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The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 / Edition 1

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Overview

Mormon religious belief has long been a mystery to outsiders, either dismissed as anomalous to the American religious tradition or extolled as the most genuine creation of the American religious imagination. This study presents the first extended analysis of Mormon theology to have been written against the backdrop of religion and popular culture in the early modern North Atlantic world, a context that permits the most coherent analysis of Mormon origins. John Brooke argues that Mormon doctrines of the mutuality of spirit and matter, of celestial marriage (in the nineteenth century, polygamous marriage), and of human deification can be understood only in light of the connections between the occult and the sectarian ideal of restoration forged among early modern religious radicals. Hermeticism, of which alchemy was the experimental practice, posited that humanity could regain the divine powers of Adam lost in the fall from Paradise; so too the prophet Joseph Smith promised the Mormon faithful that they would become "gods" through the restoration of ancient mysteries. Exploring the opposing forces of hermetic purity and danger - manifested in sectarian religion, magic, witchcraft beliefs, alchemy, Freemasonry, counterfeiting, and state formation - in the making of the Mormon church, the book closes with an overview of the transformation of Mormonism from the 1860s to the present.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"John Brooke takes a controversial romp over the field of previous Mormon scholarship. When he has done, he has managed to raise the intellectual pedigree of Joseph Smith by establishing his close kinship with European hermeticists and the subversive sectarians of the Radical Reformation. It is a fascinating argument that traces the influence of ideas through complicated social networks of neighbors and kin. The people 'prepared' for Mormonism are a surprising lot." R. Laurence Moore, Cornell University

"The Refiner's Fire explores the complex and always intriguing world of early Mormon theological and ritual evolution with remarkable learning, fairness, and daring--an exciting, sophisticated account sure to generate both controversy and a renewed appreciation of early Mormon spiritual creativity." John Butler, Yale University

"This is not just a revealing history of the backgrund of the first Mormons and early Mormonism but a larger history of early American culture that will do almost as much for readers who are interested in the cultural context in which this new American religion developed as it will do for those who simply want to learn more about Mormon beginnings." Jan Shipps, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

"The Refiner's Fire explores the complex and always intriguing world of early Mormon theological and ritual evolution with remarkable learning, fairness, and daring--an exciting, sophisticated account sure to generate both controversy and a renewed appreciation of early Mormon spiritual creativity." John Butler, Yale University

"This is not just a revealing history of the backgrund of the first Mormons and early Mormonism but a larger history of early American culture that will do almost as much for readers who are interested in the cultural context in which this new American religion developed as it will do for those who simply want to learn more about Mormon beginnings." Jan Shipps, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

"His book is a model of the historian's enterprise....[Brooke] blends the passion of the detective and the dispassion of the good judge as he describes the background and context of Mormonism." Martin E. Marty, Commonwealth

"An insightful contribution to the controversy surrounding the origins of Mormonism." College & Research Libraries News

"Excellent....This study not only sets Mormon religious history into a frontier occult milieu but offers important understanding of the beliefs and practices of Americans outside the individual and institutional carriers commonly the focus of previous occult histories." The Reader's Review

"The Refiner's Fire is a wonderful book, thoroughly researched and rich in interpretive detail." Curtis Johnson, The Journal of American History

"The Refiner's Fire is an important and daring work for which Brooke has received the Bancroft Prize in American history....Combining intellectual and demographic history with rare skill, Brooke sheds great light on transatlantic subcultures that have not been labeled "occult" (read "hidden") for nothing." Religious Studies Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521565646
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 421
  • Sales rank: 1,028,134
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Maps
Preface
Pt. I A Prepared People
1 Dreams of the Primal Adam 3
2 The True Spiritual Seed 30
3 Something of Our Ancestors 59
Pt. II Hermetic Purity and Hermetic Danger
4 A Urim Spiritual 91
5 Alchymical Experiments 105
6 I Was Born in Sharon 129
Pt. III The Mormon Dispensation
7 Secret Combinations and Slippery Treasures in the Land of Zarahemla 149
8 The Mysteries Defined 184
9 Temples, Wives, Bogus-Making, and War 209
10 The Keys to the Kingdom 235
11 A Tangle of Strings and the Kingdom of God 262
12 Let Mysteries Alone 278
App.: The Sectarian and Hermetic Circumstances of Mormon Origins in Vermont and New York 306
Abbreviations Used in Notes 311
Notes 314
Index 405
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2001

    A Fascinating Tribute to Mormon origins

    As a believing, practicing Latter-day Saint with a deep testimony of my religion, I found this book a breath of fresh air. Mormons believe that God worked throughout centuries preparing the world for the restoration of the True Gospel of Jesus Christ. In purely secular terms, and backed up by an amazing amount of historical data, the author simply chronicles this. He even goes so far as to call the Smiths, Youngs, Kimballs and other first families of the LDS Church, 'a people prepared.' This book is a must for anyone--Mormon or not-- who wants a more indepth understanding of the world in which Joseph Smith and the first generation of Latter-day Saints lived. Sadly, there will be some with no more than a Sunday School Class appreciation of LDS Church history, who will think that this book is 'anti-Mormon,' but it is anything but. True, the author is not a Mormon and does not believe in the literal truth of the Prophet Joseph Smith's claims; but this does not mean that he is 'anti-Mormon.' Far from it. He seems to appreciate, have great respect for, and actually agree with many of the Gospel Truths that Joseph Smith taught. This book STRENGTHENED my testimony of the Gospel, showing that God's spirit has worked throughout the centuries, lifting the world out of the dark ages, bringing it up through the Renaissance and Enlightment to that point in the early 1800's in which there were people willing to accept the doctrines of the Restored Gospel. THIS BOOK IS A MUST FOR EVERY MORMON LIBRARY

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2004

    A great book by a non-biased author...

    This was one of the best books I have read in a long time. You sometimes hear mormon's talk about deep doctrine or the New Jerusalem. This book provides the historical basis of where these ideas came from. Brooks does a good job of proposing his theory about how Mormon's came to be and how the people were prepared. I don't agree with some of his suppositions that he makes towards the end of the book which is why I removed a star. If you want to know the difference between early Mormon fundamentalism and Mormonism of today this book is definitely worth every cent.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2000

    An Incoherent Analysis of Mormon Origins

    Brooke believes he has found the sources of Mormon origins in Gnosticism, Hermetic Philoosphy, 'perfectionism', the radical reformation, English revolutionary sects, popular magic, and divining beliefs. Apparently Smith had a large library and endless time to study and sort out these disconnected fields. He then was able to pick the appropriate items from each and blend them seamlessly together. He then gathered together thousands of followers from America and Europe. These he led through several states through intense persecution. Today over 10,000,000 people regard him as a seer and prophet. And all this came out of the trash bin of intellectal history! If Smith were around today I'd take him to a local junkyard. I'm sure he could put together a luxury sedan from the assorted parts.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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