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Author Topic: How Pious Were They?  (Read 3203 times)
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Paula
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« on: April 24, 2010, 08:51:13 AM »

I've been doing some research on Mormon Handcart Pioneers for a presentation I will be doing in June.  I've come across something that was a little puzzling and wondered if it was a "Mormon thing" or a general 1850's mindset.  Having not spent time studying other religious histories, I am hoping someone on the forum can give me some insight.

In the journals and newspaper articles I am reading the leaders (company captains, their assistants, and returning missionaries) often use descriptions and words like apostate, weak, faithless to describe those that drop out of the company in Iowa City or stay behind at places like Council Bluffs.  Some even go as far as to imply that their deaths may be the result of a lack of faith as in the following entries:

John Oakley's Journal --Second in command to the First Company of Handcarts

"Sat. 13th Came 28 mi[.] 15 mi on the cut off[.] traveled till 11 o.c. at night[.] found many waggons of Bro. John Bank's Co. at this camp[.] at the Pacific Spring scarcely any feed[.] a sis Mary Mayo died of disentery[.] She had little faith & had grumbled much (age 65)[.] burried her here."

"W. 17th Bro Ja[me]s Birch died of disentery (age 28) burried him by the side of the road near the river on the bluff[.] Came 11 mi. he had murmured considerable[.] Camped on Green River "

Edmund Ellsworth Captain--Report of his mission in the Deseret News [Weekly] 8 Oct 1856

 I regret that there was a wagon in our company, for I realized that wagons had a tendency to destroy the faith of our brethren and sisters; for if they were sick a little they felt that they could get into the wagons.


"I am persuaded that if there had been no wagons for such people, there would have been none sick, or weak, but that their faith would have been strong in the name of the Lord.?[Voice, that is true.] Consequently I have had to labor with the people incessantly to keep faith in them, to keep them away from the wagons, by showing them that there was honor attached to pulling hand-carts into the valley;"

Meanwhile journals of others, regular everyday members of the same companies, have a  kinder, more understanding viewpoint.  These entries speak of  knowing of commitments made before leaving England to take care of families and mentions of preexisting health conditions and illnesses.

My question is was it common for the religious leaders and prominent members of most church's to be so severe and condemning in their views of church members?  Was this just a Mormon trait?
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mmescher
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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2010, 11:51:50 AM »

I think to answer your question, just look at the modern religious leaders.  There are some who are ready to blame lack of faith for everything down to hangnails and athlete's foot and others at the other end of the spectrum.  Even today their are differences in the Mormon church, including the splinter groups that still practice polygamy.  Going to other religions, look at all the various levels of Judaism.  I don't expect that different interpretations of religious principles are anything new or unique to Mormons.

Michael Mescher
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hanktrent
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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2010, 01:43:25 PM »

What Michael Mescher said.

I think there also may have been more pressure on Mormon leaders to "blame the victims" because the task the members were undertaking--pushing handcarts to Salt Lake City--was specifically initiated and arranged by the church and therefore supposedly by God. Religion was integral to their whole undertaking more than people who just decided to immigrate to cheap land in Illinois or whatever.

So if church leaders implicitly or explicitly said that God would help people get through the journey, and God apparently was failing to do, cognitive dissonance reigned. The evidence either meant God really wasn't helping the people, the people weren't worthy of God's help, or some other justification like God was ending their suffering by letting them die or whatever.

A church leader couldn't choose the first option of course, so the obvious possibilities were the other two.

Hank Trent
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Paula
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« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2010, 03:55:25 PM »

Hank and Michael thanks for the insight.  I agree with both of your posts, Hank especially the parts about placing the blame.

I guess what I was really asking was that for the most part, from what I see here in the Pacific Northwest,  it seems mainstream religions of today want to tiptoe around issues and speak more "softly," more politically, correct than what I'm seeing in these accounts. 

So was the hell and damnation, fire and brimstone, apostate and fallen sinner due more to religions of the time period or more because the Mormon church wasn't mainstream?
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Linda Trent
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2012, 06:24:15 PM »

So was the hell and damnation, fire and brimstone, apostate and fallen sinner due more to religions of the time period or more because the Mormon church wasn't mainstream?
Okay, so I'm resurrecting [pun intended] an old thread.  Roll Eyes It is my belief from studying a few other religions of the era that the fire and brimstone, apostate and fallen sinner was a typical theme of the period. Even as late as the 1860s I've seen camp meetings and revivals being held where fire and brimstone was preached. Reading various sermons and such from the period one can see the same being a common thread.

Wished I'd have seen this thread a year or two ago, but I was looking to see if this forum was the proper place to post a new thread and then saw this and decided to add my two cents worth.  Wink

Linda
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“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble.
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2012, 09:35:22 PM »

Linda, you're welcome to resurrect any thread you want, for whatever reasons, always! Smiley

Great discussion from the past, by the way, and a helpful addition now!
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Regards,
Elizabeth
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