The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith

The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith

by Matthew Bowman
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The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be both compelling and educational great for members of the church or people who simply want to know more about the churches history and practices.
MichaelWV More than 1 year ago
1831 was the year Alexis de Tocqueville made his tour of democracy in America. President Andrew Jackson, the primitive sponsor of democracy, ordered the Georgia Cherokees on the Trail of Tears that year. The Cherokees had invented a writing system and are said to have had a higher literacy rate than the more recently arrived Americans. We had a rough country where might often made right: Jackson himself had killed several men in duels before he became president.  Joseph Smith had a series of visions and revelations that led to the creation of the Book of Mormon and several other writings and he acquired a following and opposition. In a night raid on his home in Palmyra, NY, Smith was tarred, and an associate was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head. His adopted child died of exposure in the incident.   The Mormons had established a settlement of about a thousand people in Jackson County, Missouri, which was otherwise sparsely settled at the time. They called it Zion and began a socialist experiment. In 1831 Smith arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, where some of his followers had already begun a  Mormon community they also called Zion. The settlements were likened to the Jews entering the Promised Land. It was to be more like the beginning of the Trail of Tears. In 1833 violent opposition arose to the Missouri settlement. The locals formed their own militia and the governor refused to intervene. President-and-former-general Jackson, for whom the county was named, must have been proud. There were prophets and crystal gazers, sects and orthodoxies and utopian societies. Following the age of Enlightenment, people were confident of their own spiritual and mental capacities. Religion was as individualized and as controversial as criminal law. Smith's most unfortunate revelation was the mandate for polygamy, which aroused the moral indignation of bigots and hoodlums, who managed to drive Smith and most of his Kirtland group to Independence, Missouri, near where they built their second temple, Nauvoo. In 1844, about the time the temple was complete, there was violence within and outside the Mormon ranks. The Governor of Illinois promised Smith protection if he would give himself up for a hearing but the “Carthage city militia” stormed the jail, shooting and killing him. Perhaps the nascent Temperance movement had not reached Carthage. Larger controversies in the nation were about women's suffrage and the abolition of slavery. There was mob violence. Recreation was applying turpentine to a cat. Hangings were public unless they were lynchings.  The great migration ordeal was the move to Utah led by Smith's successor, Brigham Young. They made a remarkable peace with the Paiute natives, whom they thought to be among their spiritual ancestors described in the Book of Mormon. In the early days some negroes were admitted to the priesthood, but then there was a revelation that spirits of black people had failed a celestial test of character before they were born and thus were condemned to be dark and inferior. So the Latter Day Saints, as they came to call themselves, were both egalitarian and elitist.  The Territory of Utah was gained by war with Mexico which the Mormons supported. But they were not involved in the Civil War. Later, with statehood at issue and after intimidation by the U.S. Army, an appropriate person had a revelation that they had to give up polygamy.  In the first half of the Twentieth Century the church produced many of the nation's finest intellectuals and theologians, endorsing Darwin and science. Then they discovered in mid century that they recruited more members around the world with  emotional appeals. They denounced Darwin and membership mushroomed. It was a time when American culture and money and religion were  prestigious. Interestingly, when the Mexican census included Mormonism in its surveys, a small fraction of the people on the church rolls indicated it, so the new devotion may have been superficial.  Bowman says almost nothing about the Book of Mormon, which is malarkey anyway and would probably destroy much of the respect readers have for the subject.  De Tocqueville said a democracy needs what he called a secular religion to keep order and enhance the well-being of the populace. The requirements for a secular religion can be different from personal religion, which is usually more concerned with an afterlife. This book shines a valuable sidelight on the evolution of American democracy and stimulates personal revelations about worldly influences on our spirituality. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago