Friday, May 12, 2023

The Pure in Heart: Mormon Zionism and the Market Revolution


The Seneca Chief, a newly constructed steamboat, proudly sailed at the vanguard of a large procession of steamers and cargo ships that had recently arrived in New York’s harbor.  Their arrival marked the completion of a two-week journey, which had commenced roughly four hundred miles to the west in Buffalo.  Standing at the ship’s bow was New York Governor Dewitt Clinton, surrounded by foreign dignitaries, congressmen and city officials.  Scores of anxious onlookers gathered along the frozen November coastline, hoping to catch a glimpse of the festivities.  What had begun roughly eight years previously as nothing more than a dream was about to come to fruition.  With all eyes fixed on the Seneca Chief, Governor Clinton ceremoniously emptied several bottles of water taken from Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean, commemorating the “wedding of the waters.”  The construction of New York’s Erie Canal, an enormous feat of engineering for nineteenth-century America, was officially complete.[1]

            Though truly a remarkable accomplishment, the construction of the Erie Canal turned out to be much more than a monument to America’s engineering genius.  It became a symbol of the changing economic standards of early nineteenth-century America, or what historian Charles Sellers has dubbed the Market Revolution.  The ease with which goods and services could be transported through the Erie Canal catapulted New York to the avant-garde of capitalist economics and caused a dramatic upheaval in the traditional fiscal practices of its citizenry.  The communal subsistence culture, which had tied family members and neighbors together in a tight web of economic and social interdependence, was replaced by the profit-driven mentality of the Market Revolution.  By “establishing capitalist hegemony over economy, politics and culture,” the Market Revolution introduced American society to the tempting world of profit-seeking and worldly wealth.[2] 

            As attractive as the quest for monetary wealth was for the common American, a rising number of citizens rose in opposition to the Market Revolution’s dramatic upheaval of traditional practices, claiming that its influence was a detriment to society.  One young man in particular, who was destined to become the founder of one of America’s fastest growing religions, stood defiant against the Market Revolution’s doctrine of economic individualism.  While in his youth, Joseph Smith became a fateful witness not only to his family’s financial woes, but also to the economic plight of the average citizen.  While living in New York, Smith also observed first-hand the dramatic surge in religious revivalism that sought to oppose the presumed evils of the Market Revolution.  As the founder of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith, like so many other religious leaders of his time, took an antagonistic stance against the encroaching forces of capitalism.  In an effort to safeguard his followers from the fires of capitalist corruption, Joseph Smith endeavored to create a religious Utopia, or as he called it, Zion.  Though originally conceived in the economic quandary of his childhood family and his alleged communion with the supernatural, Joseph Smith’s concept of Zion was to be further molded from its original role as a physical safe haven from the evil influences of the Market Revolution, into an eternal object of heavenly aspiration for his followers.  

The roots of Mormon Zionism reach far beyond the traditional scope of Mormon historiography.  For too long the Mormon understanding of Zion has been ascribed exclusively to the divine admonitions that Joseph Smith received, commanding him to “gather [God’s] elect from the four quarters of the earth.”[3]  While these admonitions are paramount to the development of Mormon Zionism, they also omit key events of supreme significance. Though Joseph Smith was undoubtedly influenced by his paranormal encounters with deity, he was also unmistakably shaped by events that would define his childhood, and, in turn, shape his perspective of the world.  

I. Family Woes

The early life experiences of Joseph Smith’s ancestors are critical components in helping to shape the Mormon prophet’s Zionistic ideology.  On both his father and mother’s side, Smith’s ancestors dwelled for several generations in the New England area as farmers.  Though never blessed with great wealth, the majority of Smith’s ancestors were able to eke out a comfortable existence for their respective families.  Smith’s parents, Joseph, Sr. and Lucy Mack, began their marriage on relatively good financial terms.  Just prior to their union, Joseph, Sr. received a small farm in Tunbridge, Vermont, from his father, Asael, while Lucy was given a generous wedding gift of $1,000 from her brother and his business partner.[4]  After roughly six years of “tilling the earth for our livelihood,” Joseph, Sr. and Lucy decided to rent out their farm and move their family (now augmented by the births of two boys: Alvin and Hyrum) to nearby Randolph, where Joseph, Sr. hoped to profit by opening a “mercantile establishment.”[5]         

            By relocating his family to Randolph and renting out his farm back home, Joseph, Sr. and Lucy Smith made the conscious decision to disregard their family’s traditional farming lifestyle, and to seek the riches of market capitalism.  Such an endeavor was not atypical of their time, however.  As the Market Revolution’s influence spread across the American landscape, its ringing appeal began to resonate with many who wanted more than a mere subsistence lifestyle.  Historian Gordon Wood alludes to this fact when he writes, “The struggles of individuals to rise from humble origins and achieve respectability and wealth became in time part of America’s folklore.”[6]  Joseph, Sr. and Lucy’s attempt to open a mercantile shop was clearly an endeavor motivated by their desire to achieve something more in life than mere farming, and Randolph, Vermont was the perfect testing ground for such an enterprise.  By all appearances Randolph seemed to be the typical early nineteenth-century city on the rise.  The region boasted nearly 20,000 acres of the best farmland in all of New England, along with the additional economic stimulation of a waterway that gave Randolph easy access to lower Connecticut.  Goods and services to and from Boston were regularly shipped across this waterway, giving the citizens of Randolph easy access to a large market.[7]   

After filling his new store with goods purchased on a line of credit from Boston, Joseph Sr. was able to sell off his store’s entire inventory in a relatively short period of time.  Those who purchased Joseph, Sr.’s goods did so not with cash, but with the promise that he would receive a portion of their year-end harvest.[8]  As strange as such an arrangement might seem, Joseph, Sr. was actually following a well-established commercial practice between buyer and seller.  At the turn of the century, lines of credit were still seen as the primary means of exchange.[9]  By all appearances, it looked as though Joseph, Sr.’s initial experience with market economics was on track to making him a rich man.

Unfortunately for the Smith family, Joseph, Sr.’s luck was about to run out.  Instead of waiting for his payment from the sale of his store goods to come in, Joseph, Sr. immediately jumped at the next big market opportunity to come his way.  Upon hearing of a major plague in China, Joseph, Sr. decided to invest in a large quantity of ginseng root, which was selling at an exorbitant price as the only remedy for the Chinese people.  After purchasing a large quantity of ginseng root on credit, Joseph, Sr. made his way to New York City to secure a means of transporting the goods.  Shortly thereafter, Joseph, Sr. joined in a written agreement with a Mr. Stevens, who promised to sell the goods and return with Smith’s profits.  Unfortunately for Joseph, Sr., his business partner kept the profits for himself and fled to Canada.[10]     

            The financial impact of Joseph, Sr.’s financial blunder was catastrophic for the Smith family.  Not only were they unable to pay for the ginseng root, but they also had no means of paying off the debts incurred from the goods purchased on credit from Boston.  As a result, Joseph, Sr. was forced to sell his farm for $800, while Lucy gave up her $1,000 wedding gift to settle their debts.[11]  With one financial mistake, Joseph, Sr. had reduced his family’s status from that of successful landowners to tenant farmers and wage earners.  To make matters worse, Joseph, Sr. now had no land to pass to his posterity.  By nineteenth-century standards, Joseph, Sr. had become an economic failure. 

It was under these tumultuous economic circumstances that Joseph Smith, Jr. entered the world.  In consequence of his father’s economic follies, Joseph Smith (along with his siblings) was to face a turbulent life of poverty.  As one Joseph Smith biographer put it, “The child was born into an insecurity that in a lifetime of thirty-eight years he was never to escape.”[12]  It would be during these early and impressionable years that Joseph Smith would develop his lifelong distrust of capitalist economics.  The experiences of his childhood and early adulthood were the catalysts of change, which caused Joseph Smith to equate communal economics with God’s holy institutions, and market economics with the devil’s greedy objectives. 

As a young boy, Joseph Smith witnessed his parent’s plight first-hand.  Instead of enjoying the fruits of an independent farming lifestyle, Joseph Smith’s parents were forced to move closer to relatives, where they became dependent upon the charity of family.  During this time, virtually every member of the Smith family was required to work for the welfare of the whole.  In his personal history Joseph Smith writes, “As my father’s worldly circumstances were very limited, we were under the necessity of laboring with our hands, hiring by days works and otherwise as we could get opportunity.”[13]  Though never openly critical of his father, one gets the sense that Joseph Smith, Jr. had a clear understanding of the fact that his family’s woes were the direct result of his father’s failed economic endeavors. 

The road back to prosperity was a difficult one for the Smith family.  Instead of gaining economic ground, the communal efforts of the Smiths seemed only to keep things afloat.  As mother Lucy Smith noted, “We were compelled to strain every energy to provide for our present necessities, instead of making arrangements for the future, as we had previously contemplated.”[14]  Family sicknesses, failed crops and mounting debts kept the family fortunes from ever augmenting.  With the additional hardships brought on by the War of 1812, the Smith family found themselves yet again in economic turmoil.     

 In the hopes that their situation might make a turn for the better, Joseph, Sr. decided to uproot the family from New England (where ancestral ties had remained strong for several generations) and head west.  Joseph, Sr.’s original plan had the Smith family moving to Ohio where land was still relatively cheap.  As time grew closer to the impending move, however, Joseph, Sr. had a change of heart, deciding instead to head for Palmyra, New York.[15]  It is hard to say for certain what motivated Joseph, Sr.’s sudden change in plans, but it would not be a stretch to suggest the possibility that he was yet again excited by the prospects of western New York’s emerging market economy.  As rumors and proposals continued to circulate regarding the impending construction of the Erie Canal, land speculation throughout western New York began to grow.  Land that had cost merely five to seven shillings an acre in 1790 was now selling for roughly four dollars an acre in 1800, and then rose to a staggering six dollars by 1817.[16]  Joseph, Sr.’s sudden change of plans was to yet again land the Smith Family directly into the oncoming fire of capitalistic zeal.   

After their arrival in Palmyra, New York, Lucy Smith recalled the desperate plight her family faced in what was then an unfamiliar land.  Gathering together in a collective counsel of sorts, the Smiths once again united in a joint economic venture to secure the family’s future.  “Upon our arrival we counselled together relative to the course which was best for us to adopt in our destitute circumstances, and we came to the conclusion to unite our energies in endeavoring to obtain a piece of land.”[17]  For several months every member of the Smith family worked as hired help in the community, saving as much money as possible to purchase a plot of land.  After accumulating the needed income, Joseph, Sr. decided to purchase a hundred acres of unimproved land on the outskirts of Palmyra.  The agreement called for the Smith family to have the farm paid off in full within two years time.[18]  After years of financial tragedy, the Smith family was finally able to secure that which had been lost so many years earlier: farmland.  Through the joint efforts of each family member, the economic blunder of Joseph, Sr. seemed to be erased.  For the young and impressionable Joseph Smith, Jr., these early experiences in which his family labored together for the common good became the initial incubators of the Zionistic leanings he would later exhibit in adulthood.  The economic communalism of the Smith family would essentially become a model for the soon-to-be Mormon prophet, who would later instill in his parishioners these same values, which in turn became the building blocks for Mormonism’s communal Utopia.        

II. Birth of a Prophet

The Smith family’s move to Palmyra, New York, though hardly a trek across the vast continent of North America or a journey into uncharted territory, was, nonetheless, a dramatic change of location.  After all, western New York was still considered frontier land, where only limited infrastructure and settlement helped to sustain the massive influx of settlers to the area.  Despite the region’s upstart status at the beginning of the nineteenth century, changes brought on by the Market Revolution helped to catapult New York to the forefront of American economics, surpassing New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah as the nation’s primary shipping port.[19]  In addition, construction of the Erie Canal guaranteed western New Yorkers and other citizens of the interior lands greater access to the riches of the market economy.[20]  By dramatically cutting down the prices of shipping, the Erie Canal literally transformed the economic landscape of New York’s interior settlements.

Though central to the development of western New York, The Market Revolution’s impact was forced to share the stage with another movement of equally significant influence.  In the early years of the nineteenth century, religious enthusiasm was sweeping across western New York with the intensity of a wildfire burning out of control.  It is no wonder that the great evangelist preacher, Charles Finney, would label the region the “burnt-over district.”[21]  The movement’s propensity for passionate exhortation and latter-day apocalypse literally infested the numerous denominations of the region, causing them to reassert their claims to divine inspiration.  Joseph Smith took note of this movement when he wrote the following:

            There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of                              religion.  It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all                          the sects in that region of the country, indeed the whole district of the Country                                     seemed affected by it and great multitudes united themselves to the different                                  religious parties, which created no small stir and division among the                                      people…Priest contended against priest, and convert against convert so that all                                    their good feelings one for another were entirely lost in a strife of words and a                                    contest about opinions.[22]


Faced with the duel forces of the Market Revolution and religious fundamentalism, the Smith family struggled to make sense of their new surroundings.  Like most people, the Smiths turned to religion for clarity.  Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy, attended numerous Methodist revivals and eventually chose to align herself with the faith.[23]  Her husband, however, refused to support Lucy’s beliefs, and instead chose to embrace the rationalist teachings of Universalism and the writings of Thomas Paine.[24]  The Smith children were also encouraged to attend religious services, which were in no short supply in western New York.  Though opposed to an open affiliation with a specific faith, Joseph Smith, Jr. maintained a strong interest in religion, and attended a large number of revivals in the area.   For a brief time, Smith became partial to his mother’s Methodist faith, but chose to forego any strict religious affiliation, due to the “confusion and strife amongst the different denominations.”[25]  Smith’s skepticism was both understandable and typical.  The majority of churchgoers in the region found it supremely difficult to “profess” any one specific religion, and instead chose to attend a variety of different faiths.[26]  Despite his choice to remain unaffiliated, Joseph Smith continued to be concerned about the question of religion.  In his personal history Joseph Smith wrote, “In the midst of this war of words, and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself, what is to be done?  Who of all these parties is right…and how shall I know?”[27] 

Joseph Smith’s skepticism about religion, though often attributed to youthful curiosity, had a much deeper origin.  Smith’s ancestry is replete with individuals who questioned organized religion and sought to commune with God on an individual level.  Lucy Smith’s older brother, Jason, became a religious “Seeker” and decided to leave home and wander across North America, where he preached his own brand of Christianity and received “great manifestations of the power of God in healing the sick.”[28]  While on her deathbed, Lovisa, Lucy’s older sister, professed to have seen a vision of Jesus Christ prepared to receive her into eternal peace.”[29]  Even Joseph Smith, Jr.’s father, Joseph, Sr., laid claim to a number of paranormal visions in which God allegedly revealed to his mind the destructive nature of organized religion.[30] 

            With a family history of unorthodox communion with deity, it comes as no surprise that Joseph Smith, Jr. would desire to communicate with God on his own terms as well. Instead of seeking the guidance of family, friends or a particular pastor, Joseph Smith decided to petition the heavens himself, hoping he would receive some form of an enlightened manifestation on the question of religion.  As Smith put it, “My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.”[31]  In a manner similar to that of his ancestors, Joseph Smith claimed that his petition to God was answered in the form of a heavenly vision, in which he saw “two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.”  Smith claimed that the “personages” were none other than the God of heaven and Jesus Christ, who both told him to avoid all forms of organized religion.  Smith stated that the heavenly visitors informed him that the religions of the world had strayed from the true teachings of Christianity.  “They teach for doctrines the commandments of men: having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.”[32]  For the young Joseph Smith, this “First Vision” would be only one in a series of paranormal visitations and communions with the heavens that would serve to convince Smith of his divine purpose.

            Because of Joseph Smith’s alleged visions of celestial proportion, it is common to find skeptics who choose to portray the Mormon prophet as a rogue of religious radicalism.  Smith himself acknowledged the fact that his “visions” were received with “great prejudice against me among the professors of religion.”[33]  Despite such allegations, one must remember that Joseph Smith was anything but a religious anomaly.  As one Smith biographer stated, “Joseph Smith was not a mutation, spewed up out of nature’s plenty without regard to ancestry or the provincial culture of his state.”[34]  In other words, Joseph Smith and his paranormal experiences can and should be seen as representative of the world in which he lived.  

            When it comes to paranormal claims and heavenly visions, Joseph Smith was far from alone.  As mentioned before, western New York was a literal hotbed of religious radicalism in the early years of the nineteenth century.  In his meticulous micro-history of the region, historian Whitney Cross has identified the cause of such fanaticism as being, “A solid Yankee inheritance,” which, “endowed the people of this area with moral intensity,” and eventually swelled during the resurgence of evangelistic religion.[35]  To make matters even more complicated, the Market Revolution’s intense pressures on the region caused the overburdened of society to seek religion as a refuge from capitalist zeal.[36]  Religious enthusiasts like Ann Lee, who became the founder of the Shaker movement, inspired her followers to embrace a communal lifestyle of celibacy and nonresistance, claiming that she had received a divine manifestation of Christ’s impending return.  Jemima Wilkinson, who founded the Community of the Publick Universal Friend, also claimed divine revelation, and insisted that Christ had chosen her as his personal messenger, sent to prepare the world for millennial glory.  Like Ann Lee, Wilkinson also established a communal order of celibacy and economic equality.  The New Israelites, led by a man named Winchell and Oliver Cowdery, also preached divine revelation that pointed to an impending millennial apocalypse.[37]  When put in the light of his contemporaries, Joseph Smith’s paranormal claims seem less atypical and more mainstream.

            Perhaps the most controversial of Joseph Smith’s alleged visions had nothing to do with a communion with God or an impending millennial apocalypse, but instead dealt with ancient scripture.  Roughly three years after his “first vision,” Smith made the claim that yet another heavenly messenger brought him word of a sacred text, written on golden plates, which allegedly “contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel.”[38]  Smith claimed that the heavenly messenger revealed to his mind the location of the ancient text, along with the “seer stones” needed for its translation.  Smith’s attempts to recover the ancient record, however, proved futile.  According to Smith, the messenger prevented him from taking the golden plates, stating that “Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family) to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich.  This he forbid me, stating that I must have no other object in view…but to glorify God.”[39]  Instead, Smith was admonished to prepare himself for the appropriate time when the golden record would be entrusted to him.

            Though preposterous as the notion of ancient golden scripture and buried treasure may seem today, Joseph Smith’s claims are, yet again, typical of his generation. The idea that buried treasure abounded and that ancient Indian records were somewhere to be found was a common belief throughout the northern United States.  As historian Richard Bushman points out, “Money-digging was an epidemic in upstate New York…Buried treasure was tied into a great stock of magical practices extending back many centuries.”[40]  Whitney Cross states that, “Legends of buried treasure were indeed widespread…reaching back to the first explorers of the American continent.”[41]  Scores of Americans resorted to the use of “seer stones” in an effort to uncover the hidden location of buried treasure.  Brigham Young, a well-to-do carpenter and blacksmith who eventually became a prominent Mormon leader, made the claim that “every man who lived on the earth was entitled to a seer stone.”  Even Joseph Smith and his father, Joseph, Sr., had engaged in the practice of “money-digging,” using a small black “seer stone” that Joseph, Jr. had found while digging a well.[42]  Perhaps, as Smith biographer Fawn Brodie points out, Joseph Smith’s alleged golden plates were nothing more than Smith’s imagination, “spilling over like a spring freshet.”[43]  Or perhaps the alleged heavenly messenger’s refusal to let Joseph Smith take the golden plates was an effort to purge the young man from his “money-digging” habits.  Either way, it is clear that Joseph Smith’s early paranormal experiences with deity helped to shape his view of religion and of his purpose in life.

Though deeply moved by Joseph, Jr.’s paranormal visions and alleged golden plates, the Smith family was still forced to deal with the rigors of everyday life.  The rollercoaster nature of the market economy, particularly during the Panic of 1819, had caused serious concerns as to the family’s economic future.  Fortunately for Joseph, Sr. and Lucy, the Smith parents were able to rely heavily on the labors of their three eldest sons: Alvin, Hyrum and Joseph, Jr.  The Smith’s eldest son, Alvin, was of particular importance to the Family’s well being.  In fact, Alvin had been a cosigner to the contract on the family’s one hundred acre land purchase in Palmyra.[44]  Whether it was his father’s bad credit or his inability to “set the example before my family that I ought,” Alvin had essentially taken upon himself the additional responsibility as a second father of sorts.  During this time of economic uncertainty it was not Joseph, Sr., but Alvin that admonished his family to “not slacken our hands or we will not be able to complete our task.”[45]  When the first payments on the family farm came due, it was Alvin who “went from home to get work, in order to raise the money.”  When the family’s joint economic efforts permitted the construction of a larger home, Lucy noted that the “management and control” of its construction fell “chiefly upon Alvin.”[46]  The Smith family’s communal efforts to prosper on their newly established farm, primarily motivated by the efforts of Alvin, had given Joseph, Sr. and Lucy a second chance at securing for themselves and their children a measure of worldly prosperity. 

The economic stability that the Smith family had worked so hard to secure was unfortunately destined to be short-lived.  In November of 1823, Lucy noted that Alvin “was suddenly taken very sick with the bilious colic,” which doctors were unable to treat.[47]  After gathering his siblings around him in more the fashion of a father than that of a brother, Alvin admonished them to, “make our dear parents comfortable,” and, “remember the example that I have set for you.”[48]  Shortly thereafter Alvin quietly passed away, causing understandable grief to the Smith family.  Alvin’s untimely death at the age of twenty-five was not only a terrible tragedy in the loss of a family member, but was also a massive blow to the family’s economic well-being.  Alvin had become the most essential link in the family’s communal economic machine.  His undaunted courage and tireless work ethic in the face of poverty was indispensable to the family.  Without him, the Smith family yet again faced the prospect of economic peril.  To make matters worse, Joseph, Sr. and Lucy’s decision to build a new home, coupled with the fact that their farm was still not paid off, brought additional concerns to the family’s growing economic anxiety. 

Alvin’s death was especially difficult for Joseph, Jr., who had developed a deep love and respect for his eldest brother.  Later in his life, Joseph Jr. would remember Alvin’s death, “with the pangs of sorrow that swelled my youthful bosom and almost burst my tender heart…He was one of the noblest of all the sons of men.”[49]  For young Joseph, Jr., Alvin’s death essentially became a wakeup call that hastened his prophetic future. Alvin had always been the most vehement supporter of Joseph’s visions.  On his deathbed, Alvin had even admonished Joseph, Jr. to, “do everything that lies in your power to obtain the golden record.”[50]  The profound impact of his family’s trials left an indelible impression on the young Joseph Smith, who would later use these experiences to empathize with the plight of his earliest followers.  As Smith biographer, Richard Bushman put it, “He had endured the agonies of thousands in his generation and could speak to their sorrows.”[51]  Having walked through the refiner’s fire of economic, familial and religious turmoil, Joseph Smith’s sense of himself and his destiny was beginning to take shape.  The Mormon prophet was born.      

III. “Establish My Zion”

            Despite his numerous encounters with deity, Joseph Smith’s awareness of his prophetic mission was never announced by a sudden revelation or heavenly manifestation.  Instead it was a gradual process by which Smith came to a self-realization of what he believed God was trying to communicate to him.  As Smith said of himself, “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain…knocking off a corner here and a corner there.  Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty.”[52] 

            The most important factor in the “polishing” of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission centered exclusively on the alleged “golden plates.”  As stated earlier, one of Joseph Smith’s chief paranormal visitations dealt with the location of a hidden ancient record, supposedly written on golden plates.  Smith’s early attempts to retrieve the record were met with a divine rebuttal, which warned Smith of the dangers of worldly wealth.  Now in the early years of adulthood, Smith’s resolve to “obtain the record…to glorify God” was met with a more positive outcome.[53]  On September 22, 1827, Joseph Smith claimed that he was finally given permission to obtain the “golden record” and to commence its translation.  Eighteen months later, Joseph Smith presented the world with a unique and controversial religious text that propelled him to the forefront of America’s religious community.  The impact of this “golden” record, which eventually became known to the world as The Book of Mormon, was to be of paramount importance to the establishment of Mormon theology. As Joseph Smith himself stated, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”[54] 

            Aside from its doctrinal appeal, The Book of Mormon can and should be analyzed as a pro-Zionist text, which helped Joseph Smith finely tune both his prophetic mission and his communal philosophy.  As one of its central theses, The Book of Mormon relates the tale of two rival societies, whose peace and prosperity are solely determined by the communal faith and devotion of their respective populace.  On numerous occasions, The Book of Mormon makes specific mention of how God intends to grant specific blessings, which are exclusively reserved for those that seek to establish Zion: “And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.”[55]  In addition to everlasting life, the God of The Book of Mormon promises worldly protection against the foes of his elect people: “And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed…For behold, the righteous shall not perish; for the time surely must come that all they who fight against Zion shall be cut off.”[56]

            Despite these promises, the God of The Book of Mormon does not neglect to mention the punishments that await the unfaithful.  “But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish…Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!”[57]  To further its abhorrence of worldly greed, The Book of Mormon lists several examples of how vanity and worldliness served to corrupt and eventually destroy God’s covenant people.  One Book of Mormon prophet named Alma took particular note of how his people’s pride and vanity had warped their sense of communal responsibility:

                        For we saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to                             be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon                          the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another,                                 and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will                             and pleasure.[58]


The book’s concluding prophet, Mormon (who was allegedly the principle author of the ancient record), gives special mention to the fact that his people’s tragic demise was entirely the result of their unfaithfulness: “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord…Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen.  But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.”[59]

            For a young man who had endured economic turmoil and religious fanaticism while in his youth, the doctrine of The Book of Mormon provided both clarity and purpose.  The Market Revolution’s emphasis on personal gain and worldly wealth was shrouded in the evil vanities mentioned in The Book of Mormon.  For Joseph Smith and his followers, God’s biblical admonition to, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” took on a new meaning in the emerging capitalist climate of the early nineteenth century. [60]   By placing their faith in the idea that, “the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it,” scores of downtrodden citizens found a glimmer of hope in the newly emerging doctrine of Mormon Zionism.[61]

            Despite the zeal of his early followers, Joseph Smith never publically revealed a desire to create a church or Zionist community.  In fact, Smith often considered his prophetic role to be terminated upon his completed translation of the Book of Mormon.[62]  Despite these sentiments, Joseph Smith would eventually lay claim to a divine admonition that instructed him to “Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion.”[63]  This heavenly petition was followed up by another, which allegedly commanded Joseph Smith to establish a church, “in which thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ…Being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith…For thus saith the Lord God: Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion.”[64]

            The official establishment of the Mormon Church (known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was nothing more than a tiny gathering of a handful of individuals in the small town of Fayette, New York.  With a small number of members and even fewer resources, the Mormon Church looked like it would surely follow the same dismal fate that had captured other Zionist movements during this era.  During the first half of the nineteenth century, the rise of these Zionist communities continued to augment as the Market Revolution’s grasp on society became more apparent.  Between 1787 and 1860, the American continent was literally saturated with over 130 different societies dedicated to communal subsistence.[65]  For Joseph Smith and his earliest followers, this initial experiment in forming a communal religious community was anything but atypical for its era.  In fact, Smith was helping to keep alive many of the traditional social practices that had fallen victim to the Market Revolution’s influence.  As Whitney Cross points out, “His degree of communism resurrected the strong sense of social obligation that all should have for each other and each for all, which had been long declining in the Puritan tradition of old New England.”[66]

            For these early Mormons, establishing a communal society proved a much more daunting task than initially thought.  The emerging market society of western New York, combined with its hostile reception of the doctrine contained in The Book of Mormon forced Joseph Smith and his followers to look elsewhere for their blessed Zion.  In response to these problems, Joseph Smith again laid claim to divine intervention that commanded the Mormon prophet to move his flock west into Ohio.[67]  In response to Smith’s alleged revelation, hundreds of early Mormon converts sold their homes and made their way to the town of Kirtland, Ohio, where Smith promised his followers the communal peace they had longed for.      

            Though more of a frontier society than western New York, Kirtland, Ohio was similar in many ways to Smith’s childhood in Palmyra.  The city was situated just a few miles from Lake Erie, and became a staging point for goods being shipped to and from Cleveland.[68]  The rapid influx of the Market Revolution, combined with the added luxury of canal transportation was beginning to shape northern Ohio in the same fashion that it had shaped New York.  For a community determined to resist the perceived “evils” of capitalist economics, Smith’s decision to settle in Kirtland, Ohio seems both bizarre and foolish.  For this reason, it is important to recognize the fact that Joseph Smith never acknowledged Kirtland as God’s chosen location for his city of Zion.  In many ways, Smith saw Kirtland as nothing more than a stop off point in their quest to establish Zion.  Based on his experiences with the flourishing market economy in New York, it comes as no surprise that Joseph Smith would be somewhat reluctant to label Kirtland as Zion. 

             Despite Smith’s apparent reservations, the future success of the Mormon movement was dependant on Kirtland’s emerging economy.  As scores of Mormon settlers began settling into their newfound Ohio home, Joseph Smith and his fellow leaders became increasingly aware of their impoverished nature.  Smith was also conscious of the fact that establishing a tangible city of communal peace would require a tremendous amount of wealth.  With this in mind, Joseph Smith acted against his anti-capitalist leanings and endeavored to raise the needed capital by appealing to the practices of Market economics.  As a result, Smith created the Kirtland Safety Society Bank, “for the purpose of Speculation…and the desired upbuilding of the Kingdom of God.”[69]  To raise the needed capital, the bank set up its capital stock at $4 million dollars, which unfortunately yielded a dismal $21,000 in cash assets.  When the needed cash did not come in, Smith and his associates hoped to back the rest of the bank’s issue with land.  Unfortunately for Smith and his collaborators, the bank set up an expectation for redeemable hard currency, which investors were never able to obtain.[70]

            The backlash over the bank fiasco was almost immediate.  The investors in Smith’s bank (almost all of whom were Mormons) expressed outrage over their lost investments, which they felt were divinely protected since a prophet was at the helm.  Smith responded to these criticisms by insisting that the bank was not created out of divine revelation, and therefore had no divine protection.[71]  William E. McLellin, an apostle in the Mormon Faith, who eventually left the church over its fiscal practices in Kirtland, stated, “The Kirtland Bank…ran long enough to get monied men of the church to take stock in it; but it broke down to the financial ruin of many confidential men”[72] Wilford Woodruff, a leader within the Mormon community and a devout friend of Joseph Smith, stated in his journal that the bank’s failure had revealed the true nature of many within the church, who had become “covenant breakers” and “traitors” to the true church of Christ.[73]  Church leaders insisted that Joseph Smith was not to blame, but instead pointed their wrath at the “cursed apostates…that prevented that bank from being conducted as the Prophet designed.”  Church leaders insisted that if Joseph Smith had been allowed to control the bank as he had planned, “there is no doubt but that it would have been the leading bank in Ohio and probably of the nation.”[74]

            Further problems began to mount on Joseph Smith and his followers in wake of the bank fiasco.  Citizens in Ohio were beginning to grow tired of their new visitors, who were rapidly becoming both a serious religious and political presence in the state.  To make matters worse, many of the Mormon settlers had begun to prosper economically thanks to Ohio’s emerging market economy.  As a result, a large number of early converts became disgruntled over the lack of progress in establishing Zion.  William E. McLellin became one of the loudest voices of dissent, claiming that church leadership had become corrupted.  “When I saw them go into drunkenness and into ruinous speculation, pride and folly, I peaceably withdrew from them.”[75]  McLellin continued his haranguing of the Mormons by declaring them to be nothing more than selfish speculators of worldly greed:

                        Soon fine dresses and fine parties were the go; and soon a fine ride was                                          determined upon.  Some fifteen couples hired fine carriages with fine harness and                         fine horse…They put up at a fine first class tavern…some of them became                                intoxicated and they broke up about $200 dollars worth of dishes and furniture.                           The next morning they paid their bill and set out for home…no confessions were                                ever required or made in the church for this wild goose chase.[76] 


McLellin’s remarks, which eventually earned him an excommunication from the Mormon Faith, did cause Church leaders to take note and reassess their objective in establishing Zion.  In fact, Joseph Smith had been concerned about the status of his followers for quite some time.  Shortly after his arrival to Ohio, Smith planned a trek into western Missouri to scout out some available land.  It was during this excursion that Joseph Smith allegedly received a divine revelation that proclaimed Jackson County (specifically the city of Independence) as the place for God’s Zion.  Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place.”[77]  In addition to revealing the location for God’s city of Zion, Smith’s alleged revelation gave additional commandments to purchase as much of the land as possible, have it evenly divided amongst its inhabitants, and establish a store for the selling of goods.[78] 

To further the special nature of this holy land located on the fringe of American society, Joseph Smith claimed that God intended Zion to become a “New Jerusalem,” where he would prepare the world for the anticipated return of Christ and the commencement of his millennial reign.   As Joseph Smith stated in his Thirteen Articles of Mormon Faith, “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes.  That Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent.”[79]  The idea of a “New Jerusalem” brought additional meaning to the Mormon concept of Zion.  In a manner similar to John Winthrop’s proclamation of Massachusetts as a “city on a hill,” Joseph Smith’s “New Jerusalem” was to not only be a communal society of pious disciples, but an “ensign unto the people” of every nation.[80] 

With such a bold proclamation as to its heavenly purpose, it comes as no surprise that the quest to establish God’s “New Jerusalem” became the premiere doctrine of Mormon Theology.  The drive to establish a Utopian world free from the discord of worldly affairs was an appealing alternative when juxtaposed with the cutthroat nature of the emerging market society.  It is therefore no surprise that the Mormon community found scores of new converts that were willing to embrace a communal lifestyle, which shunned the malevolence of the world around them.  In conjunction with their anticipation of millennial ecstasy, the Mormon message became a powerful beacon of hope in a world of cruelty.  The Mormon hymn O Saints of Zion provides an in-depth look into how these feelings of millennial anticipation and communal devotion helped shape Mormon identity:    

                        O saints of Zion, hear the voice Of Him from courts on high.

                        Prepare the pathway of the Lord; His reign on earth is nigh.

                        Prepare the supper of the Lamb; Invite the world to dine.

                        Behold the mighty Bridegroom comes In majesty divine.


                        Behold the glory of the Lord Sets Zion’s mount aglow.

                        For Zion is an ensign pure; All nations to her flow.

                        O Saints of Zion tread the paths Your faithful fathers trod.

                        Lift up your hears in gratitude And serve the living God.[81]


            Whether he knew it or not, Joseph Smith’s proclamation of Independence, Missouri as God’s chosen setting for the land of Zion sent off a shockwave of excitement throughout the Mormon community.  Hundreds of devout Mormons eagerly prepared to leave for Missouri immediately, hoping to participate in Zion’s holy mission.  For Joseph Smith and his fellow leaders, this massive influx of hopeful settlers posed a daunting task.  The Mormon Church still lacked the money necessary to purchase the lands in and around Independence, Missouri.  In addition, a large percentage of the Mormon population was too impoverished to be able to make the required move.

            Faced with these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Joseph Smith sought and received help from the one source that had shaped every major decision throughout his life: his divine communion with deity.  In his newest paranormal encounter, Smith claimed that God commanded him to instruct his followers to “consecrate” all of their moneys and possessions to the church.  In this new “Law of Consecration,” church members would willingly give up all they possessed to the cause of Zion, receiving in return both a land inheritance in Zion and what was needed for their immediate support.[82]  This new law became the standard by which admission into Zion, along with one’s eternal salvation were measured.  As Joseph Smith stated, “a man is bound by the law of the Church to consecrate to the Bishop, before he can be considered a legal heir to the kingdom of Zion…and unless he does this, he cannot be acknowledged before the Lord.”[83]  The implementation of the Law of Consecration not only deepened the communal ties of Zion’s citizens, but it provided the Mormon Church with the needed capital to begin purchasing land in Missouri.

            Through all of the tribulation that had begun with the translation of the Book of Mormon and continued into their settlement in Ohio, Joseph Smith and his followers had managed not only to increase the size and influence of their newfound faith, but had successfully achieved their ultimate goal of establishing Zion.  While still in its infancy, the Mormon experiment with communalism had already surpassed many of its predecessors, becoming a cohesive body of devout disciples that embraced a doctrine of secular suspicion and millennial anticipation.  Its rejection of market principles solidified Mormonism’s resolve to defend the downtrodden and liberate the oppressed.  In the minds of the faithful, Zion was here to say. 

IV. The Pure in Heart

For the devout Mormon, Joseph Smith’s admonition to “consecrate” all of one’s

money and possessions was similar to Jesus Christ’s counsel to the rich man to, “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor...and follow me.”[84]  Hundreds of Mormon converts were overjoyed not only to relocate to Missouri, but also to part with all of their possessions in the hopes that their efforts might further the cause of Zion.  The diary of William Clayton, an early convert to Mormonism, relates how fervently Smith’s followers embraced this new law.  Clayton wrote that, “When this order was understood by the Saints, the business of the order increased rapidly…so rapidly that he [Joseph Smith] could not keep pace with it.”[85]  As the rapid influx of converts and capital continued to augment, Joseph Smith and the rest of the Mormon leadership found it increasingly difficult to keep up with the flood of zealous settlers, who were+ eager to make their claims in Zion.  As a result, Joseph Smith encouraged his followers to follow a gradual migration, which would allow for an organized settlement of their chosen land. “It would be pleasing to the Lord that the Churches going to Zion should be organized…and those in debt should in all cases pay off their debts first.”[86]  Mormon leader George A. Smith echoed the prophet’s sentiments, which called for all Mormons to be prudent with their money.  “Don’t let us get so rich that we can’t go to heaven; and don’t let us get so poor that we can’t contribute our mite to help roll on the work of God…We don’t want to go to either extreme.”[87]

Instead of a collective marching towards the “promised land” like Moses of old, Joseph Smith’s “New Jerusalem” was to be realized one small step at a time.

            One can only imagine the feelings of excitement and apprehension that gripped the earliest Mormon settlers of Zion.  Their arrival to Independence, Missouri, which was nothing more than a remote outpost on America’s frontier, must have reminded many of them of their Pilgrim ancestors who had migrated across the Atlantic to establish a religious Utopia of their own.  With only a handful of fur trappers and Native American traders, Independence was a far cry from what the Mormons had experienced in Kirtland.  Though most of the state was still considered frontier land, the early advances of the Market Revolution had begun to take hold in Missouri as well.  Thanks to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which admitted Missouri into the Union as a slave state, thousands of slave-owners migrated west in an effort to stake their claim.  In addition, scores of zealous fur traders, who anxiously hoped to expand their business westward, used Missouri as an access point of sorts.  As a result, Missouri’s population swelled to roughly 140,000 in 1830.  By 1840, the population had more than doubled to over 300,000.[88]  Missouri’s reputation as the “Gateway State” obviously had an appeal that included much more than the Mormon population.  Joseph Smith’s utopian hopes had yet again landed the Mormons in the center of an emerging market-centered community.

            Though troubling to their cause, the emerging market economy of Missouri was only part of the problem that concerned Zion’s future.  By the early 1830s, the United States was gripped by an issue that would eventually tear it asunder.  The problem of slavery had caused thousands of Americans to actively support the cause of abolitionism, and in turn forced Missouri to take center stage in the arena of American politics.  As a newly added slave state, both abolitionists and slave-owners understood the importance of inundating Missouri with citizens who supported their respective positions.  Naturally, the influx of Mormons to the area instigated an intense feeling of tension and concern in both the pro-slavery and abolitionist camps.  Though the overwhelming majority of Mormon converts were Yankee-born, nobody was quite sure where the Mormons officially stood on the “Negro question.”  When initially questioned about the Church’s position on slavery, Joseph Smith unequivocally declared that abolitionism was designed to, “lay waste the fair states of the South, and let loose upon the world a community of people, who might, peradventure, overrun our society and violate the most sacred principles of human society, chastity and virtue.[89]  Smith also declared his support for the notion that the Negro was cursed of God, and should be “a servant unto his brethren.”[90]

            Despite these claims, most Northern-born Mormons publically detested the “peculiar institution” of slavery, declaring that it was an abomination in the sight of God.  In fact, Smith himself would later reverse his position, claiming that society should “Break off the shackles from the poor black man.”[91]  As a result, public sentiment towards the Mormons and their Zion grew to a hostile crescendo.  Slave owners found the Mormons to be an unwelcome lot of religious radicals that threatened their way of life.  In consequence, a fever of anti-Mormon sentiment swept across the Missouri countryside.       

            To help “persuade” these religious “radicals” of their errors, the Mormon opposition in Missouri resorted to violence.  Mormon churches, homes and businesses were regularly destroyed and then blamed on the Mormon leadership.  Joseph Smith and other leaders were routinely imprisoned, tarred and feathered, and given poison while incarcerated.  Mormon women, some of whom were still in their youth, were the unfortunate victims of mob rape.  One woman in particular was left bound and naked in a Mormon church, where sixteen men repeatedly raped her.[92]  The persecution eventually became so intense that the Missouri government prohibited Mormons from voting or owning property.  This anti-Mormon sentiment even permeated the executive office of the state, where Governor Lilburn Boggs declared that, “the Mormons must be subdued…and if it should become necessary for the public peace…should be exterminated or expelled from the state.”[93]

            The attempts by Mormon leadership to petition Missouri for redress were met with deaf ears.  As a result, Joseph Smith sought the help of the federal government, where he hoped that the constitutional rights of his followers would be upheld.  Smith was able to secure an audience with President Martin Van Buren, in the hopes that the President would be able to guarantee Zion’s protection.  Unfortunately for Smith, this meeting would be the fatal coup de grace to Zion’s future.  In the meeting, President Van Buren informed Smith that, “I can do nothing for you.  If I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole state of Missouri.”[94]  With the rapidly approaching election, Van Buren’s desire to avoid instigating the wrath of slaveholders completely overshadowed the government’s responsibility to protect the constitutional rights of its Mormon citizenry.  For Smith and his followers, the hopes of delivering Zion from danger were coming to a swift conclusion.

            With mounting persecution and no means to seek redress, Joseph Smith and his followers were forced to abdicate their landholdings in Jackson County.  Those who had willingly given up all of their property and assets for the construction of Zion were left completely destitute with little to no prospects of reclaiming their wealth.  Understandably, a large number of these early Mormon converts forsook their faith and returned to their roots.  After all, Zion had been the principle component of early Mormon theology.  In many respects it was the equivalent of what the Kaaba is for the Muslim or the Vatican is for the Catholic.  For many Mormons, Zion’s defeat essentially signified a defeat of Mormonism.  Virtually all of one’s faith, hope and salvation were dependant upon Zion’s success, or as one revelation put it, “For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.[95]  Simply put for the faithful Mormon, without Zion there could be no salvation.

            As the leader of his flock, Joseph Smith was keenly aware of the important role that Zion played in Mormon theology.  In the wake of the Market Revolution’s emergence, nineteenth-century America was literally convulsing with millennial fervor, and Smith’s Zionistic approach had an appeal that resonated across the countryside. With Zion no longer in the picture, Joseph Smith’s movement had little more than a new book of scripture to offer the world. 

Faced with such a daunting challenge, it comes as no surprise that Joseph Smith, yet again, received a divine manifestation that would forever change the scope of Zion’s appeal.  After the loss of their lands in Missouri, Joseph Smith claimed to have received a holy revelation, which proclaimed Zion to be an indestructible institution, where the faithful would forever bask in the glory of God himself.  As the revelation stated, “Zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there.”[96]  But how could this be?  Zion’s demise in Missouri had been a certain outcome of mob violence and political negligence.  How could Zion possibly return in the wake of such hostility?  It was here that Smith’s alleged revelation made a startling proclamation that forever changed the concept of Mormon Zionism: “Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—The Pure in Heart.”[97]  On the surface, Smith’s revelation seems to be nothing more than a play on semantics.  A deeper inquiry, however, reveals that this simple proclamation, “The Pure in Heart,” was actually a complete overhaul of the Mormon conception of Zionism.  Instead of being conceived as a palpable reality of the physical world, Zion became a metaphysical object of personal and heavenly worth.  In essence, “The Pure in Heart” signified an individualistic approach to becoming one with both God and community. 

This new conception of Zion became even greater when compounded with additional manifestations of the divine.  In a subsequent revelation, Joseph Smith claimed to have been allegedly commanded to, “establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God,” where the community could be “sealed” together in the “New and Everlasting Covenant.”[98]  The “house” spoken of in Smith’s revelation referred to the construction of a temple, where Smith promised his followers they would receive eternal salvation and an inheritance in Zion.  Though Smith had admonished his followers to build temples in the past, the new definition of Zion brought an additional measure of importance to Mormon temple worship.  The Mormon temple essentially became a heavenly sanctuary where the world and the individual could merge with the cosmos.  In addition, Joseph Smith instructed his followers that the temple was the only way to, “unite our hearts that we may be one in feeling and sentiment.”[99]  It was only through temple worship that one could enter into a communal Zion, where God would bestow the blessings of salvation. 

For the early Mormon, temple construction and worship was initially a mere side-note to the greater goal of creating Zion.  With the loss of Missouri lands, however, the Mormon temple became a means by which the faithful could obtain a heavenly Zion of endless abundance.  The ideology behind Mormon temple worship (which is of paramount importance in modern-day Mormonism) could not have come to fruition without the initial loss of Zion.  By changing the concept behind Mormon Zionism, Joseph Smith was able to convert a tangible city of Zion into a heavenly object of eternal desire.  “The Pure in Heart” symbolized those who had purified themselves of worldly stain and were therefore worthy of a celestial Zion.  Despite the loss of their utopian landholdings in Missouri, Zion’s future and prosperity were well protected through a convergence of the physical into the spiritual.   

V. Conclusion

Uncovering the true motivations behind Mormon Zionism is a difficult undertaking to say the least.  In posing such an inquiry, one naturally desires to question the validity of Joseph Smith’s alleged revelations, along with his self-proclaimed prophetic mission.  Naturally, there are those who will proclaim Smith to be nothing more than, “a mythmaker of prodigious talent,” who sought nothing more than to redeem his family from financial distress.[100]  Others, however, will insist that Smith’s life was spent in the labor of his fellow men, as a true prophet of God.  Determining the validity of either argument is unquestionably a futile effort, and therefore becomes an irrelevant argument to the historical inquiry.  Instead, Joseph Smith and the movement he created should be understood from the perspective of their era.  The explosion of capitalist economics at the beginning of the nineteenth-century set the foundation upon which Joseph Smith would construct his Utopian philosophy.  The economic plight of his childhood became the initial string of rebellion, which Joseph Smith would eventually weave into a tapestry of capitalist defiance.  With the addition of his alleged heavenly revelations and prophetic destiny, Joseph Smith effectively established a utopian doctrine of communal dependence and market defiance.  The widespread appeal of his message helped Smith effectively establish a Mormon safe haven in Zion, where the faithful were nurtured in a spirit of communalism.  Once confronted by market enthusiasm and anti-Mormon hostility, Smith’s quest to establish Zion was transformed from a physical place of refuge into a heavenly object of eternal desire.  By successfully adopting a new concept of utopian existence, Mormon Zionism was equipped to survive into eternity. 









[1] Peter L. Bernstein, The Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005), 310-319.  I referred to Bernstein’s work in my attempt to portray the 1825 celebration of the Erie Canal’s grand opening.

[2] Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 5.

[3]Doctrine & Covenants 33:6, from Doctrine & Covenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Containing Revelations Given to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, with Some Additions by His Predecessors in the Presidency of the Church, comp. Joseph Smith Jr., (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), 57.

[4] Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Mack Smith (1853; reprint, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1958), 32. 

[5] Ibid, 32-33.

[6] Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1991), 351.

[7] Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling: A Cultural Biography of Mormonism’s Founder (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 18.

[8] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 18-19.

[9] Wood, Radicalism, 140.

[10] Lucy Smith, History, 37-39.

[11] Ibid, 40.

[12] Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Vintage Books, 1971), 6.

[13] Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, ed. Dean Jessee, vol. I, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1989), 282.

[14] Lucy Smith, History, 59. 

[15] Ibid, 60.

[16] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 28.

[17] Lucy Smith, History, 63.

[18] Ibid, 64-65.

[19] Sellers, Market Revolution, 41.

[20] Ibid, 43.

[21] Charles Finney, The Autobiography of Charles Finney (New York: 1876; reprinted in New York: Bethany House Publishers, 1977), 78.

[22]Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 269-270.

[23] Lucy Smith, History, 90-91.

[24] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 26.  Bushman notes that Joseph Smith Sr.’s religious beliefs came from his childhood.  His father, Asael, taught Joseph Sr. that organized religion was both corrupt and unnecessary for salvation.  Asael installed in Joseph Sr. a rational approach to religion, based on the writings of Thomas Paine and the teachings of Universalism.  

[25] Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol I, 271.

[26] Whitney Cross, The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850 (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1950), 41.  Cross states that, “an overwhelming majority of western New Yorkers sympathized with the churches and attended meetings regularly,” but few actually joined a specific denomination.

[27] Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 271.

[28] Lucy Smith, History, 42.

[29] Ibid, 15.

[30] Lucy Mack Smith’s History of the Prophet Joseph Smith gives numerous examples of these visions.

[31] Joseph Smith, Jr., “History of Joseph Smith the Prophet,” The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B.H. Roberts, vol. 1 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1971), 5.

[32] Ibid, 5-7.

[33] Ibid, 7

[34] Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 1.

[35] Cross, Burned-over District, 4.

[36] Sellers, Market Revolution, 202. 

[37] Cross, Burned-over District, 31-38.  Cross gives a detailed analysis on the development of each of these religious groups. 

[38] Ibid, 12.

[39] Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 280. 

[40] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 50-51.

[41] Cross, Burned-over District, 81. 

[42] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 48-49.

[43] Brodie, No Man KnowsMy History, 27.

[44] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 42.

[45] Lucy Smith, History, 79.

[46] Ibid, 65 & 85.

[47] Ibid, 86.

[48] Ibid, 86-89.

[49] Joseph Smith, Jr., “Journal entry: August 23, 1842,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. II, 440. 

[50] Ibid, 87.

[51] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 55.

[52] Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007), 11-12.

[53] Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 282.

[54] Joseph Smith, Jr., “The Prophet’s Denunciation of Thieves,” The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 4, page 461.

[55] 1 Nephi 13: 37, The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the hand of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, trans. Joseph Smith Jr. (Palmyra, New York: E.B. Grandin, 1830; reprinted, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979), 26.

[56] 1 Nephi 22: 14 & 19, The Book of Mormon, 52.

[57] 2 Nephi 26: 31 & 2 Nephi 28: 24, The Book of Mormon, 103 & 109.

[58] Alma 4: 8, The Book of Mormon, 216.

[59] Mormon 6: 17-18, The Book of Mormon, 479.

[60] 1 John 2: 15, (KJV).

[61] 2 Nephi 24:32, The Book of Mormon, 96.

[62] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 109-111. In his biography of Joseph Smith, Bushman alludes to the fact that Joseph Smith never intended to create a church.  In Smith’s mind, the translation of The Book of Mormon was the full extent of his prophetic role as he saw it.    

[63] Doctrine & Covenants 14: 6, 25.

[64] Ibid, 21: 1, 2 & 7, 40.

[65] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 165.

[66] Cross, Burned-over District, 145.

[67] Doctrine & Covenants 38: 32, 65.

[68] Douglas Hurt, The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1996), 20-23.

[69] John Whitmer, From Historian to Dissident: The Book of John Whitmer, ed. Bruce N. Westergren, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1995), 183.

[70] Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 330-332.  Bushman gives a detailed analysis of how the Kirtland Safety Society Bank was initially established, and why it ultimately failed.  Bushman also explains the fact that Joseph Smith was never issued a bank charter from the Ohio legislature.  Essentially, the bank was illegally issuing stock. 

[71] Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2, 218.

[72] William E. McLellin, The William E. McLellin Papers, 1854-1880, ed. Stan Larson and Samuel Passey (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2007), 513-514.

[73] Wilford Woodruff, April 9, 1837, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal: December 29 1833-December 31, 1840, ed. Scott G. Kenney (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983), 140.

[74] George A. Smith, “Historical Discourse,” from The Journal of Discourses by President Brigham Young, His Two Counselors, and The Twelve Apostles, vol. 13 (Liverpool, England: Horace S. Eldredge, 1871), 11.

[75] McLellin, The William E. McLellin Papers, 454.

[76] Ibid, 76.

[77] Doctrine & Covenants 57: 2-3.

[78] Ibid, 57: 4-8

[79] Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 437.

[80] Doctrine & Covenants 64: 42, 121-122.

[81] Ed M. Rowe, “O Saints of Zion” Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1878; reprint, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985) #39.

[82] Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, vol. 1, 380-382.

[83] Ibid, 364.

[84] Mathew 19:21, (KJV).

[85] William Clayton, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, ed. George D. Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1995), 531.

[86] Joseph Smith, Jr. to Jared Carter, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol 1, 339.

[87] George A. Smith, “Written Sermons and Extempore Preaching,” Nov 20, 1870, from The Journal of Discourses by President Brigham Young, His Two Counselors, and The Twelve Apostles, vol. 13 (Liverpool, England: Horace S. Eldredge, 1871), 299.

[88] University of Virginia Historical Census Browser, 1830 & 1840 Federal Census,, [accessed April 4, 2008].

[89] Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, vol. 2, 338-439.

[90] Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 173.

[91] Ibid, 364-365.

[92] Hyrum Smith, “The Testimony of Hyrum Smith,” from History of the Church, vol.3, 422.

[93] Lilburn Boggs to General Lucas, October 27,1838, from History of the Church, vol. 3, 192.

[94] Joseph Smith to Hyrum Smith, December 5, 1839, from History of the Church, vol.4, 40.

[95] Doctrine & Covenants 78: 6, 147.

[96] Doctrine & Covenants 97: 19, 108.

[97] Doctrine & Covenants 97: 21, 108.

[98] Doctrine & Covenants 109: 8 and 132: 16-19.

[99] Joseph Smith, Jr, “Prophet’s Remarks to the Twelve,” from History of the Church, vol. 2., 309.

[100] Brodie, No Man Knows My History, ix.

No comments: