Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Of Mormons, Muslims, and Matthias

The subjects of Tuesday's class traced back to the early 19th century, a fascinating period in American religious history. [Questions to answer follow below in bold.] While the Second Great Awakening formed the centerpiece subject, the story of the prophet Matthias helps to make some sense of the revivals even as it helps to further contextualize the rise of Mormonism. To put it slightly different, whereas merchants competed in the early 19th cenutry's marketplace, ministers and prophets sought spiritual profits in the religious economy.

To further contextualize Matthias and his context, watch clips from the wonderful documentary The Mormons. Following this link, watch "The Early Revelations," "The Prophet Joseph Smith," "Opposition to the Church," and "Persecution, Exile, Assassination." In the comments section, discuss how the rise of Joseph Smith and Mormon add context to the story of Matthias's Kingdom.

And making a link to lived religion (pardon the pun), read about how Mormons live their beliefs and faith, and even about the musings of ex-Mormons. As a historian, it is not only interesting to read stories about why people convert to a certain faith and what sustains it, but also about the loss of faith, the evolution of faith, or what scholars call "deconversion." What strikes you about the Mormon conversion accounts and deconversion stories?

Another important and overlooked topic for antebellum religious history is that of Islam. Of those writing on the subject with whom I'm familiar, Michael Gomez is the one of the most important to read. (For the colonial period and beyond, this book will no doubt become one of the standards as well, and for the topic in general Sylviane Diouf comes high recommended, too.) His discussion of Islam in Exchanging Our Country Marks is most illuminating, drawing important transatlantic connections, and he's updated the research in the fine book Black Crescent. And above, there's also the famous painting of Yarrow Mamout.

Testifying to the important legacy of Islam in America, you might also find interesting a recent article about a Muslim museum in Mississippi, International Museum of Mulsim Cultures, as well as another recent article about the growth of Islam in America's Hispanic population. The article quotes TCU religion professor Hjamil Martinez-Vazquez, who is working on a book about Latino Muslims. From class discussion and from the Gomez reading, briefly discuss Islam in antebellum America, and how this adds to understanding of this period in American religious history.

Post comments by end of the day, Friday 7/25.


Anonymous said...

There appears to be two contradictory notions presented here.As Verdoia asserts, a Mormon's lifelong relationship with Mormonism does not end once the individual becomes an adult or grows up like in many other religions, and states that his friend believes it is best to view the totality of Mormonism rather than try to view it through a microscope, as Verdoia's friend calls it. If, as he discusses, one's relationship with the Mormon religion is forever, then that relationship would appear to be complex and layered and involve many significant events and stages in that person's life. Therefore, it is a religious life and perspective which must be examined and even analyzed, rather than simply followed without question. From an outside perspective, the religion, based on the readings and my own personal experiences, is a lot more structured than Mormons themselves believe it to be.

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