), 1-95; George M. Marsden, “Everyone One’s Own Interpreter? The Bible, Science, and Authority in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America,” in The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History, eds. Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 79-100.

73. An example is the church’s understanding of Charles Anthon’s rejection of Book of Mormon origins as fulfillment of “the prophecy of Isaia [sic] … writ[t]en in the 29 Chapter concerning the book [of Mormon].” See Joseph Smith Letter Books, 5, quoted in Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 78. See also Oliver Cowdery in Messenger and Advocate 1 (Feb 1835): 80; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 2:287-88, 7 Jan. 1855.

74. Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors, 210.

75. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 21, 68-71. See also Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 119; Nathan O. Hatch and Mark A. Noll, eds., The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 44-51; Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 58; John F. Wilson, “Some Comparative Perspectives on the Early Mormon Movement and the Church-State Question, 1830-1845,” Journal of Mormon History 8 (1981): 67-68.

76. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 69; Shipps, Mormonism, 34-39, 51-65, 81-83.

77. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 95; Gordon Irving, “The Mormons and the Bible in the 1830’s,” Brigham Young University Studies 13 (Summer 1973): 476-78.

78. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 16. Smith obtained the Urim and Thummim with the plates, describing it as “two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate.” See Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 215. The term “Urim and Thummim” sometimes referred to seer stones used by Joseph Smith. See Richard Van Wagoner and Steve Walker, ‘Joseph Smith: ‘The Gift of Seeing,’’’ Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Summer 1982): 49-68.

79. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 168-69.

80. Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” 381-84. For notions of authority based on a link to the apostleship, see Pratt, Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, 32, 39, 43; Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism, 1-66.

81. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 188.

82. Times and Seasons 2 (Mar. 1841): 351. For an example, see Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 15:178-79, 22 Sept. 1872.

83. Mark D. Thomas, “Scholarship and the Book of Mormon,” in The Word of God, 63-64.

84. O’Dea, The Mormons, 32-33.

85. See also Hill, Quest for Refuge, 21.

86. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity. 116-17. For association of wickedness with wealth and pride, see 4 Ne. 1:24-27.

87. Smith, History of the Church, 2:323-24.

88. Hatch, “Mormon and Methodist,” 26-27. Marvin Hill contends the anti-capitalistic quality of the early Mormon movement “had more to do with the divisive, pluralistic character of capitalism than to permanent ideological objections to it.” See Hill, Quest for Refuge, 17.

89. Hill, Quest for Refuge, xii.

90. Evening and Morning Star 2 (Aug. 1834): 177. See also Messenger and Advocate 3 (Dec. 184): 40.

91. For a rejection of Jacksonian principles in the Book of Mormon and in Mormonism in general, see Grant Underwood, “Early Mormon Perceptions of Contemporary America: 1830-1846,” Brigham Young University Studies 26 (Summer 1986): 49-61; Hill, “Quest for Refuge,” 3-20; Leonard J. Arrington. Feramorz Y. Fox, and Dean L. May, Building the City of God: Community & Cooperation Among the Mormons (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), 3,5, 15.

92. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 139.

93. Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 43.

94. Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God, comps., Joseph Smith, Junior, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams (Kirtland, OH: F.G. Williams and Co., 1835), 91.

95. James West Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought: Eighteenth-Century New England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977), 163-65, 281-87; Grant Underwood, “Millenarianism and the Early Mormon Mind,” Journal of Mormon History 9 (1982): 43. For similar notions of dualism, see James H. Moorhead, American Apocalypse: Yankee Protestants and the Civil War, 1860•1869 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978), 7; John M. Werly, “Premillennialism and the Paranoid Style,” American Studies 18 (Spring 1977): 39-55. This dualism is similar to early Christianity, as noted in John G. Gager, Kingdom and Community: The Social World of Early Christianity (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975), 25. Kenelm Burridge shows how millenarian movements take society’s complexities and re-order them as “sharply contrasted contraries.” See Burridge, New Heaven, New Earth: A Study of Millenarian Activities (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 147. See Mary Douglas, Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology (London: Cresset Press, 1970),118-19, where she states the ideas of “inside and outside, purity within, corruption without” are “common to small bounded communities… a form of metaphysical dualism.”

96. Hill, Quest for Refuge, 28.

97. See also Susan Curtis, “Early Nineteenth Century America and the Book of Mormon,” in The Word of God, 89.

98. Thomas O’Dea associates the Book of Mormon’s great and abominable church ‘With the general Protestant, anti-Catholic rhetoric, and cites other Book of Mormon references which include 1 Ne. 13:4-9, 26-29, 14:3, 9-17, 22:13-14: 2 Ne. 6:12, 28:18; Morm. 8:32. See O’Dea, The Mormons, 34, 268n24. See also Evening and Morning Star, June 1832. For the contemporary anti-Catholic mood, see Cross, The Burned-over District, 83-84, 231-33.

99. Times and Seasons 3 (15 Feb. 1845): 811. See also Taylor’s comments in Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 358; 1 Ne. 14:17, Times and Seasons 6 (15 June 1845): 939; Underwood, “Millenarianism and the Early Mormon Mind,” 44.

100. Ohio’s Geauga Gazette, 15 Mar. 1831, in Dan Vogel, “Mormonism’s Anti-Masonick Bible,’” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 9 (1989): 17. Vogel also cites the Ohio Star, 24 Mar. 1831, whose editor declared, “The Mormon Bible is anti-masonic.” See also Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 81; Alexander Campbell, “The Mormonites,” Millennial Harbinger 2 (Feb. 1831): 93. References seen as anti-Masonic in the Book of Mormon include 2 Ne. 10:15, 26:22: Alma 37:29,: Hel. 2:8, 3:23, 6:18-39, 7:4, 25, 8:1, 28,10:3,11:2,10, 26-27: 3 Ne. 2:11, 3:9, 5:6, 7:9, 9:9: Morm. 1:18, 8:27: Ether 8:15-26, 9:5-7, 10:33, 11:15, 22. See O’Dea, The Mormons, 35, 269n28. Works which dispute the implication of an anti-Masonic influence in the Book of Mormon include those of Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 128-31; Blake T. Ostler, “The Book of Mormon as a Modem Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20 (Spring 1987): 73-76: Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 160-65. Whitney Cross contended anti-Masonry became another means of cleansing the political environment and ushering in the Millennium. See Cross, The Burned-over District, 123. Enough contemporary anti-Masonic sentiment existed to ignite an anti-Masonic party. See William Preston Vaughn, The Antimasonic Party in the United States, 1826-1843 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1983).

101. The term “secret combinations” was used almost exclusively to refer to Freemasonry, and the 1826 William Morgan kidnapping fit this environment. See Curtis, “Early Nineteenth Century America and the Book of Mormon,” 91; Vogel, “Mormonism’s ‘Anti-Masonick Bible,’” 24.

102. Vogel, “Mormonism’s ‘Anti-Masonick Bible,’’’ 24; Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 110-11.

103. James H. Moorhead, “Social Reform and the Divided Conscience of Antebellum Protestantism,” Church History 48 (Dec. 1979): 421: Smith, History of the Church, 3:294. See similar expectation that Christ would soon destroy their enemies in Times and Seasons 6 (July 1845): 951-52.

104. Underwood, “Millenarianism and the Early Mormon Mind,” 44; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 83; Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 43; Times and Seasons 4 (Mar. 1843): 141.

105. Therald N. Jensen, “Mormon Theory of Church and State,” Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1938, 67-68; Hansen, Quest for Empire, 22; Louis G. Reinwand, “An Interpretive Study of Mormon Millennialism During the Nineteenth Century with Emphasis on Millennial Developments in Utah,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1971, 11; Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 45-47. See also Times and Seasons 2 (15 Feb.1841): 332.

106. Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 46.

107. Examples include A Book of Commandments for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized According to Law, on the 6th of April 1830 (Zion [Independence], MO: W.W. Phelps and Co., 1833), 61 (Sept. 1830),73-74 (Oct. 1830), 74-75 (Nov. 1830),79 (Dec. 1830), 81 (Jan. 1831),82 (Jan. 1831), 99-100 (Feb. 1831), 105 (Mar. 1831), 116 (Mar. 1831). See also Effie Marion Chadwick, “Extent to Which Early Mormon Beliefs and Practices Reflected the Environment of That People,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1940, 8-9.

108. Book of Commandments, 62.

109. Ibid., 75.

110. Evening and Morning Star 2 (Jan. 1834): 126.

111. Bryan R. Wilson, “An Analysis of Sect Development,” American Sociological Review 24 (Feb. 1959): 12-13. An example is Joseph Smith’s two arrests in less than a day for public nuisance by “preaching” the Book of Mormon, and to “check the progress of the delusion, and open the eyes and understanding of those who blindly followed him.” See A. W. Benton to Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, 9 Apr. 1831, in Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 111, 113.

112. Book of Commandments, 80-84.

113. Campbellite preacher Sidney Rigdon’s conversion was based on the Book of Mormon’s teachings concerning an imminent millennium. See Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 60; Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, 122.

114. Book of Commandments, 81, 83. See also Joseph Smith to Hyrum Smith, 3 Mar. 1831, in Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 231; Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 175.

115. Book of Commandments, 61.

116. Ibid., 82.

117. Lucy Mack Smith to Solomon Mack, 6 Jan. 1831, in Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 243n90.

118. Book of Commandments, 90-95.

119. Ibid., 3.

120. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 187-89; Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith, 242.

121. Hill, Quest for Refuge, 28, 203-204.

122. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible, 11.

123. Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” 379-80.

124. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity. 121; De Pillis, “The Quest for Religious Authority and the Rise of Mormonism.” Some scholarship has indicated the Book of Mormon’s influence on early events in Mormon history was limited. See Richard L. Bushman, “The Book of Mormon in Early Mormon History,” in New Views of Mormon History, eds. Davis Bitton and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987), 3-18; Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 142; Grant Underwood, “Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Autumn 1984); 35-74. Yet Underwood concludes the Book of Mormon’s “earliest uses were primarily eschatological … [and] the theological millenarianism derived from the Book of Mormon was both complex and pervasive” (60). See also Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, 96.

125. De Pillis, “The Quest for Religious Authority and the Rise of Mormonism,” 88. John Gager argues Mormonism wished to “short-circuit all historical continuity with Christianity and Judaism and thereby to eliminate both as competitors for the claim to represent the true people of God.” See his “Early Mormonism and Early Christianity.” 59-60. Paul Edwards contends Smith “wished to end it [contention] not replace it.” See Paul M. Edwards, “The Secular Smiths.” Journal of Mormon History 4 (1977): 5n4. For works which contend Mormonism ‘Wished “to be to Christianity what Christianity was to Judaism: that is, a reform and a consummation,” see Brodie, No Man Knows My History, viii; Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience, 18; Shipps, Mormonism, 85.

126. Harrison, The Second Coming, 184, 191; Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” 380.

127. Hatch, “Mormon and Methodist,” 38. See also Sandeen, The Roots Of Fundamentalism, 47.

128. Wilson, “An Analysis of Sect Development,” 4; Max Weber, Economy and Society, 3 vols. (New York: Bedminister Press, 1968), 3:1204; Rex Eugene Cooper, Promises Made to the Fathers: Mormon Covenant Organizations (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1990), 9; Larry M. Logue, A Sermon in the Desert: Belief and Behavior in Early St. George, Utah (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 33. Leonard Arrington identifies five Mormon themes initiated in New York which have endured: (1) heavenly visitations, visions, and revelations, (2) translation and publication of the Book of Mormon, (3) organization of the Church of Christ, (4) inauguration of missionary work, and (5) commencement of mutual aid, a forerunner to communitarianism. See Arrington, “Mormonism: From Its New York Beginnings,” New York History 61 (Oct. 1980): 387.

129. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 167-68.