Some Thoughts on the Mormon Kingdom of God, circa 1840s

By January 4, 2011

[As a heads-up, this post does not attempt to make any claims or arguments. It’s just a few half-baked thoughts concerning early Mormon notions of the Kingdom of God and how it related to Americanism, specifically during the 1840s. I hope it generates some discussion–or, at least–encourages some thought on what I think may be an under-utilized approach to early Mormon history.]

It’s almost considered a common trope nowadays to describe Mormonism as “the quintessential American religion”–or something in those regards. Harold Bloom may be most famous for recently making such a claim, but the sentiment has been around a long time. An American-born prophet, an American-located Garden of Eden, a canonized revelation extolling the American Constitution, an American-centered headquarters–you get the idea. The question of how Mormons in the nineteenth century understood their relationship with the United States has received a lot of attention in recent decades, with good reason. It is a fascinating story of how Mormons both rejected America—by becoming fed up with persecution and mobocracy and moving West—while still holding the pure “ideal” of America and merely equating their contemporary nation as experiencing an apostasy akin to modern-day Christianity. Mormon scriptures both placed America the location at the center of future divine events while also prophesying the downfall of America the government as a necessary apocalyptic sign paving the way for the millennium. The paradoxical positioning of both rejecting and embracing the American image was at the center of the Mormon sense of self during the late-Nauvoo and early-Utah periods.

Fair enough. But I wonder about another possible element that should be taken into account. This idea was thrust on me while reading through Sam Haynes’s recent Unfinished Revolution: The Early American Republic in a British World (Virginia UP, 2010). Haynes demonstrates how America reached an apex of patriotism in the wake of the War of 1812–the very period that many of Mormonism’s first generation was raised–which resulted in a vehement Anglophobe vibe that permeated American culture. Whether in religion, politics, literature, theater, or even material culture, Americans formulated their own national character as, above all else, anti-British. England served as the necessary “Other” in order for Americans to finally understand their “self.” Association with Britain was not only taboo, but un-patriotic.

This concept should help reconsider three key and related moments in early Mormonism. The first is Joseph Smith’s decision in 1836 (1837?) to send missionaries to Great Britain. This came at a moment of great internal and external strife in Kirtland, as the collapse of the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society introduced discord, dissent, and eventually migration. In the middle of what was really a national economic crisis, Smith determines to send some of his closest followers outside national borders–but why England? A shared language is an obvious answer—though an increased presence in Canada might have been a more feasible option, both due to distance and a better working relationship with America—as is the fact that several of Mormonism’s newest converts had family in England. Plus, as Haynes outlines in his book, Americans were still obsessed with British approval even as they denounced its culture. At the same moment that many American religions that had ties across the Atlantic Ocean were more keen in emphasizing their parochial presence and downplaying their international attachments–I’m thinking specifically of the Quakers, though to a lesser extent the Methodists–Smith desired to increase ties with the forbidden mother country.

Second, I wonder how the Quorum of the 12’s mission to the British Isles a few years later changed the apostle’s view of Britishness and perhaps shaped Utah Mormon perceptions of Great Britain for the rest of the century. Most of the apostles—John Taylor being the most pronounced exception—were raised in patriotic American families during a time of vast Anglophobia, and they must have held perceptions that were challenged with their experience with British culture. While there has been quite a bit of work on the Twelve’s mission to England, I have not yet seen much in-depth work on how this mission challenged, altered, or reaffirmed their idea of Americanness. Did it make them consider a more cosmopolitan ideal for the Kingdom of God? Did experience with a monarchical republic help shape how Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, Parley Pratt, etc., understand God’s divine government? The answers to these questions could be of immense importance due to the fact that the participants of this mission were to a large extent responsible for shaping the Mormon church for the rest of the century.

Third, I wonder how the fruits of these labors affected the Mormon sense of self, and this is especially the biggest question I have today: just as America was reaching its apex of exceptionalism and Anglophobia (the early 1840s), leagues of British converts are streaming into Mormon Nauvoo. This has the potential to effect two key issues: first, how did this challenge how American inhabitants of the Mormon city understand the United State’s centerness in the Gospel? And second, how did this go over with the growing number of anti-Mormon neighbors surrounding Nauvoo? Could a growing sense of Britishness have played a role in Mormon opposition? Scholarship has noted how Mormons took on a “foreign” feel in anti-Mormon propaganda during the Utah period–but could the growing amount of Britishness during a period of anti-Britishness have made Mormons appear un-American even before the trek west?

Finally, and this is both explicit and implicitly implied in the previous paragraphs, but how did this Britishness effect the developing Mormon theology of the “Kingdom of God”? Comparing the kingdom rhetoric of John Taylor, born in England, and Parley Pratt, born in New York, easily demonstrates that national background colors how one speaks of a divine kingdom. Did it give a more cosmopolitan feel than our general “Americanized” framework for early American thought?

As you can tell by the plethora of question marks here, I honestly don’t know. Just a few half-baked ideas. Discuss.

Article filed under Categories of Periodization: Origins Intellectual History International Mormonism Theology


  1. Oh, so the modern day tea party doesn’t represent the climax of patriotism? 🙂

    Well, first of all these British converts were much needed at the time and I don’t get any sense they weren’t welcome by the church. I am a little surprised so many people from Europe converted to a religion that was so explicitly American.

    I guess one effect was that Joseph and members of the 12 probably become more convinced that Zion really was something that would fill the whole earth and not just something that existed in only Missouri.

    But this is just a guess.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — January 4, 2011 @ 8:33 am

  2. Interesting thoughts, Ben.

    On the third point, it’s been a few years but I remember seeing something about the MO vigilantes not liking the large group of “monarchists” who had settled in Adam-ondi-ahman (Canadian converts) and I think there’s evidence of anti-British sentiment in Nauvoo among the antis.

    On the last point, I’ve wondered where the Nauvoo period fascination with aristocracy came from (i.e., the House of Kimball joining with the House of Smith language, JS as king, etc.), and if it was at all common among republican Americans to talk like that or if the Mormons were unique. The exposure to GB may have contributed to the language, especially in Kimball’s case.

    Comment by David G. — January 4, 2011 @ 11:35 am

  3. Ben,

    What do you make of the fact that the most prominent and vehement voice in the charge of “kingdom of god” theocracy was John Taylor (he quite literally wrote the book on the subject). You make the point that he was the conspicuous exception to the “anglophobia” of the time, yet he, the Brit in the bunch, was the one writing and advocating this apparently American ideology. What further do you make of Taylor’s 1840s petition for American citizenship despite having fled the country and it’s persecution. I haven’t taken the time to formulate these thoughts either, however, I think that Taylor may provide an interesting test case in this example.

    Comment by Ryan Saltzgiver — January 4, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

  4. Hunh. You’re making me recall some stray remarks in the voluminous writings of a man I’ve been studying. Writing about his father after the turn of the 20th century, for instance, he says:

    His was a singularly sensitive mind. Often and often I have seen his eyes well with moisture when listening to stories of misfortune, or when discoursing of the history of the Colonies and of the brutality of the English soldiery. In fact, his dislike of everything British extended to a deep-seated prejudice against those who claimed England as their native land.

    His love of country and patriotism was a passion. He knew its history by heart, and was never quite so happy as when, during my early childhood, he almost daily rehearsed it to me, and enjoined upon me undying loyalty to the institutions of my country. And as I trace backward the incidents of the past score of years in my own life, I can trace the underlying causes for my conduct to those earnest, even fervid, recitals of wrongs inflicted by the parent government on the early settlers of this continent, and which inspired me with intense dislike for a despotism whether political or religious, the latter being the most detestable form of despotic power. Had father dreamed of the consequences of his early recitals of the English despotism in America on my young and plastic mind, he would have hesitated.

    The writer, born a Mormon in Nauvoo, became a rather prominent (for a time) anti-Mormon, and he usually couched his opposition to Mormonism in political terms. I admit I’ve always thought of that as a convenient excuse, but now you have me reconsidering how “inbred” that might actually have been.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 4, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

  5. Joseph: I agree that it would be a fascinating study into why British converts were so enthused about an American religion. One of the best treatments I’ve read on the topic is Polly Aird’s recent book on the Scottish convert Peter McAuslan–she does a spectacular job at depicting the Mormon appeal to a Scottish community. And your hypothesis that the 12’s focus was more on the world as opposed to just England is certainly possible, but I still think there are key questions as to why they chose England as the starting point–American’s considered many other countries as superior to their British rivals.

    David: great points. That is fascinating to hear that there was some anti-monarchical sentiment even as early as the Missouri period. Perhaps the very notion of a “Prophet” was too un-democratic to frontier Americans during the Jacksonian period. And I’d love to dig into some of the anti-British sentiment depicted in Illinois anti-Mormonism–like I said, I haven’t even as much as glanced at the documentation with this question in mind.

    As to aristocratic thought in the Nauvoo era, that is also a topic that fascinates me. I’m trying to complete a paper that includes a part demonstrating how a prominent vein of Nauvoo theology–particularly this kingdom and aristocratic thought–was surprisingly anti-democratic and does not fit into the general democratization thesis of Hatch et. all. Much of late Nauvoo rhetoric, especially after the 12 take control, contained a rebuke to what they appeared to have understood as an excess of democratic religion.

    Comment by Ben — January 4, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  6. Ryan: I strongly agree that John Taylor is a central figure in this dynamic. I know David Whittaker has been working on John Taylors kingdom theology during the Nauvoo era. Taylor in general has been understudied figure in the development of Mormon thought. Perhaps it is because a lot of his writings can be seen as somewhat antidemocratic and thus don’t fit the typical Americanized narrative of early Mormonism. Lots of important questions, here.

    Ardis: that is indeed an immensely fascinating excerpt, and may give a hint to how some of the discomfort Mormon Anglophobes might have felt with the influx of British converts. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Ben — January 4, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

  7. I may not have my time periods correct, but isn’t this the same time frame as the belief in England that Christ visited England with Joseph of Arimathea, who according to the legend was supposed to be Jesus’ uncle? I’m thinking of William Blake’s poem and much later turned into a hymn Jerusalem as one reference. My recollection is that the legend went as far as saying the King Arthur was a descendant of Christ. Was this concept well known in America at the time?

    Comment by kevinf — January 4, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

  8. It’s well known in my ward today, to my horror.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 4, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

  9. I wonder whether the Mormons’ individual religious backgrounds factored into how they viewed Britain—the many converts from Methodism (and especially those from schismatic Methodist groups) came from an overtly transatlantic religious community and might thus be less hostile to Britain. I actually have intended to post some of my own thoughts on this and this may be just the motivation I need. But now that my blog reading and writing is limited to evenings (my days are occupied with studying for comps), it might be a week or so before I can get something up.

    Comment by Christopher — January 4, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

  10. Ben, you’ll want to remember that Hatch comments on the irony of democratization, that the people wanted to choose to whom they would submit and then merrily submitted. And remember that the royal imagery applied to most LDS–several Protestant observers criticized Mormons for over-broad extension of priesthood.

    I also think you’ll want to be cautious about over-broad application of Haynes, particularly when there’s a lot of intra-national class differentiation occurring. There was definitely English anti-Americanism (look at Trollope and Caswall) and hurt American responses to it. There’s also an account by a British sea captain–can’t remember the name right now–that was in the spirit of Trollope that engendered several book-length vehement attacks. There’s an element of rural anticosmopolitanism/”lowly” anti-aristocratic sentiment that I suspect may severely confound the Haynes argument (I’m only going off your summary–I haven’t read it myself).

    Comment by smb — January 4, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  11. Ben – Four possible mitigating factors, thrown out at random here . . .

    1 – Some of the strongest resistance to the War of 1812 (economically inspired by trade with Great Britain) was found among certain classes of New England, Joseph Smith’s ancestral homeland.

    2 – Joseph Smith valued extended family very highly, and he was of pure British extraction.

    3 – Joseph likely bought into the Anglo-Israel theory.

    4 – Joseph was strongly moved by ideas of the gathering of Israel, and related concepts. Among the British were strong adherents of the idea of a literal return of the Jews to their homeland. In fact, Orson Hyde first went to England and did some contact work there before continuing on to the Jerusalem to dedicate that land for the return of the Jews.

    Comment by Rick Grunder — January 4, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

  12. Kevin: That’s a good question–I’m not sure.

    Chris: A great point. Here’s motivation to get the post done in your spare time…

    SMB: that is definitely an important nuance; thanks. Haynes actually does a good job at showing the diversity in American Anglophobia–the simplicity is most likely due to my overgeneralization. (Also, he has a full chapter on British travel narratives and American responses to them–fun stuff.)

    Rick: Good points. On the the War of 1812 factor, it should be remembered that even among those who opposed the war, the aftermath brought an increase of ant-British sentiment across most regions.

    And thanks for the great discussion, all.

    Comment by Ben — January 5, 2011 @ 3:56 am

  13. Great post Ben. But I think an important element left out of your pondering is Classism. A lower class Mormon could like a lower class Brit, and still hate the upper class British culture, or even upper class Americans.
    This black and white classism lessened as a Middle Class grew__to a gray.

    Comment by Bob — January 5, 2011 @ 10:17 am

  14. Rick, wasn’t a lot of that opposition to the War of 1812 due to having family and friends who were loyalists?

    Ben, all good points. It would be interesting putting all this in the context of Joseph’s particular brand of federalism (which clearly wasn’t libertarianism but more local rule) versus the more broad democratic (and nationally leavening) force of Jacksonian democracy.

    It’s interesting tying this into the latest political populism of the Tea Party which can also be seen as pushing a stronger sense of federalism against Jacksonian democracy. (Witness the focus on the 17th amendment, for instance) I wonder if this manifests itself into modern Utah politics or if the connection is more coincidental.

    Comment by Clark — January 5, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  15. BTW – a lot of these thoughts reminds me of a thesis by Razib over at Gene Expression on Mormons as Puritans. (I posted on it some time ago. I think, as the comments illustrated, that Razib’s thesis was overstated. Still there are parallels to what you write above.

    Comment by Clark — January 5, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  16. I was just reviewing some notes and the May 4, 1845 sermon of BY as recorded by Bullock in Selected Collections may be of interest to you.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 5, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

  17. …and for some interesting anti-republicanism, see Jan 8, 1845.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 5, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  18. Clark (#14) –

    I’m not really the right man to say much more than I ventured yesterday about the War of 1812, as I don’t claim much expertise in that subject beyond fairly folk-level material I have cataloged over the years. What I might offer here, though, is some broad perspective gleaned from that experience: I have read a painfully, tiringly large amount of practical, every-day text by Americans of the early nineteenth century (books, pamphlets, newspapers and letters), and I have to say that anti-British sentiment has never struck me as being inordinately strong in such material, taken as a whole, particularly after a few years following the War of 1812. Naturally there were exceptions (some of which I feel found expression in the Book of Mormon text, but that’s another story). When I read in yesterday’s post about widespread anti-British sentiment in America during the 1830s or 40s, to be honest, it came as news to me. If more sophisticated levels of literature or of modern scholarship inform us otherwise, I would still wonder, “Did Joseph Smith know it?”

    Comment by Rick Grunder — January 6, 2011 @ 12:14 am

  19. Thanks for your comments, Clark and Bob.

    J: now that’s some tantalizing teasers if I’ve ever seen one! Now to just get access to the Special Collections DVDs…

    Rick: Thanks for your countering thoughts. Of course there were some variance, but my experience with antebellum newspapers confirms the general anti-British thesis. Besides Haynes’s work, anglophobia has been generally implied in most scholarly research in the field (see Howe’s What Hath God Wrought as an example). For the New England conversion to Anglophobia after the War of 1812, see Alan Talor’s recent and magisterial The Civil War of 1812.

    Of course, there is always the question of how much this more literate theme had influence on the folk level. I imagine such questions will always remain.

    Comment by Ben — January 6, 2011 @ 4:41 am

  20. I remember Steve Sorensen talking about most of these ideas in the late 90s. He was first and foremost a librarian and and an archivist, but he was a historian too and it’s really too bad he didn’t publish more.

    Comment by Mark Ashurst-McGee — January 6, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  21. Ben,
    This speaks about Mormon/British Classism in 1840.

    Comment by Bob — January 6, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  22. American Exceptionalism and the Manifest
    the invisible hand and free land

    There seems to be a noted lack of comment on obvious forces that swept Joseph Smith to prominence.
    As one not schooled in Mormon History but aware of currents in the American Experience, I must mention the influence of the Mystical Great Awakening, American Exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny and the Jacksonian Era, all shaped Mormonism by default yet Mormonism had no influence on any of these events.
    Without Andrew Jackson Joseph Smith would have been merely a whimper, the notion magical white people on a new continent, vacant of
    any reasonable opposing force made this land, bounded by two oceans, a blessing granted by “God himself.”
    As it is our right to explore those possibilities using the forces of “old scripture” and the invention of new revelations as tools to explore this virgin soil; opening space to explore with new agency on the fringe of the unfolding continent.

    A second unnoticed event was the industrialization of Britain. I believe the term Dickensian was coined to express
    the utter desolation of the lower classes of Great Britain.
    The marketing event was to send Mormon Apostles to commingle with opportunity; to populate space to lay claim to territory in the name of a theocracy.
    With the tease of free land, a modicum of human rights and a religion not unrecognizable was not a great leap
    for the starving British citizen without land or promise.

    The Frontier of America was ripe with all forms of speculation, and Mormonism was just one.
    The Amish Communitarian social structure was enough to separate Mormons from the great frontier spirit and the
    Great Awakening provided the momentum for Joseph and Apostles to tinker.

    I believe a compelling case can be made for acknowledgment of historical forces rather that personalities
    driving the early successes of Mormonism, British overpopulation and famine of unwanted masses was prime for pickings.
    It’s no great trick to lure a human from hopeless feted slums, sweating for British Aristocracy (a grimy hopelessness) to a land and new hope on a new continent of possibility.

    Yes the cult of personality was a matter of being in born in a time of infinite possibility both spiritual and material. Just don’t be Native-American.
    It would be good to ask, what would Joseph Smith be with Andrew Jackson and his unrelenting drive for States Rights,
    de-solution of the National Bank, Mexican?American War and disobedience to the Supreme Court.
    With Andrew Jackson anything was possible, including a New Religion recognizable but not too much different but with a Prophet at the Helm.
    The Divine Right Rite is undeniably compelling and location, location, location.

    Comment by Gus O. Kahan — January 7, 2011 @ 2:43 am

  23. Mark: It is indeed tragic that Steve didn’t write on this. I’m sure others have had these same ideas as well. Hopefully someone eventually addresses them in print in a respectable way.

    Bob: Thanks for the link. I have read the article before, and it does a great job addressing the issues it sets out to explore. I think I’m asking different questions than Allen and Thorp, though. Not more important questions–just different.

    Gus: Thanks for stopping by. I assure you that many of the issues you bring up have been addressed by other authors in Mormon history. Also, there are more theories on what drove antebellum religiosity than just those of Charles Sellers.

    Comment by Ben — January 7, 2011 @ 8:33 am

  24. Gus, those are older views that many if not most historians have abandoned (as Ben rightly notes). Even OUP elected to update Sellers with Howe, which I find more convincing anyway. They are sort of cool in an ideological sort of way, but they don’t tend to hold up under scrutiny. I’ll admit that I’m not persuaded that anglophobia should be a central rather than peripheral narrative either, but the almost Marxian-sounding historical materialism of your account doesn’t work for me much at all.

    Comment by smb — January 7, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  25. ?and for some interesting anti-republicanism, see Jan 8, 1845.

    Either the texts I have are incomplete for that day or I’m missing something obvious. I don’t see any relevance of the Jan 8th sermon. He talks about relations going back to the settlement of New England 200 years prior. Then he says,

    There is a great deal might be explained here this day. I will first set in order before these relations the true order of the Kingdom of God and how the families hereafter will be organized; you have heard Joseph say that the people did not know him; he had his eyes on the relation to blood-relations. Some have supposed that he meant spirit, but it was the blood-relation. This is it that he referred to. His descent from Joseph that was sold in to Egypt was direct, and the blood was pure in him. That is why the Lord chose him and we are pure when this blood – strain from Ephraim comes down pure. The decrees of the Almighty will be exalted – that blood which was in him was pure and he had the sole right and lawful power, as he was the legal heir to the blood that has been on the earth and has come down through a pure lineage. The union of various ancestors kept that blood pure. There is a great deal the people do not understand, and many of the Latter-day Saints have to learn all about it. In all the Kingdoms of the World you will find that there will be only one King, and all will be governed as one family, every man will preside over his own family. We will have to work out some of the impurities.

    While I suppose that can be taken as anti-Federalist, and it’s definitely of interest to this thread, I confess I see it more as a reference to the Partriarchal Order and the coming of the savior. However one might also say that “every man [presiding] over his own family” is federalism pushed to an extreme.

    Comment by Clark — January 7, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

  26. Rick (#18), I can’t really speak to much here as I’ve only read a few histories on the subject. Further I’ll fully admit they all had a Canadian bias. (Especially Pierre Burton’s two volume history of the war) However there definitely still is a sense within Canada that many loyalists left the US due to American persecution and violence against them because they were loyalists during the American revolution.

    Burton in particular portrays the war arising primarily out of old (very old) guard political leadership who had been active in the American revolution and wanted to finish it off. (The Battles on the Plains of Abraham being an interesting parallel to the earlier wars) While Burton wrote decades ago the parallels to the neo-conservative rhetoric a decade ago are really quite astounding. While these politicians whipped up public fervor I don’t recall it being a groundswell of grass roots pushing the war. Indeed Burton, admittedly presenting a biased and cynical view, suggests that the war started when commercial interests could make money from the war and take advantage of the distraction of the Napoleonic wars and then ended exactly around the time they started losing money.

    Take that as you will. (I’m a bit skeptical not being a real historian and Burton’s narrative fitting a little too easily into the traditional 60’s liberal critique of military in general)

    Comment by Clark — January 7, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

  27. Clark, without checking, I’d guess that you are using the source from the UGHS Mag which is heavily edited an redacted. Though it appears that the section you quote is generally intact. The whole meeting is fabulously rich (it was a family meeting of the Young and Richards in Nauvoo). Many portions are relevant, but in particular, I was thinking of the second sermon later in the day. This whole section relates to the adoption in the Temple and figures prominently in my ms that is going to be published with Sam’s in the Summer JMH:

    provided Great Grand Father Goddard had the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to reign over his posterity he would now have had a great number to preside over come down to our Great Grand Children and trace it back to the main Stream – it is like a little fibre, it spreads itself and becomes a mighty river, if you trace it you lose it but follow out those great ravines to our great grand father’s days and this Gentile race is devilism from first to last, they are so far from being right that they wold have an Infidel for a President – they all cry out Republicanism and that is for the Sons to rule their Fathers, Daughters to rule their Mothers, Wives to oppress their husbands and to rule over Fathers and Mothers, and abuse the very authority that God has ordained for their salvation – if our Grand Father Goddard had ruled as a King and Priest over his posterity – and raised up Kings and Priests to rule over their posterity – our Grand Father’s Goddards family he would call together a numerous host – I will shew you the order of the Kingdom – one is placed here, another there, another there, and so on – I should be their Ruler, savior, dictator & governor – they would have an innumerable and say just as I say…Adam will be the King of all, Seth next, Seth rules under his Father and over all, this process will never end; this is the order of the Kingdom of Heaven, that men should rise up as Kings and Priests of God – we must have people to rule, Uncle Howe,Phinehas, Brother Joseph, is next and if my Father was here, he would rule all;

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 7, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  28. Joseph Smith was most inspired in his selection of England as the focus of missionary effort, for he tapped into the unrest due to enclosure laws (loss of access to common lands) and early Industrial Revolution (difficult factory conditions, etc.).

    The harvest of converts was also driven by the perception of America as the rising nation, a place where anyone could own their own land.

    My ancestor Robert Hellewell was the first generation to grow up in the new English industrial society–he was born at the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in West Yorkshire, moved to Leeds where he and his young wife worked in textile mills, he as a machinist, she as a loom tender.

    I see their 1850s conversion in a Utopian light: leaving the factory and all that came with it (think of the Luddite movement), returning to the land, finding true religion, and preparing for the Millennium.

    It should also be remembered that there was a strong Puritan/Pilgrim tradition in the early upstate New York converts–their most common religious origin was Congregational and they too were drawn to the quest for the true primitive Church.

    Skip Hellewell

    Comment by Skip Hellewell — January 7, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

  29. Thanks J. My copy is the collection of text files of his addresses which has been passed around among many people. I had thought it was reasonably comprehensive but I guess not.

    However I still think it’s not that different from the previous passage I quoted. That is it’s talking about a utopia of the patriarchal order. Of course the way he phrases it (“dictator”) sounds rather repugnant to our modern ears.

    Comment by Clark — January 8, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

  30. Valuable comments in the various contributions to this post! But just as creative writing is sometimes defined as learning all the rules of grammar, and then breaking them advisedly, so is historiography something of an art that has, at times, to transcend what we intuitively presume, or to stay alert to possible applications that may be different and narrower – when analyzing specific events – from what preceding historians have concluded on a more general plane. Certainly, I have described striking anti-British propaganda in American children’s history textbooks treating the War of 1812 published 1816-19 (on the side of strong American tendencies in that direction, Mormon Parallels entry 193; or compare my entries 122 vs. 123 regarding 18-teens pro/anti-British passion). But since I understood the main focus of Ben’s post to concentrate primarily on Joseph Smith’s perceptions in the late 1830s and beyond, I would suggest a potentially valuable exercise as a practical-level cultural investigation: Check thirty or forty American newspapers in the summer of 1837 (when Mormon proselyting began in England) to see what tone they used during that same season in describing the coronation of Queen Victoria.

    Comment by Rick Grunder — January 9, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

  31. […] Grunder: Some Thoughts on theEmily: Women's History Series, ChurchClark: Some Thoughts on theSkip Hellewell: Some Thoughts on […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » “One especially dramatic example”: Mormonism and the Atlantic World — January 10, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  32. Nice thinking Ben. As I expressed a while back, I think the Mormon sense of self is a fascinating, complex, and understudied topic. You throw some good things into the mix. I like the tension you point out – the way the Saints simultaneously rejected and held to America and American ideals. That’s a great summary of what I’ve found to be a difficult to put a finger on in the past.

    Like some of the other commentators, I’m a little skeptical of Anglo-phobia as a driving element, but I’ll have to read up on that.

    Comment by Ryan Tobler — January 14, 2011 @ 5:52 pm


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