It is never easy to sum up a religious sect in a paragraph or a complete series of books. Nothing is black and white when it comes to doing that. The Mormons are no exception to this. The foundation of the Mormons came from the Prophet’s grandfather who taught “intense familiam” which took family relations further than most religions ever had. (1) Family was extremely important and was the foundation of a peaceful society. Familiam was the foundation, but visions were what created the walls of the Mormon religious house. Joseph Smith, Sr. was visited by “divine apparitions” who informed me of treasures located in the Green Mountains. (2) These treasures were “inscribed golden plates” buried in the mountains. (3) This revelation was delivered as the Second Great Awakening swept from Kentucky through the young nation giving a deep desire for the spiritual. The idea that the plates were real increased in many while others say it as a mystic scam as the plates were not ‘found’ for several years after the visions. Only when financial disaster struck did Smith proclaim that he had the plates in his possessions along with stones “set in silver spectacle frames” that were the key to translating the golden inscriptions. (4) No one else actually saw the plates but were told they were inside cloth bundles which they were allowed to pick up but not inside. As more people believed Smith, the Mormon faith became organized and something that had to be acknowledged. Most religions and even those without religion feared the Mormons who desired a Utopia and appealed to hundreds of people who were willing to give up their entire lives to achieve it. It also helped that Smith “freed sexuality and pleasure from sinful association and inhibition.” (5) The closeness of the Mormons, the unique approach to family relations, and the announcement of knowing prophetic messages that no one else did struck fear into all those outside of the religion who were denounced by the Mormon sect. Fear led to deadly encounters with Mormons and non-Mormons. The conflicts led the Mormons to flee toward the Utah area.
(1) Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 219.
(2) Ibid, 219.
(3) Ibid, 220.
(4) Ibid, 221.
(5) Ibid, 224.