Mormonism was one of many religious movements that emerged in antebellum American during the ferment known as the Second Great Awakening. In 1820 a youthful Joseph Smith (1805-1844) told his family and skeptical neighbors that he had been visited by Jesus Christ in response to his prayerful request for guidance in choosing a true religion. All Christian denominations had gone astray, the personage told him. Smith created little subsequent stir on the religious stage until ten years later, when he produced the Book of Mormon, a lengthy narrative purportedly written by ancient American prophets of Israelite origins and revealed to him by the angel Moroni. It detailed three migrations to the Western Hemisphere from the Old World but focused on the clan history of group in particular - the Nephites - from their arrival until their demise (c. 600 B.C.E. - 400 C.E.), narrating their wars, their belief in a coming Messiah, and his eventual visitation to the New World after his Jerusalem crucifixion.

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Copyright © 2006, Thomson Gale. This article first appeared in American History Through Literature, Vol. 2, 1820-1870 (2006), 759-761.

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