Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries

Indiana University Press
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Among America's more interesting new religious movements, the Shakers and the Mormons came to be thought of as separate and distinct from mainstream Protestantism. Using archives and historical materials from the 19th century, Stephen C. Taysom shows how these groups actively maintained boundaries and created their own thriving, but insular communities. Taysom discovers a core of innovation deployed by both the Shakers and the Mormons through which they embraced their status as outsiders. Their marginalization was critical to their initial success. As he skillfully negotiates the differences between Shakers and Mormons, Taysom illuminates the characteristics which set these groups apart and helped them to become true religious dissenters.
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About the author

Stephen C. Taysom teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Cleveland State University.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Indiana University Press
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Published on
Nov 22, 2010
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Pages
280
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ISBN
9780253004895
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Christianity / Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
Religion / Christianity / Shaker
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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For 35 years, the author of this book has been a devoted student of the history, beliefs, and ways of The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, better known as the Shakers. Out of his extensive research into manuscripts and primary sources and his conversations with friends in present-day Shaker communities has come a warm, illuminating history, the most thorough ever written on these pious, humble people and the distinct impression they made on American life.
The book opens with an introductory assessment of the Shaker contribution to the history of American social experimentation, as seen from the modern point of view. There follows the often amazing story of Ann Lee and the origins of the movement in eighteenth-century England, its emigration to New England, the early Shaker experiments in communism, and the expansion to the American West. The author then pauses to examine in detail the ideology behind the Shaker dedication to physical labor; Shaker industry and design, including a discussion of the spare, utilitarian folk art so popular today; the highly formalized mode of worship, with its lively songs and dances and its often violent emotionalism; strange manifestations during the revival periods of the 1830s and 40s; the rigid internal organization of the Shaker community and its original economic and sociological theories; Shaker relations with the outside world; and the decline of the sect after the Civil War.
This edition is the first to include the author’s valuable notes, as well as the original appendixes containing the complete text of the Millennial Laws, a statistical breakdown of all the Shaker communities, and a bibliography. This material is especially useful to students of American social and religious movements, but the author’s reliance upon original manuscript material and contemporary illustrations lend this book an exciting immediacy that makes it a pleasure for all readers interested in fascinating people and unique ways of life.
“An excellent history of one of the most interesting of American religious cults.” — Nation.
“Satisfies the exacting standards of historical scholarship and promises at the same time to enlighten and hold the interest of the general reader.” — Saturday Review.
“A substantial contribution to American history.” — The New York Times.
Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, articulated a vision of a community that embraced sacrifice over the needs of the individual; the result was one of the most successful utopian experiments of nineteenth-century America. The Shakers, an idealistic offshoot of the ascetic Quaker religion, grew to as many as six thousand members in nineteen communities reaching from New England to the Midwest. LeeÕs experiment, focused mainly on simplicity, celibate communal living, and sexual equality, provided a model of prosperity for more than one hundred years. Founded in 1806, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, was a thriving community located in the center of the bluegrass region. After the Civil War, a steadily shrinking membership resulted in the gradual decline of this remarkable community, and the last remaining Shaker to reside at Pleasant Hill died in 1923. In the years immediately following, it appeared as though the village would fall prey to neglect and a lack of historic preservation. In 1961, however, local citizens formed a private not-for-profit organization to preserve and restore the village and to interpret the rich heritage of the Pleasant Hill Shakers for future generations. Over several years, and against incredible odds, this group succeeded in raising the funds necessary for the restoration projects. By 1968, eight buildings at Shakertown, carefully adapted for modern use while retaining their historical and architectural significance, had been opened to the public. Thomas ParrishÕs Restoring Shakertown masterfully explains how the Shaker settlement was saved from the ravages of time and transformed into a nationally renowned landmark of historic preservation. In chronicling how the hopes of the early fund-raisers quickly were challenged by the harsh reality of economic hardships, the book serves as a valuable study in modern philanthropy. Parrish also details the villageÕs negotiation of legal challenges and how its final plans for creating awareness of the ShakersÕ legacy set the standard for later museum developments around the country. In addition to recounting the remarkable history of the formation and eventual demise of the ÒShaking Quakers,Ó Parrish presents a dramatic chronicle of the villageÕs evolving fortunes. From describing the challenges of financing the restoration to finding preservation experts to achieve the highest standards of authenticity, Restoring Shakertown reveals the complexities and rewards of the preservation of one of KentuckyÕs most significant historical and architectural sites.
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