Mormonism in American History
Mormonism was the product of two events early in the 19th Century – the Second Great Awakening and the Industrial Revolution. The effect of the Second Great Awakening, a religious event, is well-known. But the effect of Industrial Revolution has not been given enough attention.
The Industrial Revolution, or Industrialization, began in England – and that was where most of the first converts to Mormonism came from. Missionaries showed them the Book of Mormon – and they took to it immediately – they had found their prophet in Joseph Smith, who had written it!
Before this, Smith had not considered himself a religious leader – but once they gave him the idea, it seemed natural to him – and he made American converts also. Setting himself up as a Prophet of God – who could receive revelations directly from Him.
He ignored the other political currents of the time – he was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln – which led to his death at the hands of an angry mob, in 1844. Mormons at the time did not consider themselves Americans – and made a long trek to Utah to get away from it. And fought a war with the American Army – that was sent to subdue them.
Eventually they came to their senses – and became perfect Americans, and captains of Industry. Their church in Utah was a large business (it owned most of the state of Utah) – and they fit naturally into American businesses. They had become part of Industrial Revolution – by the strangest route imaginable!
But they retained their isolation from the American scientific, intellectual, and artistic life that developed in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. And became much like the conservative southern protestants (Evangelicals) who they resembled.