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

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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 imagination. The Refiner's Fire presents a new and comprehensive understanding of the roots of Mormon religion, whose theology promises the faithful that they will become "gods" through the restoration of ancient mysteries and regain the divine powers of Adam lost in the fall from Paradise. Professor Brooke contends that the origins of Mormonism lie in the fusion of radical religion with occult ideas, and organizes his book around the two problems of demonstrating the survival of these ideas into the nineteenth century and explaining how they were manifested in Mormon doctrine. In the concluding chapter, the author provides an outline of how Mormonism since the 1850s gradually moved toward traditional Protestant Christianity. As well as religion, the book explores magic, witchcraft, alchemy, Freemasonry, counterfeiting, and state-formation. John L. Brooke is professor of history at Tufts University and the acclaimed author of The Heart of the Commonwealth: Society and Political Culture in Worcester County, Massachusetts, 1713-1861 (CUP, 1989), which has won, among other prizes, the Organization of American Historians' Merle Curti Award for Intellectual History and the National Historical Society Book Prize for American History.
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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: 9780521345453
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Pages: 443
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations; List of maps; Preface; Part I. A Prepared People: 1. Dreams of the primal Adam; 2. The true spiritual seed; 3. Something of our ancestors; Part II. Hermetic Purity and Hermetic Danger: 4. A Urim spiritual; 5. Alchymical experiments; 6. I was born in Sharon; Part III. The Mormon Dispensation: 7. Secret combinations and slippery treasures in the land of Zarahemla; 8. The mysteries defined; 9. Temples, wives, bogus-making and war; 10. The keys to the kingdom; 11. A tangle of strings and the kingdom of God; 12. Let mysteries alone; Appendix: the sectarian and hermetic circumstances of Mormon origins in Vermont and New York; Abbreviations used in notes; Notes; Index.
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