Equal Rites: The Book of Mormon, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture by Clyde R. Forsberg Jr. | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Equal Rites: The Book of Mormon, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture

Equal Rites: The Book of Mormon, Masonry, Gender, and American Culture

by Clyde R. Forsberg Jr.
     
 

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Both the Prophet Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon have been characterized as ardently, indeed evangelically, anti-Masonic. Yet in this sweeping social, cultural, and religious history of nineteenth-century Mormonism and its milieu, Clyde Forsberg argues that masonry, like evangelical Christianity, was an essential component of Smith's vision. Smith's ability to

Overview

Both the Prophet Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon have been characterized as ardently, indeed evangelically, anti-Masonic. Yet in this sweeping social, cultural, and religious history of nineteenth-century Mormonism and its milieu, Clyde Forsberg argues that masonry, like evangelical Christianity, was an essential component of Smith's vision. Smith's ability to imaginatively conjoin the two into a powerful and evocative defense of Christian, or Primitive, Freemasonry was, Forsberg shows, more than anything else responsible for the meteoric rise of Mormonism in the nineteenth century.

This was to have significant repercussions for the development of Mormonism, particularly in the articulation of specifically Mormon gender roles. Mormonism's unique contribution to the Masonic tradition was its inclusion of women as active and equal participants in Masonic rituals. Early Mormon dreams of empire in the Book of Mormon were motivated by a strong desire to end social and racial discord, lest the country fall into the grips of civil war. Forsberg demonstrates that by seeking to bring women into previously male-exclusive ceremonies, Mormonism offered an alternative to the male-dominated sphere of the Master Mason. By taking a median and mediating position between Masonry and Evangelicism, Mormonism positioned itself as a religion of the people, going on to become a world religion.

But the original intent of the Book of Mormon gave way as Mormonism moved west, and the temple and polygamy (indeed, the quest for empire) became more prevalent. The murder of Smith by Masonic vigilantes and the move to Utah coincided with a new imperialism—and a new polygamy. Forsberg argues that Masonic artifacts from Smith's life reveal important clues to the precise nature of his early Masonic thought that include no less than a vision of redemption and racial concord.

Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History
Equal Rites is an imaginative and ambitious book.

— Grant Underwood

Choice

This is an important book on the history of American religion, culture, and society.

Reviews in Religion and Theology
[ Equal Rites] is well written and engaging.

— D.E. Mills Jr.

Religous Studies Review
A uniquely insightful answer to scholars' recent calls for greater understanding of Mormon theology, culture, and institutional character.

Reviews in Religion & Theology
[ Equal Rites] is well written and engaging.

— D.E. Mills Jr.

Journal of American History - Grant Underwood
Equal Rites is an imaginative and ambitious book.

Reviews in Religion and Theology - D.E. Mills Jr.
[Equal Rites] is well written and engaging.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231126403
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
03/03/2004
Series:
Religion and American Culture Series
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Clyde R. Forsberg Jr. is a CEP (Civic Education Project) Fellow and teaches American studies at the American University Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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