Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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The Encounter of the Young Joseph Smith with Presbyterianism (p. 68)
John Matzko Of the Protestant denominations vying for converts in western New York during the early nineteenth century, Methodism is rightly regarded as having made the greatest religious impress on the young Joseph Smith. Oliver Cowdery claimed that Smith had been “awakened” during a sermon by the Methodist minister George Lane. Smith himself said that his “mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect” and that he even “felt some desire to be united with them.”1 At some point between 1821 and 1829, Smith served as “a very passable exhorter” at Methodist camp meetings “away down in the woods, on the Vienna Road.”2 His wife, Emma Hale, was a Methodist, and shortly after her first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth (and Martin Harris lost Smith’s earliest dictations), Smith briefly joined a Methodist class meeting that convened at the home of Emma’s uncle, the Reverend Nathaniel Lewis.3 Two years later, when Smith organized his new church, both its conferences of elders and its commissioning of minimally trained missionaries had a Methodist flavor.4 Nevertheless, if Methodism served as the most significant Protestant influence on the young Joseph Smith, Presbyterianism and its characteristic Calvinist theology played an important, if more negative, role in his religious development. When Joseph reported his earliest vision to his mother, he did not tell her that all Christian sects were equally erroneous. He said that “Presbyterianism [was] not true.”5 In early nineteenth-century America, Presbyterians differed from most other Protestant denominations in that—at least in theory—they held to an elaborately refined theological system that stretched back to the Ref 68