The impetus for this project of exploring the local sacred sites started with a conversation about the fact that there were a ton of really interesting things in Upstate NY specific to religion and spirituality, and even Rochester that we had never seen. This entire region has some really incredible sacred sites that are held dear to many people and many different belief systems, but Palmyra, NY is essentially the ‘mecca’ of Mormonism–the entire story of the whole religion hinges on the history that takes places just a few miles south of what is the present day village. The entire religion and all its followers’ beliefs couldn’t exist without this place. If you read last week, you know that we did this visit in two separate days; we spent one day going to the Hill Cumorah Pageant and one day visiting ‘everything else.’ Rather than try to cram everything in to one super long post, we split it up a bit in to two super long posts.
Mormon Temple in Palmyra
During the Second Great Awakening, there were countless groups and religious factions that sprang up in the Upstate NY region. Many of them would last only a few decades and die out, but there are a few groups that developed during that time period that continue to have followers today. No American-soil born belief system has been as successful in growing it’s numbers as Mormonism. Claiming a worldwide membership of just under 15 million people, a holy book that has been translated in 175 different languages, just over 28,000 congregations and over 55,000 missionaries, it also has a history that’s probably a bit misunderstood by most.
Like most people in Upstate NY during that time, Joseph Smith greatly wanted to find a stronger connection to God, but was confused as to which of the many existing religions was the correct one to follow. He went out in to the forest behind his family’s farmland and began to pray for direction. He was visited by God, and then by the Angel Moroni, instructing him that all religions were wrong, and that he should bring the truth to the world by interpreting an ancient language inscription on plates that had been previously buried in a nearby hill. Much of that property was purchased near the turn of the 20th century and is now on exhibit as a museum to the founding of Mormonism. Many of the sites that played a key role in the founding of the religion are open daily for free tours. We didn’t exactly do them in any particular order, but we spent the entire day visiting each one.
Categories: #ROC, Mormonism
Tags: Book of Mormon, Church of Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ, Grandin, Hill Cumorah, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, LDS, Martin Harris, Matthew 7:6, Mormonism, Mormons, Palmyra NY, Rochester NY, Sacred Grove, Second Great Awakening, Upstate NY
The “burned-over district” refers to the religious scene in the western and central regions of New York, in the early 19th century, where religious revivals and movements of the Second Great Awakening took place. The term was originated by Charles Grandison Finney who in his 1876 book Autobiography of Charles G. Finney referred to a “burnt district” to indicate an area in central and western New York State during the Second Great Awakening. The name was inspired by the notion that the area had been so heavily evangelized as to have no “fuel” (unconverted population) left over to “burn” (convert).
The timing of the Second Great Awakening is generally thought to be during 1800 – 1830; however religious movements really continued up until the Civil War. Eventually, thanks to the Erie Canal, people were finally able to cross the Catskill and Adirondack Mountain ranges, traveling from New York City to Buffalo in only a few days and raids from the French and their Mohawk allies also became less frequent. These people were generally traveling from or through the Hudson Valley, where “Dutch religious tolerance had created an odd blend of religions.” In fact, many Evangelists first came with the purpose to preach to the canal workers, since the workers tended to be young men from the underclass who needed “guidance” lest they give in to temptation. However, these people established churches and stayed in the area, adding their fervor to the mix.
Stage on the Hill Cumorah
The above explanation seems necessary in order to set the stage for the next two blog posts. While Chris and I are certainly aware that many of our blog posts encompass places and faiths that never took place during the time of the “burned over district,” we have always felt it was an appropriate name for the blog due to the history of the area. Recently though, Chris and I went and explored the location and religious movement that perhaps best embodies the “burned over district:” Palmyra, New York – birth place of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as Mormonism. Read more
Categories: #ROC, Mormonism
Tags: Book of Mormon, Burned Over District, Charles Finney, Hill Cumorah, Jerusalem, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith, Lehi, Mormon, Pagaent, Palmyra, Rochester NY