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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mormonism -- Home Grown in New York State

One hundred an eighty years ago today—April 6, 1830—in a log cabin in the hamlet of Fayette Township, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was born. Seven years earlier, Joseph Smith, who lived in nearby Palmyra, claimed to have been visited by an angel named Moroni, who told him of hidden golden plates that told the story of Christ’s visitation to America after his crucifixion. Over the next few years, Smith, his wife, and volunteers labored to transcribe and translate the golden plates, the result of which was the Book of Mormon, the founding text of the Mormon church and one of the most widely distributed texts in the world. (Mormonism continues to be one of the world’s fastest growing religions.)

On April 6, 1830, the first meeting of Mormons took place in the cottage of Peter Whitmer in Fayette Township. Soon, however, Smith and his followers left New York, first ending up in Nauvoo, Illinois (which grew so large that it rivaled Chicago), and then—after Smith’s murder in 1844—in Salt Lake City, Utah.

[Mormonism wasn’t the only religion to spring up in Upstate New York during this time. Indeed, the amount of religious fervor found in the state led it to be named the “Burned Over District,” since religion swept over it much like a forest fire.]

This entire Mormon story is much more entertainingly told in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Book of Mormon, now playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theater. While most shows are sold out, there is a ticket lottery each day two hours before curtain for $32 orchestra seats. $27 standby tickets are sold one-hour before curtain.  So why not celebrate Mormonism’s birthday by knocking off work early today and seeing a Broadway show?

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Read about New York City’s religious history in
Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City.

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1 comment:

Jennifer George said...

Thanks for the history. I forget sometimes where Mormons got their start. I got some tickets for the Book of Mormon this summer and loved it!

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