Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism
by Dan Vogel

Chapter 4
The “Doctrines of Devils”

[p.67]Dismayed by the multifariousness of competing religious doctrines, Joseph Smith found such diversity evidence of the apostasy from Jesus’ original church. Seekers shared this conviction and, like the Mormons, also came to criticize what they saw as the overly intellectual and “heartless” doctrines of Calvinism which had come to America with the Puritans.

Calvinism originated with French reformer John Calvin (originally Jean Cauvin, 1509-64) and his doctrines elaborated in Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536). Puritans in England and America embraced what had come to be known as the five points of Calvinism: (1) unconditional election—hose who are saved are chosen by God and in no way earn salvation through “works”; (2) limited atonement—Jesus’s death saves some but not all people; (3) total depravity—humankind is by nature corrupt; (4) irresistible grace—regeneration is a gift from God; and (5) the final perseverance of the saints—once a person is saved he or she will never fall from grace. “Not man, but God alone is the author of Regeneration,” Increase Mather insisted in 1684, “so men are altogether passive in their Conversion, and the Eternal Spirit is the only principal Agent therein.”1

Maryland was the only seventeenth-century colony in the New World with a substantial number of Catholics. The remaining colonies were overwhelmingly Protestant and, except for a handful of German Lutherans, predominantly Calvinist. But Calvinism in America began to decline in the mid-1600s as the Puritan oligarchy gave way to the economic interests of New England’s second generation, which found the extreme Calvinism of their parents a hinderance to economic growth.2 By the beginning of the nineteenth century, most Calvinist churches had splintered under pressure of theological controversy.

[p.68]Arminian theology, which stressed one’s freedom to choose between good and evil and emphasized humankind’s role in their own salvation, presented a persistent challenge to Calvinist thinking. Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch theologian, challenged all five points of Calvinism. Some leaders of the Church of England, under the direction of Archbishop Laud (1573-1645), embraced Arminianism and were immediately criticized by English Puritans.3

Post-Revolutionary Primitivists participated in the rejection of Calvinism. Abner Jones withdrew from the Calvinistic Baptists because he could not accept the doctrine of election.4 Elias Smith also doubted the doctrine of election and withdrew from the Baptists, founding “The Christian Connexion” in 1803.5 The emotional conversions of the Kentucky camp meetings caused Barton W. Stone to pursue further his own doubts about election.6 Alexander Campbell liked to see himself as neither Calvinist nor Arminian, but his position was fundamentally Arminian.7

Earlier Seekers had been Calvinists. Roger Williams, for example, attacked the Quakers for accepting the Arminian concept of universal atonement. Later Seekers struggled with these issues. Asa Wild’s turmoil because of his Calvinist upbringing is particularly instructive. From an early age Wild desired to be forgiven of his sins and to be “renewed by the power and grace of God.” But he resisted these spiritual promptings and “went on carelessly in sin and disobedience.” His parents had taught him that anything one did before conversion was “only an abomination in the sight of God; at least, that our most sincere service could not be accepted by Him, because it does not spring from holy love or a new heart.” He had been taught to believe that “all the prayers, tears, repentance, reformation and obedience of an unconverted person, would not render it any more probable that God would convert his soul, than though he was destitute of them, and going on in thoughtlessness and sin.” The doctrine of “unconditional election,” Wild reported, was “the sentiment of the greater part of the Calvinists in the New England States, and of some in the State of New York.”8

The doctrines of Calvinism left Wild spiritually discouraged. He later confessed that at the age of twenty-two he had become “one of the greatest adepts in wickedness,” but he struggled with guilt: “I saw myself guilty, depraved, and hell-deserving, exposed to the wrath of an angry God, and the pains of everlasting punishment.” However, the “fatal doctrines of Calvinism” had “a [p.69]powerful tendency to dampen and stifle the conviction wrought in my soul by the Holy Spirit.” In this spiritually weak condition, Wild confessed, “When I thought of leaving my gay and sinful companions, forsaking all my youthful vanities and folly, when I thought of living soberly, righteously and Godly, . . . I thought the cross was rather too heavy, and the path rather too narrow.”9 He would procrastinate his repentance again and again.

When Wild finally decided to forsake his sins, he experienced a “witness that God, for Christ’s sake, had forgiven all my trespasses, and adopted me into his family.” Yet he allowed his ideas about election to lull him into security, and he soon slipped back into his old sinful ways. Wild would later lament: “I continued to drink into the accursed doctrines of the Calvinistic system, till I became wholly destitute of all the reality of internal, heart religion.” His backsliding, Wild concluded, was “one part of the baneful consequences of the doctrine of unconditional perseverance; or the doctrine that teaches the impossibility of falling from grace, or losing the favor of God.” Calvinism, Wild believed, “lulls the mind to sleep in its sins, . . . and fatally entraps it in ‘the snare of the Devil.'” “It is said by the Calvinists,” he wrote, “that though the christian may fall into sin, and that very notoriously, and scandalously; yet he continues in the favour, and love of God;—that a person may even commit murder, adultery, and crimes too black to mention, and at the same time be a christian, and an heir of heaven.” This Wild called an “impious, flesh-pleasing, and blasphemous doctrine.”10

When Wild became convinced of the error of these teachings and sought the favor of God through repentance, “the Lord graciously heard and answered . . . these fresh anointings diffused a sweetness, happiness, and such a degree of fortitude and spiritual strength through my soul, that I was enabled to overcome sin.” After this, Wild said, “God began to reveal to me the necessity of having a deeper work of grace wrought in my heart.” Wild believed God had begun his “preparatory work” within him by “communicating to [his] mind a superior degree of light” until “the whole, and every part of [his] fallen, depraved nature, [had been] eradicated from [his] heart.”11

The Book of Mormon sounded a congruent critique of Calvinism. In fact, Alexander Campbell quoted passages from the Book of Mormon such as “the atonement is infinite for all mankind” (2 Ne. 25:16) and then sarcastically stated that “the [p.70]Calvinists were in America before Nephi.”12 In the Book of Mormon, for example, the apostate Zoramites cite the doctrine of election in prayer: “We believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and . . . thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell” (Al. 31:16-17).

Like Asa Wild, the Book of Mormon promotes Arminianism. Because humans “are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon” (2 Ne. 2:26). They are “left to choose good or evil” (Al. 13:3). Humans are thus responsible for their own acts. It is mortal men and women who choose Jesus, not Jesus who chooses them. “Ye must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be judged according to your works” (Morm. 6:21), states the Book of Mormon. “Whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds” (Al. 42:27). Alma declares that God “granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction” (Al. 29:4). The seer Nephi also perceived grace as conditional: “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23).

Whereas Calvinists believed that Jesus’ atonement applied only for those predestined to salvation, Arminians stressed that the Atonement was available to all, although all may not avail themselves of its benefits. The Book of Mormon asserts the Arminian teaching that “the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (2 Ne. 2:4). Jesus makes universal “intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved” (2 Ne. 2:9). Jesus came to “die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him” (2 Ne. 9:5). Nephi declares that “the atonement . . . is infinite for all mankind” (2 Ne. 25:16). Similarly Nephi explains:

[Jesus Christ] doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me [p.71]all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price. . . . Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden (2 Ne. 26:24-25, 27-28).

The Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi argues that anyone who believes God will redeem his people “are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God” (Mos. 15:11). And Book of Mormon missionaries “were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble” (Mos. 28:3; see also 28:7; Al. 3:19; 5:48; 9:17).

The Book of Mormon also predictably teaches that those who are saved can fall from grace. Nephi warns followers: “Unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved” (2 Ne. 31:16; see also 1 Ne. 13:37; 2 Ne. 31:15, 20; 3 Ne. 15:9). Alma addresses those who have “gone astray,” warning, “If ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, . . . behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd” (Al. 5:37-38). The early Mormon “Articles and Covenants” similarly denounced the concept of predetermination by stating explicitly that “there is a possibility that man may fall from grace” (D&C 20:32). And in his 1832 first vision account Joseph Smith rejected the Calvinistic doctrine of a limited atonement. When Jesus appeared he declared: “Thy sins are forgiven thee . . . I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life.”13

Still, as Marvin Hill has pointed out, there are “remnants” of Calvinism both in the Book of Mormon and in early Mormon doctrine.14 For example, the Book of Mormon states that “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mos. 3:19) and that “because of the fall our natures have become evil continually” (Eth. 3:2). Yet such “remnants” were characteristic of other contemporary Arminian groups as demonstrated by the rhetoric of the revivalists. Early Mormon convert Eli Gilbert placed Mormonism somewhere between “mungrel calvinism and crippled arminianism.”15 [p.72]Certainly early Mormons, like Seekers and other Primitivists, participated in the general rejection of Calvinism characteristic of the times.

However, one radical reaction against Calvinist doctrine, that of the Universalists, was condemned by Primitivists, Seekers, and early Mormons. Universalists argued for universal salvation or “restoration”—that Jesus’s atonement applies to all regardless of performance in mortality. Thus Universalists stressed God’s mercy rather than vengeance and threw the gates of heaven open wide, extending salvation to everyone.

The Universalists first convened as a body in Oxford, Massachusetts, in 1785.16 They flourished among the uneducated rural inhabitants of northern New England and soon spread into New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Although its rate of growth could not match that of the leading denominations in the United States, Universalism was nevertheless a concern for the more orthodox churches during the early decades of the nineteenth century.17 The Boston Recorder declared in 1834 that “Universalism is the reigning heresy of the day. It is spreading itself far and wide. It is poisoning more minds, and ruining more souls, than any, if not all other heresies among us.”18

Universalism in New England began with the teachings of John Murray (1741-1815), an Englishman who landed in New Jersey in 1770 and who is usually credited with laying the foundation for Universalism as a denomination. Although Murray was a Calvinist in every other respect, he discarded the notion that Jesus had suffered only for the elect. Murray believed that some would be punished in the next life for unbelief, not for sin, and that after being punished all would be redeemed and reconciled to God, thus making a “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).

Another Englishman who exerted some influence on American Universalism was Elhanan Winchester (1751-97). Winchester’s Universalism was similar to Murray’s. He believed in an interim period of suffering, but he differed from Murray in believing that humankind would be punished in the afterlife, perhaps for 50,000 years, for its sins and that salvation would come only after complete purgation.

If Murray was troubled by Winchester’s version of Universalism, he was even more concerned by those who argued that upon death one could be quickly restored to holiness and happiness and return immediately to God’s presence. As early as 1790, Murray lamented that “some dangerous errors [were] creeping [p.73]in among the people, and I am afraid they will prevail. They teach that the day of the Lord is past, that there is no future sorrow to be apprehended.”19

In an attempt to unify their teachings, the General Convention of Universalists adopted in 1803 the following as an article of faith: “We believe that there is one God, whose nature is Love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.”20 However, this statement was vague enough to allow disagreement to persist. Universalists who followed Winchester’s belief that humans will suffer a period of punishment in the afterlife before being saved became known as “Restorationists.” Those who denied punishment after death were sometimes called “Ultra Universalists.”21 The term “restoration,” however, was a catch word for both groups, who used it to refer to the “final restoration of all men to happiness.”22

Other developments in Universalism took place under Hosea Ballou (1772-1852). In his influential 1805 book A Treatise on Atonement, he rejected the notion of the trinity and set Universalism on the theological road that eventually led to union with the Unitarians. He also rejected the idea of a vicarious atonement and was unsure about the nature and duration of future punishment, although he emphatically denounced the assertion that the scriptures proved “the endless misery of a mortal being.”23 Later Ballou would take a stand against future retribution.24

Orthodox Christians believed that Universalists denied the justice of God, ignored clear references in the Bible to endless torment in hell, promoted immoral behavior, and neglected repentance. Orthodox Christians were especially troubled by the ultra-Universalist claim that there was neither a devil nor hell. For example, on 25 August 1826, the Gospel Advocate, a Universalist newspaper published in Buffalo, New York, declared that “the devil is a nonentity, and an endless hell of brimstone a bug-bear.”25 On 3 March 1826 the same paper printed a letter from an orthodox Christian which asserted that Universalists “blasphemiously assert that there is neither hell nor devil.”26

Universalists declared “holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected: and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works,” but urged for such behavior because it is “good and profitable unto man,” not to avoid punishment or hell.27 Orthodox Christians argued that punishment [p.73]was necessary to motivate obedience to God’s law and that without constraints public safety and democracy were threatened. In 1779, Murray tried to allay fears: “As dwellers in the world, though not of it, we hold ourselves bound to yield obedience to every ordinance of men, for God’s sake, and we will be peaceable and obedient subjects to the powers that are ordained of God in all civil cases.”28 But misunderstanding persisted. Forty years later, for example, the presiding Methodist elder of New York’s Black River Conference in a debate with a local Universalist attacked his beliefs “as equally destructive of individual peace and public safety.”29

Primitivists and Seekers were also troubled by Universalism. Alexander Campbell spoke out against the Universalists in 1825, declaring that “all the Universalists on earth cannot produce one sentence in all the revelations of God that says any thing about the termination of the punishment of the wicked.”30 Seeker Erastus Hanchett wrote against both Calvinism and Universalism, stating that “people do not know the scriptures nor the power of God; if they did, they would hold no such doctrines.” He argued that everyone cannot possibly be saved since God promised to bless only Abraham’s seed; and since one can become Abraham’s seed only through spiritual regeneration, everyone will not be saved.31

That the Book of Mormon referred to Universalism was recognized by both Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Alexander Campbell claimed that it “decides all the great controversies,” including “eternal punishment.”32 E. D. Howe, interpreting the first chapter of Alma, wrote: “The name of our ancient Universalist is called Nehor.”33 A four-page printed Mormon document from about 1835 refers to Book of Mormon characters as “Nehor the Universalian” and “Amlici the Universalist.”34 An early convert, Eli Gilbert, read the Book of Mormon and remembered how “it bore hard upon my favorite notions of universal salvation.”35

In addition, the Book of Mormon refers to those in “the last days” who would teach Universalism. Moroni writes that the Book of Mormon would come forth in a day “when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity” (Morm. 8:31). Nephi refers first to latter-day Universalists, who say, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us,” then to the Restorationists, who say, “Eat, drink, and be [p.75]merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Ne. 28:7-8). That Nephi is describing an organized group rather than a prevailing attitude is indicated by his explicit reference to latter-day “churches” which would “contend one with another” (28:3, 4). He condemns the teachings of these churches as “false and vain and foolish doctrines” (28:9). He seems also to refer to Universalism when he further prophesies that Satan in the last days would deceive many because he “telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none” (28:22).

The Book of Mormon describes a Universalist sect among the ancient Nephites. A dissident Nehor teaches “that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Al. 1:3-4). Nehor wins converts and founds a church which contends against the established and more orthodox “church of God” headed by Alma. When Nehor debates the more orthodox Gideon about theology, he draws his sword and murders Gideon, for which he is taken to the top of a hill and hanged because “this people must abide by the law” (1:14). Before he dies, Nehor acknowledges, “between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death” (1:15).

The lesson for Universalists was clear. Just as Nehor suffered death for breaking the law, so he would also suffer eternal death for disobeying God’s commandments. And just as he acknowledged his error “between the heavens and the earth,” he would suffer “between death and the resurrection” (Al. 40:11-14). Later, Book of Mormon missionaries encounter the inhabitants of the city of Ammonihah, who are “of the profession of Nehor” (Al. 14:16, 18; 15:15). The missionary Amulek declares to them that “the Lord surely shall come to redeem his people; but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins” (He. 5:10; Al. 11:36-37).

Universalists in Joseph Smith’s day would have understood Amulek’s argument. Elhanan Winchester, for example, argued [p.76]in his Lectures on the Prophecies that the “foundation” for understanding the “doctrine of salvation” was found in Matthew 1:21: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” He reasoned that since “all men are certainly the people of Jesus, . . . consequently he shall save all mankind from their sins.”36 The orthodox disagreed. Charles Marford of Victor, New York, for example, preached in about 1819 that “Christ is a Savior to Save his people from their Sins, and not in them and those that think otherwise will be overthrown with that dreadful overthrow with which God overthrew Sodom and Gomorah.”37

Charles Finney did not think this argument a strong one against Universalists. “I have heard men preach against the idea that men are saved in their sins, and they supposed they were preaching down Universalist doctrine. Universalists believe no such thing.”38 Universalist Hosea Ballou complained in 1805 that “the opposers of universalism have generally written and contended the doctrine, under an entire mistaken notion of it. They have endeavored to show the absurdity of believing that men could be received into the kingdom of glory and righteousness in their sins; which no Universalist ever believed.” He reminded readers that “the salvation which God wills is a salvation from sin.”39

In the Book of Mormon, Alma’s son Corianton had forsaken his ministry to the Zoramites and had taken up with “wicked harlots,” especially the “harlot Isabel” (Al. 39:3, 11). This conduct was largely due to Corianton’s newly found belief that God is merciful and will “restore” all men, both good and evil, to his presence (40:15-41:15). In a letter to Corianton, Alma gives four major arguments against his son’s new belief.

First, Alma condemns his son’s sins, writing that “if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable” (39:6). The orthodox in Joseph Smith’s day liked to quote from the New Testament about the “unpardonable sin” (Matt. 12:31-32; Mk. 3:29; Lk. 12:10) in refuting universalists.40

Alma then discusses “the state of the soul between death and the resurrection” (40:11). Alma tells Corianton that, contrary to his Universalist beliefs, upon death there are two abodes for the spirits of God’s children. “The spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise,” Alma says. But “the spirits of the wicked . . . shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, [p.77]and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their iniquity” (40:12-13). Universalists who often heard the orthodox argue against their beliefs using the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk. 16:1-31) would have easily identified with this argument.41

Alma explains that the punishment of the wicked is a result of God’s justice. God’s justice cannot be overridden by his mercy, “if so, God would cease to be God” (42:13). Because of the fall of Adam, justice demands that all be condemned. Only through the atonement of Jesus Christ can humankind be saved: “And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” (42:15). (Alma’s argument that God is both merciful and just would have been recognized by Universalists as a favorite ploy of the orthodox.42)

Finally, Alma explains to his wayward son that he has misunderstood the concept of restoration. Like nineteenth-century Universalists, Corianton interpreted scriptural references to “restoration” to mean that all humankind would finally “be restored from sin to happiness” (41:10). Alma explains that the “restoration of which has been spoken by the mouth of the prophets” refers to a time when “the soul shall be restored to the body” (40:22-26). He then warns, “Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness” (41:10). Furthermore, a restoration will “bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful . . . therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (41:13, 15).43 Alma’s discourse on salvation and the meaning of “restoration” must have persuaded Corianton, for he returned to the ministry (63:1-2, 10).

Rejection of Calvinistic theology was part of a general reaction against the rational, intellectual approach to religion which dominated the church in Europe and England throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Religious worship was liturgical and controlled by an intellectual professional clergy closely associated with the aristocracy. The clergy was out of touch with [p.78]the spiritual needs of common people, who yearned for a more emotionally based religion.

By the mid-1600s, the radical reformers in England began seeking a deeper, more spiritual reformation. Anabaptists, Seekers, Ranters, and Quakers attacked the established church and its clergy, preached a religion of the poor, argued for the supremacy of intuition and inspiration, elevated lay preachers to leadership, and rejected the professional clergy as spiritless and without proper authority. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, appealed to the masses with emotional rhetoric.

The Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s marked the first major repudiation of professional clergy in America. The clergy became objects of scorn and derision in the anti-intellectual fervor. The Second Great Awakening in the first half of the nineteenth century was similarly congruent with the anti-intellectual and anti-professional mood of Jacksonian America. Andrew Jackson, from Tennessee, seemed to embody the romantic notions many had about the West. The frontiersman, as the myth went, was wild and uneducated but lived by practical and common sense. He was not a philosopher but a man of action and, above all, in harmony with nature. For many Americans, Jackson was all this and more. He first earned his reputation at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 when he and his untrained farmers defeated the professional British soldiers. Jackson was elected U.S. president in 1828, giving the common man the feeling that one of them had reached the presidency.44 Richard Hofstadter has written about the effect of such an anti-intellectual and anti-professional environment on religion:

The style of a church or sect is to a great extent a function of social class, and the forms of worship and religious doctrine congenial to one social group may be uncongenial to another. The possessing classes have usually shown much interest in rationalizing religion and in observing highly developed liturgical forms. The disinherited classes, especially the unlettered, have been more moved by emotional religion; and emotional religion is at times animated by a revolt against the religious style, the liturgy, and the clergy of the upper-class church, which is at the same time a revolt against aristocratic manners and morals. Lower-class religions are likely to have apocalyptic or millennarian outbursts, to stress the validity of inner religious experience against learned and formalized religion, to simplify liturgical forms, and to reject [p.79]the idea of a learned clergy, sometimes of any professional clergy whatsoever.45

In this context, the particular sensitivity of Joseph Smith and his family to such divisions in matters of religion does not seem unrelated to the family’s diminishing economic and social status.46 Smith’s ancestors were respected citizens of Puritan New England. Robert Smith, who immigrated to Massachusetts in 1638, was well-to-do, and his son Samuel held public office. Joseph Smith’s great-grandfather held several important offices. His grandfather, Asael, was a maverick who moved from his ancestral home to the “freer” environment of Vermont, but there, with his two sons, Jesse and Joseph, he also prospered. In Tunbridge Asael owned a sizable farm, and eventually two or three others, and over the years held a number of key political offices.47

When Lucy and Joseph married in 1796, Joseph’s father gave him part ownership in a “handsome” farm in Tunbridge, and Lucy received from her brother and his business partner a $1,000 wedding present. However, through a series of financial reverses, including bad business ventures, three successive “crop failures,” and a general economic slump after the War of 1812, Joseph and Lucy were thrown into the growing class of the disinherited. They moved to New York for brighter prospects.

At the time Lucy and some of her children joined the Presbyterian church, “the family was relatively well off and building a more comfortable home in Palmyra [Manchester].”48 Significantly, Lucy chose to follow the Presbyterians, the social and religious elite of the community. About the time Lucy withdrew from the Presbyterian communion, the Smith family was experiencing severe financial hardships. By 1826 the Smiths had again become “renters” and by 1829 were forced to move out of their wooden, frame house into a log cabin.49

The Book of Mormon exhibits concerns about economic and social status and pleads the case of the lower classes. “Wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world,” Nephi declares. “For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures” (2 Ne. 9:30). The false churches in the last days are built up that “they may get gain and grind the face of the poor” (26:20). “They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries” (28:13). In fact, the Book of Mormon attacks those of high social status generally: lawyers, judges, and politicians. Mormon describes [p.80]the socio-religious situation of the Nephites and condemns both wealth and learning:

There began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceeding great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions; for there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers. And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning, yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches. . . . And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up (3 Ne. 6:10-12, 14).

Both Primitivists and Seekers shared the anti-professional and anti-clerical attitude of the early nineteenth century, but they differed fundamentally on approach. Primitivists, especially Alexander Campbell’s followers, were heirs of the Enlightenment. Although they assailed the professional, paid ministry, and to a limited extent their learning, they emphasized the importance of reason in the conversion process. Seekers, on the other hand, were religious enthusiasts who emphasized the inner, emotional experience. Their attack on the clergy focused on the clergy’s lack of spiritual attainments.

Still both groups opposed the paid clergy. Alexander Campbell saw the clergy of the old-line churches as “hirelings” who sought “worldly power and dominion.”50 “Was there ever such a craft as priestcraft?” Campbell rhetorically asked the readers of the Christian Baptist in 1823. “No, it is the craftiest of all crafts! It is so crafty that it obtains by its craft the means to make craftsmen, and then it makes the deluded support them!”51 In 1826, he wrote: “That any man is to be hired for a stipulated sum to preach and pray, and expound the scripture, by the day, month, or year, I believe to be a relic of popery.”52

Seekers too rejected a paid ministry. The English Seekers of the seventeenth century objected to paying tithes to support a professional ministry, and many of them subsequently refused any pay for their own preaching.53 Seekers who preached maintained a secular occupation.54 In 1654, Seeker John Webster rhetorically asked: “Did ever Christ teach you to preach for hire, or to make Contracts how much you must have for exercising that Ministry?”55

[p.81]In America, Roger Williams strongly opposed a paid ministry and took a trade himself, arguing that the earliest apostles worked with their own hands.56 “It is one of the grand Designes of the most High, to breake downe the Hireling Ministry,” he wrote in 1652 against those who turn preaching into a “trade” by accepting tithes.57 For, after all, had not those of the first apostolic ministry been men who by “their owne hands day and night, supplied their owne and others Necessities?”58

Jason Whitman observed in 1834 in The Unitarian that “the Book of Mormon is with some art adapted to the known prejudices of a portion of the community,” and then named one: “It is well known, that, among a portion of the community, there is a strong prejudice against the support, by the people, of a regular ministry.”59 King Mosiah in the Book of Mormon instructed newly ordained priests, for example, that they “should labor with their own hands for their support. . . . And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God” (Mos. 18:24, 26).

Professional clergy are expressly condemned by the Book of Mormon. Those who “preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world” (2 Ne. 26:29), are practitioners of “priestcraft.” Nephi declares that “the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish” (26:31); and that “The Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled . . . and preach . . . that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor” (26:20). Moroni says the Book of Mormon will “come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins” (Morm. 8:32). “O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain?” (8:33).60

An additional concern in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America was whether ministers should be specially educated. In 1742 revivalist Gilbert Tennent published The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry, which attacked the old-line clerics as cold-hearted, bigoted hypocrites.61 John Hancock (1702-44), pastor of the First Church in Braintree, Massachusetts, countered in 1743 with The Danger of an Unqualified Ministry, which argued that the elevation of the laity would open the door to all kinds of heresies and intruders.

[p.82]Boston clergyman Charles Chauncy also attacked the revivalists in his 1743 book Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England. “They pleaded there was no Need of Learning in preaching, and that one of them could by the SPIRIT do better than the Minister by his Learning; as if the SPIRIT and Learning were Opposites,” wrote Chauncy. “Swarms of Exhorters have appear’d in the Land,” Chauncy explained, “and been admir’d and run after, though many of them could scarce speak common Sense.” They were able to preach because they were “depending on the help of the spirit.” Chauncy concluded sardonically: “And to the same Cause still it must be attributed that so many Ministers preach, not only without Book, but without Study; and justify their doing so, lest, by previous Preparation, they should stint the Spirit.62

Primitivists and Seekers were also suspicious of the schooled clergy. Primitivists were concerned that the learned ministers were really unconverted and simply practicing their profession. Seekers criticized the clergy for not teaching by the spirit, but they also condemned revivalists for their excesses and for denying direct revelation. According to Seekers, education had its place, but it was not required as a training for the ministry.63 Religious enthusiasm was allowed, but not to the exclusion of reasoned, sensible communication. Seekers also criticized titles designed to raise the clergy to an elite status.64

Seeker John Webster, a former priest and master of the grammar school in Clitheroe, vigorously attacked what he called “man-made” ministers, together with their “academick” and “scholastick” training. “If the quintessence of all humane learning were as a Magisterial extract, monopolized in one man, yet were it no fit qualification for a Minister of the Gospel,” wrote Webster in 1654.65 “Thou mayst have a notion and an opinion of the things of God, and thou hast them by History and by Relation or Education or Example or Custom or Tradition—but if thou hast no evidence of Christ’s mighty miracles and Godlike power in thine own soul, how canst thou be a witness or say that thou hast seen and heard?”66

Other English Seekers shared this concern for a more spirit-filled ministry. “Surely it is not a University, a Cambridge or Oxford, a Pulpit and Blacke gowne or Cloake, [which] makes one a true Minister of Jesus Christ,” declared John Saltmarsh in 1648. Rather, he insisted, true ministers are made only by the call and “unction . . . of the Spirit.”67 Roger Brierly criticized “heady [p.83]opinions” and “forensic Christianity,” which he believed ended in the “conceit of knowledge.” “Divinity stands not in curious searching of hidden things,” he declared, “but in plain evidence of truth that pierces the heart.” “All high-flying religion is not of Christ,” he claimed.68 This attitude carried over to American Seekers, such as Asa Wild.

Early Mormon apostle Parley P. Pratt expressed a congruent sentiment in 1837: “If the churches of the present day have the Holy Ghost, why are they so much at a loss to understand truth? . . . why do they need whole libraries of sermons, tracts, divinities, debates, arguments and opinions, all written by the wisdom of men, without even professing to be inspired? Well doth the Lord complain, saying, ‘their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men.'”69 The Book of Mormon condemns latter-day clergy for intellectualizing religion, “contend[ing] one with another, . . . teach[-ing] with their learning, and deny[ing] the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance” (2 Ne. 28:4). Moroni says the Book of Mormon will “come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches” (Morm. 8:28).

Revivalism was one attempt to cultivate the influence of the Holy Spirit. In the 1730s, the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield in England had became associated with the unusual emotional phenomena identified with revivalism. Many in their audiences experienced what was called the “falling power” of the spirit. On 12 June 1741, for example, Wesley recorded in his journal:

I preached on the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith. While I was speaking, several dropped down as dead and among the rest such a cry was heard of sinners groaning for the righteousness of faith as almost drowned my voice. But many of these soon lifted up their heads with joy and broke out into thanksgiving, being assured they now had the desire of their soul—the forgiveness of their sins.70

The Great Awakening in America was initiated by visits from Wesley, Whitefield, and Thomas Loke, and continued in large part through the preaching of Jonathan Edwards at Northampton, Massachusetts. Revivals were first prominent in 1735-37 and 1739-42. Edwards counted some of the phenomena displayed at these early [p.84]revivals as emotional extravagances,71 writing of the preaching of Samuel Buell (1716-98): “There were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the meantime under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.”72 Edwards regretted the passing of the revivals, whatever their faults, and expressed to the Reverend William McCulloch in 1743 his concern for those in New England who remained unconverted.73

Although the First Great Awakening occurred chiefly among the moderate Puritans and “New Light” Presbyterians and was an attempt to revive a dying church, the Second Great Awakening in the early nineteenth century took place primarily in the south and the west among those who found it necessary to combine mission zeal and revivalism in the intensely competitive environment of the new nation. The frontier camp meeting became the characteristic feature of evangelical revivalism in the nineteenth century.

The spiritual excesses of the first awakening were duplicated in the second. When the “Great Revival” commenced in 1801 in Logan County, Kentucky, under the preaching of Presbyterian minister James McGready (1758-1817), Barton W. Stone was there. The phenomena he described were typical of many frontier revivals:

The scene to me was new. . . . Many, very many fell down, as men slain in battle, and continued for hours together in an apparently breathless and motionless state—sometimes for a few moments reviving, and exhibiting symptoms of life by a deep groan, or piercing shriek, or by a prayer for mercy most fervently uttered. After lying thus for hours, they obtained deliverance. The gloomy cloud, which had covered their faces, seemed gradually and visibly to disappear, and hope in smiles brightened into joy—they would rise shouting deliverance, and then would address the surrounding multitude in language truly eloquent and impressive. . . . Under such addresses many others would fall down into the same state from which the speakers had just been delivered.74

Stone soon conducted his own revival at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, with similar results.75 The Logan County and Cane Ridge revivals became standards for subsequent revivals, but all were not [p.85]occasions for wild enthusiasm. Many, perhaps most, revivals were conducted with “good order and decorum.”76

While revivalists viewed the physical phenomena as outward manifestation of the inward working of the Spirit, others disagreed. John Williamson Nevin (1803-86), a German Reformed professor of theology at Mercersburg Seminary, wrote a 150-page attack on revivalism in 1843 entitled The Anxious Bench. Nevin charged that the revivalistic phenomena were the result of “wild fanatical influences” and did not “proceed from the Holy Ghost.”77

Primitivists were divided on the subject of camp-meeting revivalism. While Barton Stone and others favored revivalism, Alexander Campbell had a distaste for camp meetings and “mystical impulses,” but would soften on the issue in the 1840s.78 Campbell asserted that the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues, and healing were “confined to the apostolic age.”79 At the same time, however, he also believed that “a religion of which the Holy Spirit is not the author, the subject matter, and the perfecter is sheer Deism.”80 What Campbell most objected to was the extreme bodily agitations and the tendency to disregard the role of reason in the conversion process.81 Nevertheless, Campbell earned a reputation as an extremely rational preacher.

Seekers, on the other hand, generally believed that spiritual gifts were the privilege of true believers in all ages. Not only was the loss of spiritual gifts “the lamentation of all Saints,” according to Roger Williams, “but [if] extraordinary gifts be ceased, how shall now the people . . . be supplied with Ministers.”82 Williams therefore anticipated the restoration of spiritual gifts, but he had reservations about “those great bodily Shakings which have been believed to have come in mightily upon [the Quakers],” which he saw as nothing more than “the power of Devillish spirits.”83

Other Seekers apparently received revelations, saw visions, exercised spiritual gifts, and experienced religious enthusiasm. Asa Wild, less conservative than Williams, described his personal experiences and the criticisms he received:

Sometimes I have felt such a degree of the presence and power of God, that it has caused me involuntarily to break forth in exclamations of praise, thanksgiving, and exhortation, although surrounded by cold and heartless professors, who verily thought that such proceedings were the height of [p.86]enthusiasm, false zeal, and even phrenzy, insanity, and madness itself; at best the delusions, temptations, and machinations of satan. By this time my Calvinistic brethren became very much concerned, thinking I was nearly ruined and undone, concluding I was apostatised from the faith, “giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of Devils.”

Wild’s narrative otherwise echoes revivalistic language. At one place, for example, he issues a revivalistic plea for the sinner: “O, exert thyself; lay hold of the never-failing promises of the immutable God. Cast your polluted soul upon the altar of that promise, and the fire of divine love, and the efficacy of the all-cleansing blood of the immaculate Jesus, will ‘dart a sin-consuming pain,’ and fill your heart with the sweetest joy.” Wild was concerned that even the Methodists “limit the operations of the Spirit.” He finally concluded that “nothing short of the immediate teaching of [God’s] Spirit could enable me to travel the road to heaven, in such a manner as I desired, and as he commanded.”84 Wild attacked the clergy for their reliance on “depraved reason” and charged that only “the teaching of the Spirit” can reveal the true meaning of scripture.85

Wild addressed those who have “the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof”:

By these, I mean the great body of professors of religion, including all denominations, who do not daily experience and practice that which is recorded and commanded in the Bible, relative to christian experience and duty. . . . I say that you . . . deny the very essence of christianity, though you may have some of the outward form of it. Be it known to you, (and by the authority of God I speak it,) you are deceiving your own selves; and so continuing, you will go down to hell. . . . Although you constitute by far the majority of professed christians, yet your numbers will not save you, nor enable you to stand in that day when every man’s works shall be tried as by fire.86

Wild felt that true Christians should exercise spiritual gifts such as “the discernment of spirits, the gift of tongues, power to inflict judgments, to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils, baptise with the Holy Ghost, etc.”87

Mormons could agree with Wild’s complaint that all deny “the immediate infallible ‘inspiration of God.'” The Book of Mormon claimed it would come forth in a day when it will be popular to “deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away” [p.87](Morm. 9:7). Apostle Parley P. Pratt charged that “the whole train of modern divines profess no Revelation, later than the Bible, and no direct inspiration, or supernatural gift of the Spirit.”88 Pratt complained: “We are told by modern divines, that the days of miracles have gone by forever; and those who believe in miracles, in our day, are counted as impostors, or at least, poor ignorant fanatics, and the public are warned against them, as false teachers who would, if possible, deceive the very elect.”89

Unitarian Jason Whitman described in 1834 the Mormon argument which intimately connected spiritual gifts with the restoration of power and authority. “They state,” wrote Whitman,

what all admit to be facts, that, in the primitive ages of the church, there was among the disciples the power of speaking with tongues and of working miracles; that, at the present day, no denomination of Christians possesses this power. From these facts they draw the conclusion, that all denominations of Christians have departed from the true faith of the primitive church. They then claim for themselves and the members of their church the power of speaking with tongues and of working miracles. . . . They assert it as a fact, that among them the dead have been raised and the sick healed. From these facts, as they call them, they draw the conclusion that they are the members of the true church of Christ.90

Not surprisingly, however, the Mormon workings of the spirit were not always easily distinguished from revival experiences. Early Mormon convert Benjamin Brown related the following story:

A knowledge was given me that the ancient gifts of the Gospel—speaking in tongues, the power to heal the sick, the spirit of prophecy, &c., were just about to be restored to the believers in Christ. . . . A few days after, curiosity led me to visit the Latter-day Saints, amongst whom I witnessed a fulfilment of the prediction, for I beheld a manifestation of the gifts of prophecy and tongues, and received the latter myself.91

The Painesville Telegraph reported on a Mormon gathering in 1831, stating that “a scene of the wildest enthusiasm was exhibited, . . . they would fall, as without strength, roll upon the floor, . . . they exhibited all the apish actions imaginable, making grimaces both horrid and ridiculous. . . . At other times they are taken with a fit of jabbering which they neither understand themselves nor any [p.88]body else, and this they call speaking foreign languages by divine inspiration.”92

During the period Brown described, Joseph Smith dictated a revelation warning the elders of “false spirits” and instructing them to reject all spirits which they cannot understand (D&C 50:1-36). In an 1842 editorial in the Times and Seasons, he explained that the true gift of the Holy Ghost was somewhere between two common extremes. “Some people have been in the habit of calling every supernatural manifestation, the effects of the spirit of God, whilst there are others that think their [sic] is no manifestation connected with it at all,” he said. The Latter-day Saints believe in the gifts of the Holy Ghost but believe in it “rationally, reasonably, consistently, and scripturally, and not according to the wild vagaries, foolish, notions and traditions of men.”93 This meant that they believed in such scriptural gifts of the Spirit as tongues, interpretation of tongues, discernment, prophesy, healing but rejected such excesses as “jerking” and “barking.” This position was not unlike that of Roger Williams or moderate revivalists such as Jonathan Edwards who advised that “gifts [of the spirit] were to be exercised with prudence, because God was not the author of confusion but of peace.”94

Joseph Smith may have experienced several revivals first-hand, but the revival which seems to have impressed him most commenced in Palmyra in 1824. The revival, as Smith recalled in 1838, “commenced with the Methodists” and “soon became general among all the sects in that region of country.” The revival reached such fervor that “the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties.”95 Smith reported that he “attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit,” that he “became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect,” and even “felt some desire to be united with them.” But he later confessed that he could not “get Religion” and “feel and shout like the rest.”96

Smith articulated his teen-age experiences with revivalistic motifs in 1832, 1838, and at other times. The revival in Palmyra motivated Smith, like many others, to seek forgiveness of sins. He could not get religion at the meetings, so he sought it in the woods. In his earliest version, Smith mentioned that while reading the Bible his “mind [had] become excedingly distressed for I [had] become convicted of my sins.” He therefore “cried unto the Lord for mercy.” In the woods, Smith continued, he saw “a pillar of . . . light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come [p.89]down from above and rested upon me. I was filled with the spirit of God . . . and I saw the Lord; he spake unto me saying. `Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.'”97 Smith remembered in 1838 that the experience drained him of his natural strength—a phenomenon similar to the “falling power” experienced in the revivals. “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven,” he recorded.98

The Book of Mormon speaks of the “falling power” of religious enthusiasm.99 “I am full of the Spirit of God, insomuch that my frame has no strength,” Nephi tells his brothers (1 Ne. 17:47). On another occasion he explains, “I have workings in the spirit, which doth weary me even that all my joints are weak” (19:20). Similarly, Alma’s conversion comes in dramatic revivalistic fashion. Alma records: “We all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us” (Al. 36:6-10; cf. Mos. 27:12). After three days, Alma explains, “my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God” (36:23). The Book of Mormon King Lamoni is also converted in revivalistic style. Ammon preaches the gospel to him, and he cries “O Lord, have mercy,” then “fell unto the earth, as if he were dead” (Al. 18:41-42). And Ammon “knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, . . . and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God” (19:6). After two days the king awoke and exclaimed: “I have seen my Redeemer” (19:13). This so astonished the queen and the king’s servants that they also fell to the earth (19:13-18).

When the predicted signs accompanying Jesus’s birth appear in the Book of Mormon, many are so astonished that the falling power is manifested on a scale far beyond that of the legendary Logan County and Cane Ridge, Kentucky, revivals:

At the going down of the sun there was no darkness. . . . And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead. . . . And they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth. . . . But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error [p.90]which they were in . . . and did confess their faults (3 Ne. 1:15-17, 25).

The Book of Mormon not only describes a kind of pilgrimage in search of spiritual manifestations and new revelation within a revivalistic setting, it does so using revivalistic language. Phrases such as “Have ye spiritually been born of God?” (Al. 5:14); “Have ye received his image in your countenances?” (Al. 5:14); “Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Al. 5:14); “If ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love” (Al. 5:26; cf. 5:9, 26:13); “repent . . . while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of day” (Jac. 6:5; cf. Mos. 16:12, 29:20; Al. 5:33; 3 Ne. 9:14); “tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” (Morm. 1:15); “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Ne. 1:15); are familiar rhetorical phrases which would have been recognized by many of the book’s nineteenth-century readers as revivalistic.100

Thus the Book of Mormon participated in the spirit of revivalism, although warily, just as Joseph Smith and many other Seekers did. Early Mormon converts, especially those on the Ohio Reserve, were given to the spiritual extremes associated with revivalistic enthusiasm and forced Joseph Smith to discourage such excesses. But Mormonism’s concept of charisma would prove to be more radical than that of even the most enthusiastic revivalist. Direct revelations from God—the desire of Seekers—especially in restoring the true church and true doctrine of Christ, was the promise of Mormonism. The Book of Mormon—echoing the gospel according to Seekers—criticizes rational religion for denying the operations of the spirit while at the same time criticizing revivalism for not embracing a radical enough concept of spiritual gifts.


[p.90]1. Increase Mather, Some Important Truths Concerning Conversion (Boston, 1684), 4-5. For a general history of Calvinism, see John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954).

2. On the economic aspects of the decline of Calvinism, see Bernard Bailyn, New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955), esp. 20-23, 40-44, 105-11, 134-42.

3. On Arminianism, see Gerald O. McCulloh, ed., Man’s Faith and Freedom: The Theological Influence of Jacobus Arminius (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962); also Robert J. Wilson III, The Benevolent Deity: Ebenezer Gay [p.91]and the Rise of Rational Religion in New England, 1696-1787 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984).

4. Memoir of Elder Abner Jones by His Son, A. D. Jones (Boston, 1842), 30-31.

5. The Life, Conversion, Preaching, Travels and Sufferings of Elias Smith (Portsmouth, 1816), 58.

6. William Garrett West, Barton W. Stone: Early American Advocate of Christian Unity (Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1954), 24, 40-41. For Stone’s later estimation of Calvinism, see The Biography of Elder Barton Warren Stone, Written by Himself: with Additions and Reflections by Elder John Rogers (Cincinnati, 1847), 33-34.

7. Royal Humbert, A Compend of Alexander Campbell’s Theology (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1961), 81-84, 95, 117, 128-31, 181.

8. [Asa Wild], A Short Sketch of the Religious Experience, and Spiritual Travels, of Asa Wild, of Amsterdam, N.Y. Written by himself, by Divine Command, and the most infallible inspiration (Amsterdam, NY: printed for the author by D. Wells, 1824), 3-4.

9. Ibid., 4-5.

10. Ibid., 6, 10, 11-12, 74, 75.

11. Ibid., 11-12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21.

12. Alexander Campbell, “The Mormonites,” Millennial Harbinger 2 (Feb. 1831): 93, 94.

13. Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 5-6; see also D&C 10:66-69.

14. See Marvin S. Hill, “The Role of Christian Primitivism in the Origin and Development of the Mormon Kingdom, 1830-1844,” Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1968, 103-104, and “The Shaping of the Mormon Mind in New England and New York,” Brigham Young University Studies 9 (Spring 1969): 363-64.

15. Messenger and Advocate 1 (Oct. 1834): 10.

16. The best work on the history of Universalism is Russell E. Miller, The Larger Hope: The First Century of the Universalist Church in America, 1770-1870 (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 1979).

17. Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-over District: A Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1950), 17-18. See also Miller, The Larger Hope, 161.

18. In the Trumpet 15 (17 May 1834): 186.

19. In Richard Eddy, Universalism in America: A History, 2 vols. (Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1884-86), 1:337-38.

20. In Miller, The Larger Hope, 45-46.

21. See Eddy, Universalism, 2:132-37, 260-342; Kenneth M. Johnson, “The Doctrine of Universal Salvation and the Restorationist Controversy in Early Nineteenth Century New England,” Ph.D., diss., University of Ottawa, 1978; and Miller, Larger Hope, 111-26.

22. Gospel Advocate, 19 Jan. 1827 and 3 Feb. 1826.

23. Hosea Ballou, A Treatise on Atonement (Randolph, VT, 1805), 189.

[p.92]24. Ballou began presenting his arguments against retribution in 1817 in the columns of the Gospel Visitant (Charlestown, MA). See Miller, Larger Hope, 111, 112-14. See also Ballou’s Examination of the Doctrine of Future Retribution, on the Principles of Morals, Analogy, and the Scriptures (1834).

25. Gospel Advocate 4 (25 Aug. 1826): 245.

26. Ibid., 4 (3 March 1826): 58.

27. In Miller, Larger Hope, 46.

28. Ibid., 170.

29. In Ernest Cassara, ed., Universalism in America: A Documentary History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), 128.

30. The Christian Baptist 3 (5 Dec. 1825): 104-105.

31. Erastus Hanchett, A Serious Call in Christian Love, to All People; in the Form of A Letter to Henry Colman . . . (Boston, [1825]), 14-15; see also 17-18, 19.

32. Campbell, “The Mormonites,” 93.

33. E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed [sic]: or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time (Painesville, OH: E. D. Howe, 1834), 70.

34. See Grant Underwood, “The Earliest Reference Guides to the Book of Mormon: Windows into the Past,” Journal of Mormon History 12 (1985): 77.

35. Eli Gilbert to Oliver Cowdery, 24 Sept. 1834, Messenger and Advocate 1 (Oct. 1834): 9.

36. Elhanan Winchester, A Course of Lectures on the Prophecies, 2 vols. (Walpole, NH: Carlisle for Thomas & Thomas: 1800), 2:256-57. This aspect of the Book of Mormon is discussed in Mark Thomas, “Revival Language in the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone 8 (May-June 1983): 22-23.

37. From original sermons of Charles Marford, in possession of J. Sheldon Fisher of Fishers, New York, brought to my attention by Wesley P. Walters.

38. Charles Finney, Lectures on Revivals of Religion, 6th ed. (New York, 1835), 166.

39. Ballou, Treatise on Atonement, vii, 209.

40. See, for example, Gospel Advocate 1 (26 Sept. 1823): 293; 2 (16 Jan. 1824): 7-8; S. B. W[ylie], “On the Duration of Future Punishment,” Presbyterian Magazine 1 (March 1821): 123-24; Methodist Magazine 3 (June 1820): 213; and New-York Missionary Magazine, and Repository of Religious Intelligence 3 (1802): 415.

41. See, for example, John Cleaveland, An Attempt To nip in the Bud, the unscriptural Doctrine of Universal Salvation (Salem, MA, 1776), iv; Samuel Hopkins, An Inquiry Concerning the future State of those who die in their Sins (Newport, RI, 1783), 31, 73, 83.

42. See examples of this argument in S. B. W[ylie], “Remarks on the Duration of Future Punishment,” Presbyterian Magazine 1 (Jan. 1821): 17; Utica Christian Magazine 1 (Oct. 1813): 227-28.

43. On the Universalist/orthodox debate about the definition of the term “restoration,” see [Abel C. Thomas], Autobiography of Rev. Abel C. Thomas: Including Recollections of Persons, Incidents, and Places (Boston, 1852), 82-83; Ballou, Treatise on Atonement, 179.

[p.93]44. On the myth of the West as well as the reputation of Andrew Jackson, see Henry N. Smith, Virgin Land (Cambridge, 1950); John William Ward, Andrew Jackson, Symbol for an Age (New York, 1955); and Carl R. Fish, The Rise of the Common Man (New York, 1927).

45. Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), 56.

46. The psychological implications of the Smiths’ loss of status has been recognized by such historians as Marvin S. Hill, “Christian Primitivism in the Origin and Development of the Mormon Kingdom,” 37-41, and “Quest for Refuge: An Hypothesis as to the Social Origins and Nature of the Mormon Political Kingdom,” Journal of Mormon History 2 (1975): 3-20; and Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 6.

47. On the ancestry of Joseph Smith, consult Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, Ancestry and Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale (Independence, MO, 1929); Richard Lloyd Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New England Heritage: Influences of Grandfathers Solomon Mack and Asael Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971); Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977), 15-31.

48. Hill, “Quest for Refuge,” 12.

49. Lucy Smith, “Preliminary Draft,” unpaginated, LDS church archives. Compare Hill, “Quest for Refuge,” 12-13, where he states that “by the time he [Smith] received the golden plates and began translating the Book of Mormon, his father’s family, despite strenuous efforts, had lost the farm and fallen once more on hard times. Thus his mother, brothers, and sisters were more receptive as time went by to the new gospel which would particularly appeal to the disinherited.”

50. Robert Frederick West, Alexander Campbell and Natural Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948), 3-53.

51. Christian Baptist 1 (1 Dec. 1823): 91.

52. Ibid., 3 (3 April 1826): 185.

53. Thomas Collier, A Brief Discovery of the Corruption of the Ministerie (London, 1647), 1-21; William Dell, The Tryall of Spirits Both in Teachers and Hearers (London, 1653), 29; William Erbery, The Testimony (London, 1658), 48-59; John Saltmarsh, End of One Controversie, in Saltmarsh, Some Drops of the Vial Poured Out (London, 1646), 115.

54. See, for example, Dell, Tryall of Spirits; William Dell, The Stumbling Stone, Wherein the University Is Reproved (London, 1653), 26; Collier, Brief Discovery.

55. John Webster, The Saint’s Guide (London, 1654), [4].

56. [Roger Williams], Bloudy Tenent ([London], 1644), 172-73.

57. Roger Williams, The Hireling Ministry None of Christs (London, 1652), 7.

58. Ibid., 9-10.

59. Jason Whitman, “The Book of Mormon,” The Unitarian (Jan. 1834): 47.

60. The early Mormon church heeded this advice by operating with an unpaid ministry. However, in February 1831 Joseph Smith dictated a revelation which stipulated that he receive a living allowance (D&C 43:13).

[p.93]61. Gilbert Tennent, The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry Considered in a Sermon on Mark VI, 34 (Boston, 1742), 2-3, 5, 7, 11-13.

62. Charles Chauncy, Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England (Boston, 1743), 226, 249, 256-58.

63. Erbery, The Testimony, 116; Saltmarsh, End of One Controversie, 115; Collier, Brief Discovery, 12.

64. William Dell, The Stumbling Stone, Wherein the University Is Reproved (London, 1653), iv; Dell, Tryall of Spirits, 24-31.

65. John Webster, The Saint’s Guide (London, 1654), 5. Webster also criticized the universities and higher education in Academiarum Examen, or The Examination of Academies (London, 1654), which received an immediate response by [Seth Ward], Vindiciae academiarum containing, Some briefe Animadversions upon Mr. Websters Book, Stiled, The Examination of Academies (Oxford, 1654).

66. John Webster, The Saints Perfect Freedome (London, 1654), 239.

67. John Saltmarsh, Some Drops of the Viall (London, 1648), 112.

68. Roger Brierly, A Bundle of Soul-convincing, Directing and Comforting Truths (Edinburgh, 1670), 18.

69. Parley P. Pratt, A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People (New York, 1837), 102-103. The Book of Mormon declares that “to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Ne. 9:29), but it teaches an emotionally based faith rather than a rationally based one. See Moro. 7:13, 16.

70. John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley, ed. Percy Livingstone Parker (Chicago: Moody Press, n.d.), 99.

71. In May 1741, he attended a meeting where “the whole room was full of nothing but outcries, faintings, and such like.” The phenomena soon attracted others to the meeting who, as Edwards recorded, “were overpowered in like manner: and it continued thus for some hours.” Edwards later reflected on the scene: “It was a very frequent thing to see an house full of outcries, faintings, convulsions and such like, both with distress, and also with admiration and joy. . . . There were some that were so affected, and their bodies so overcome, that they could not go home, but were obliged to stay all night at the house where they were.” Jonathan Edwards, The Great Awakening, ed. C. C. Goen, vol. 4, in John E. Smith, ed., The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 5 vols. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972), 4:546, 547.

72. Ibid., 550.

73. Ibid., 539-41.

74. The Biography of Eld. Barton Warren Stone, Written by Himself, ed. John Rogers, 5th ed. (Cincinnati, 1847), 34-35. According to Jonathan B. Turner, who described the legendary Kentucky revivals in his book Mormonism in All Ages, or The Rise, Progress, and Causes of Mormonism; with the Biography of its Author and Founder, Joseph Smith, Junior (New York, 1842), “not less than one thousand fell at one meeting,” 272.

75. Biography of Eld. Barton Warren Stone, 36-42.

76. See Charles A. Johnson, “The Frontier Camp Meeting: Contemporary and Historical Appraisals, 1805-1840,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 37 (June 1950): 91-110.

[p.95]77. J[ohn] W[illiamson] Nevin, The Anxious Bench (Chambersburg, PA, 1843), 4, 7.

78. James DeForest Murch, Christians Only: A History of the Restoration Movement (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1962), 116-17; Robert Richardson, ed., Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, 2 vols. (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1897-98), 2:355-61; Johnson, “Frontier Camp Meeting,” 91. Walter Scott published in the mid-1830s his Discourse on the Holy Spirit designed to counter the tendency of many Primitivists towards rationalism and disbelief of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers. Murch, Christians Only, 105.

79. In Joseph W. White, “The Influence of Sidney Rigdon upon the Theology of Mormonism,” M.A. thesis, University of Southern California, 1947, 127. See also Humbert, Compend, 69.

80. Robinson, Memoirs, 2:155.

81. Murch, Christians Only, 74-75; Humbert, Compend, 109-25.

82. Williams, Hireling Ministry, 16-17.

83. R[oger] W[illiams], George Fox Digg’d out of his Burrowes (Boston, 1676), 19; see also 27-30.

84. Wild, Short Sketch, 18, 23, 44.

85. Wayne Sentinel, 22 Oct. 1823.

86. Wild, Short Sketch, 50, 83, 85-86.

87. Ibid., 83.

88. Pratt, Voice of Warning, 61.

89. Ibid., 58.

90. Whitman, “The Book of Mormon,” 46.

91. Benjamin Brown, Testimonies for the Truth: A Record of Manifestations of the Power of God, Miraculous and Providential, Witnessed in the Travels and Experience of Benjamin Brown (Liverpool: S. W. Richards, 1853), 7, 12.

92. Painesville Telegraph, 1 Nov. 1831, 3. The spiritual excesses in the early church are also described in Parley P. Pratt, Jr., ed., Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 61, and John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (St Louis: printed for the author, 1839), 16. See also Max H. Parkin, “Kirtland, A Stronghold for the Kingdom,” in The Restoration Movement: Essays in Mormon History, F. Mark McKiernan, Alma R. Blair, and Paul M. Edwards, eds. (Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1973), 66-67.

93. Joseph Smith, “Gift of the Holy Ghost,” Times and Seasons 3 (15 June 1842): 823.

94. Edwards, Great Awakening, 108.

95. Joseph Smith, Jr., et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1964), 1:3, hereafter HC.

96. HC 1:3; Alexander Neibaur Journal, 24 May 1844, in Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision: Confirming Evidences and Contemporary Accounts, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 177.

97. Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 5.

98. HC 1:6.

[p.96]99. Mormon historian B. H. Roberts realized that revivalistic “falling” was similar to what is described in the Book of Mormon. See B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, ed. Brigham D. Madsen (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 284-308.

100. For those in the nineteenth century who recognized the revivalistic language in the Book of Mormon, see T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons, from the First Vision of Joseph Smith to the Last Courtship of Brigham Young (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1873), 542-43; Clark Braden, The Braden-Kelley Debate (St. Louis: Christian Publishing Co., [1884?]), 151. For a more recent discussion, see Mark Thomas, “Revival Language in the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone 8 (May-June 1983): 19-25.