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michelleu Edmitrievz
michelleu Edmitrievz

The Changing World Of Mormonism: A Behind-the-Scenes Look At Changes In Mormon Doctrine And Practice


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The Changing World Of Mormonism: A Behind-the-Scenes Look At Changes In Mormon Doctrine And Practice


Americans looked on these changes with a mixture of enthusiasm and suspicion, wondering how the moral fabric of the new nation would hold up to emerging social challenges. Increasingly, many turned to two powerful tools to help understand and manage the various transformations: spiritual revivalism and social reform. Reacting to the rationalism of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, the religious revivals of the Second Great Awakening reignited Protestant spirituality during the early nineteenth century. The revivals incorporated worshippers into an expansive religious community that crisscrossed all regions of the United States and armed them with a potent evangelical mission. Many emerged from these religious revivals with a conviction that human society could be changed to look more heavenly. They joined their spiritual networks to rapidly developing social reform networks that sought to alleviate social ills and eradicate moral vice. Tackling numerous issues, including alcoholism, slavery, and the inequality of women, reformers worked tirelessly to remake the world around them. While not all these initiatives were successful, the zeal of reform and the spiritual rejuvenation that inspired it were key facets of antebellum life and society.


When Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it came to be officially designated, first emerged on the religious scene in 1830, it was simply one of the many, often short-lived, new religious groups born amidst the spiritual ferment of mid-nineteenth-century America. But by the mid-1840s, Mormonism had established itself as a dynamic and distinctive new religious tradition. The historical significance of Mormonism lies not so much in its size and success in gaining adherents. (By 1845, it had nearly 40,000 believers; by 1870, 120,000. The Mormon TempleSalt Lake City, Utah, ca. 1880-1900Library of CongressToday, with over seven million members in the United States alone, Mormonism is among the fastest growing of the world's religions.) What is most significant historically about Mormonism is that it was not simply another Christian sect or denomination but was the only new religious tradition founded in nineteenth-century America. Equally important is Mormonism's complex and embattled relation to both the society from which it emerged and to the evangelicalism that was such a dominant force in the society.Doctrine and HistoryThe birth of Mormonism centered on one man, Joseph Smith, Jr. (1806-1844) a farmer from theregion of western New York known as the "burned-over district" because of its unrelenting religious enthusiasm. It was launched in 1830 with the publication of the Book of Mormon, the sacred text which became the foundation for new religion. As Smith told the story, seven years earlier the angel Moroni had appeared before him and told him of a book written on gold plates and buried in a hill outside Manchester, New York. Then, on September 22, 1827, after other visitations from Moroni the plates were turned over to Smith. Over the next twenty-four months, Smith and a few trusted associates, using special, ancient, "seer" stones, "translated" the Egyptian hieroglyphics of the plates into English. When they had finished this arduous task, Smith reported, as arranged, he delivered the plates back to the angel.The Book of Mormon was not simply an arresting and powerful spiritual treatise like John Fox's Book of Martyrs, which became the foundational text of Quakerism. Rather, Smith promulgated it as a new, sacred and canonical text, a wholly new dispensation of scriptural truth that God, working through the angel Moroni and his chosen earthly vessel, Joseph Smith, delivered to humankind. As such, for Mormon believers, the Book of Mormon possesses the same canonical standing as the old and new testaments do for Protestants and Catholics. In fact,just




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