I am currently trying to situate Joseph Smith within the larger American romantic movement, and am hoping for some help. While there are a lot of similarities between Smith and the likes of Emerson, I also agree with Clark in believing that these similarities can be easily overstated (see here and here). While both hoped to collapse the distance between the sacred and the profane, I just can’t get over Joseph’s institutional thought. To me, while they both wanted to bring people into the presence of God, Emerson focused on self-reliance and nature while Joseph utilized the priesthood. It seems like for the early Mormons romanticism merely served as an eclectic umbrella under which he could draw from many different traditions.
Also, and this is the topic I was hoping to be discussed, it seems that Joseph moved away from some of his romantic views later in life. Nate has persuasively shown that Joseph moved from theophany (Kirtland) to ritual (Nauvoo) when it came to the temple. I think he also centralized more authority in the hierarchy, requiring the members to rely on the Church and the priesthood rather than just themselves for salvation.
I know this is a really short post, and I purposely did not list more of my thoughts on the matter, but I want to see what JI readers think. Did Joseph move away from his romantic thought later in life?