Frontiers of place and belief
Mormon origins and journeys
in Creating God
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In 1846–1847, tens of thousands of adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints left their own societies to create a New Zion by the Great Salt Lake. When the Mormon pioneers travelled west, they found a niche in the lands of Ute and Shoshone Native Americans in which to build their city and temple. The Mormons were the most prominent and lasting of the new religious movements of the ‘Second Great Awakening’; as a part of the westward spread of white families in North America, theirs was the most American of religions. The Mormon movement had attained such substantial growth in just 17 years, since the publication of The Book of Mormon in western New York State in 1830. The new movement was founded and organised, and its founding document was dictated, by 24-year-old farmer’s son Joseph Smith, Jun., in a region regularly visited by evangelical preachers and religious innovators. Less than two generations earlier this had been Iroquois territory; The Book of Mormon gave a special role and history to Native Americans in God’s plan, and a special role to those who followed its teaching and the new Church. Mormon origins, then, lie in two settings of time and place. One was a land with its newly arrived residents looking for new commitments of faith in this new society. The other was a region well beyond the control and culture of the United States, a New Zion set in the midst of indigenous peoples.

Creating God

The birth and growth of major religions

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