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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William S. Byrd
In the early nineteenth century, a young man belonging to the prominent Byrd family of Virginia, the grandson of William Byrd III, took up residence in the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Over the next two years, 1826--1828, he wrote a series of letters to his father, a federal judge in Ohio, describing his experiences and his impressions of the United Society of Believers, as the Shakers were formally called. Eventually, William S. Byrd became a convert to the society and an advocate of its beliefs and practices. His letters -- cut short by his father's death -- offer today's reader an intimate view of communal life among the Shakers at a time of considerable turmoil in their village.

In the correspondence of William S. Byrd, the Shaker experience is expressed in human terms and becomes a living faith. The letters also record the trials associated with conversion to a religion that was socially unacceptable to many Americans of the time. Some of their more poignant passages describe young Byrd's attempt to reconcile the tensions created by his membership in two families -- the one of blood and the one of faith.

Letters from a Young Shaker provides an unusually instructive commentary on life in a Shaker community, on the questions agitating the community, and on the appeal of Shakerism to Americans in the early nineteenth century. In addition to the letters, the book contains other documents bearing on William Byrd's relationship with the settlement at Pleasant Hill and an introduction placing him in the social and religious context of the period. This book will appeal to historian of American society and to anyone interested in the Shaker way of life.

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