Early National Systems: Millennial Hopes, III (Catholics in America)

Catholics in America were Millennialists, not in name or official doctrine, but in other more fundamental ways. Should a visiting alien observe antebellum America’s religious practice, he/she/it would find rather interesting parallels among the practices of Protestant pre-millennialist sects, post-millennial socialism, and Roman Catholics. To be sure, Catholics were more staid, less free to experiment in some ways, but they didn’t shy from revival methodology, and centuries long Catholic practice could be seen in double exposure among various American Millennialist offshoots, including Shakers, Owenites, Albert Brisbane, and others.
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Early National Systems: Millennial Hope, II. William Miller.

Joseph Smith seems wedged in the creases of nineteenth-century Protestant worldviews in any number of ways. From Election to Scripture, to Millennial aspiration, he separated, combined, and “synergized” a vibrant world that respected a deep tie between science, such as it was, and a fractured system of religious beliefs that overlay a diverse and growing marketplace of ideas and economies. Smith interacted, mostly at a distance, with the lights of his day and one of those was William Miller. Shaken from a Deistic picture of God’s interaction with the world by what he, as a eighteen-year-old captain in the war of 1812, saw as divine intervention, Miller began a religious journey of devotion and disappointment. That journey turned out to be a microcosm that portended the larger society’s gradual descent from optimism to a grudging acceptance of lesser purpose.
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Early National Systems: Millennial Hope, I

Many Americans in antebellum times saw their nation as an engine for the bright future of biblical end times. Ranging from Henry Clay’s practical and even semi-realistic “American System”[1] to social engineering designed to hurry Christ’s return to earth, it was characteristic of the age that even non-believers saw the idea as a comfortable metaphor for the destiny of what they considered a political example to the world. Modern Americans seem far from such notions, but there are pockets of American society where those nineteenth-century ideas persuade and guide the minds of dedicated souls, Mormons among them.
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Hyrum on Prophets

Hiram said before the High councel that no prophet ever did trangress but was directed by the impulse of the spirit involuntarily Also He said that a man shall take his brothers wife and raise up seed unto him as it was in israel must be again established

A youthful Franklin D. Richards (in a few years, Apostle Richards) recorded a number of sermons in Nauvoo. Hyrum Smith was the occasional object of Richards’s jottings. Richards didn’t take his little notebook to sermon events, rather, he wrote down what he heard either from notes, or memory. No notes are in evidence, but that was often the case for early sermon reporters. An excellent example is John Quincy Adams. Adams reported Sunday sermons in his journal after the fact, and often he was not friendly about it, in great contrast to Hyrum who was evidently as loyal as concrete. The remark has obvious references to Joseph, who was far from perfect—a man of sometimes towering temper and odd claims on subjects ranging from politics to anthropology to medicine (and of course, polygamy).

The point of the post is really that Richards’s youthful ardor for the cause meant that he often left little on the floor. He didn’t give all the details perhaps, but he is useful in a number ways. One of those ways is as an illustration of how sermon events were (and are) remembered for the most part. They were almost never perfect transcriptions (even in Utah when shorthand methods grew into use). But they are revealing with respect to reception and the way recorders assimilated, processed, and saw meaning in their own thought-worlds. You can see more of Richards’s reports of Joseph Smith sermons in particular by going over to the Parallel Joseph at BoAp.org and searching on “Scriptural Items,” the name Richards attached to his little record book. Have fun!

Joseph Smith Papers Newsletter: Number 1.

To have a look at the first newsletter for the JSPP, click through.

Preaching in Antebellum America: An Example.

As some of you may know, I am fascinated by Protestant preaching in the decades prior to the Civil War in America. This partly stems from my book project, now nearing publication, A Textual Study of the Funeral Sermons of Joseph Smith. Mormon preaching in Joseph Smith’s time was often modeled on Protestant forms, but there were important exceptions. Much of Joseph Smith’s preaching was the result of the way church government evolved over time. But I won’t digress to that. Funeral sermons in Protestantism during the period often took place in the home of the deceased. This was often true even in the special case of preachers themselves, especially those in smaller interior churches.
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From BoAP Archives: Who is Iscah?

This originally appeared a few years ago at BCC. Since it’s Old Testament times in Sunday School, I thought this curiosity might be fun for you.

Abraham’s family life is the stuff of Jew, Gentile, and Mormon legend. But, I’m not going to break into that territory much. It’s too complex and I don’t have the mental space for it now. But, who is Iscah? The name appears once in the Hebrew Bible, just after the genealogy of Abram:
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