The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

I. Two Alternate Narratives

A. Inside

1. Ancient narratives revealed by God to an American prophet tell the story of a pre-Columbus civilization in America, descendants of the lost Hebrew tribes

B. Outside

1. The work of a con man, a “digger of treasure”

2. Bountiful anachronism supply of 19th c. beliefs about Indians, Hebrews, lost tribes

3. “An exception to the modern expectation that explorations based on scientific evidence will be more persuasive than supernatural explanations from subjective accounts” – Jon Schipps

C. A modern myth?

1. Parallel to resurrection stories?

2. A paradoxical story reconceptualized and told and re-imagined again and again

II. The Outside Perspective: Joseph Smith (1805-1844)

A. Poor, marginalized family in "burned over district" of upstate New York

B. Currents in religion in the 1820s

1. Second Great Awakening: religious revivalism

a. Stressed individualism, non-conformity, anti-authoritarian and anti-education

b. Extremism -- temperance meant abstinence from not only liquor but coffee and tea

c. Wide range of forms: Millerites, Universalists, Mesmerists

2. Quest to unite all Christians on the frontier: Campbell and the Disciples of Christ

3. Communalism (Shakers)

4. American Calvinism: the success ethic

a. One knows one's fate by evidence -- defined in America as material success

b. Belief in America as the promised land

C. The Great Revelation of 1830

1. Miraculous discovery of gold plates

2. Received from angel Moroni, son of Mormon, compiler of the plates

3. Translated with special stones sets in rims to which a breastplate was attached (Urim and Thummim)

4. Several people testified that they saw and handled the plates

5. Plates eventually taken back by Moroni

D. A New Revelation

1. Continued revelations solved problems of the new group as they arose

2. Restoration of the ancient order of Hebrew priests

3. A new scripture and a new prophet

E. The new scripture: The Book of Mormon

1. Tells the story of Hebrew group under Lehi who left Jerusalem ca. 600 BCE and sailed to America

2. There one group rebelled and this group became the ancestors of the American Indians

a. Indians thus of Hebrew descent

3. After the Resurrection Christ also came to America and established his church

4. Thereafter, theme of conflict and repentance (like the Hebrew Bible)

5. Special character of America in the cosmos

a. Group's success or failure marked by economic success or failure

6. Each leader is a prophet and the Holy Spirit's guidance is clear and easily discernible

7. A theocratic state established but with the people's consent

8. Gathering of saints here marks beginning of end times

a. Charge is to build Zion in America

9. Christian doctrines of Resurrection, Atonement foretold

F. The Gathering of Saints

1. Eventually about a thousand converts followed Joseph Smith to create a new society

2. Kirtland, Ohio, then Missouri, then Nauvoo, Illinois, and finally (after Smith's death) Utah

3. Created a narrative of Hebrew wanderings despite major opposition

III. The Inside Perspective:

A. Discovery of an ancient book mirrors Josiah’s discovery of the ancient law in monarchic Israel

1.Restoration of Aaronic priesthood (1829)

2. Rebuilding the ancient temple in Kirtland
modeled on ancient Temple in Jerusalem (with Christian ceremonies)

3.Exile and rebuilding in Missouri parallel Hebrew wanderings

B. Re-enactment of story of ancient Hebrews in a new land

1. A martyrdom for faith with the prophet’s death

2. Remnant goes with Brigham Young

3. Organized as Camps of Israel into hundreds, fifties, and tens

4. Crossed the iced-over Mississippi River as the ancient Hebrews crossed the Red Sea

5. Regarded as a 40-year trek

6. Founding a new kingdom and building the Temple in the West

7. Plural marriage replicated the patriarchal age

C. Forming a separate people with peculiar beliefs, practices, history

1. A self-conscious withdrawal from "gentiles"

2. Separateness encourage innovation such as plural marriage

3. Innovation in turn increased separation

IV. New Ideas

A. God is a material being
B. “All Spirit is matter”
C. God was once a man
D. God wants us to become gods like Him
E. Humans are spirit children of God
F. God has a wife: “There is a mother in heaven”

G. Re-working the Trinity

V. New Rituals

A.Baptisms for the dead (1840’s)
B. Sealings (marriage sealed for eternity)
C. Endowments (initiation ceremony)
D. Eternal marriage as progress to godhood
E. Dietary restrictions

VI. Restorations

A. Restoration of Christianity gone wrong since the 2nd century
B. Restoration of Hebrew ideals and society
C. Restoration of this-worldly focus
D. Restoration of millenial society
E. Restoration of spiritual gifts, prophecy