Date of Award:

5-2000

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

Barre Toelken

Abstract

Joseph Smith Junior, founder of the Mormon faith, presented himself to America and the world as a prophet with the same powers as the widely known prophetic figures of the Bible. Like Moses and Elijah, he made God's will known to humankind. Before assuming this role, Smith had used divining rods and then seer stones to find underground water, buried treasure, lost items, and stray livestock. This thesis charts Joseph Smith's progression from rodsman to seer to prophet.

For the most part, I present Joseph Smith's divinatory development as he himself experienced it. Dowsing with a rod, seeing things in stones, and receiving heavenly revelations were as real to Smith as harvesting wheat. In order to understand his progression from rodsman to seer to prophet, one must first understand his worldview. The mental universe of early American water witches and village seers forms one of the historical and cultural contexts in which Joseph Smith developed his divinatory abilities.

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