Date of Award:
Master of Arts (MA)
Philip L. Barlow
Richley H. Crapo
Norman L. Jones
Although historians generally view early Mormonism as a movement focused on restoring Christianity to its pristine New Testament state, in the Mormon movement’s first phase (1827-28) it was actually focused on restoring Judaism to its pristine “Old Testament” state and reconstituting the Jewish nation as it had existed before the Exile.
Mormonism’s first scripture, “the Book of Lehi” (the first part of the Book of Mormon), disappeared shortly after its manuscript was produced. But evidence about its contents shows it to have had restoring Judaism and the Jewish nation to their pre-Exilic condition to have been one of its major themes. And statements by early Mormons at the time the Book of Lehi manuscript was produced show they were focused on “confirming the Old Testament” and “gathering” the Jews to an American New Jerusalem.
This Judaic emphasis in earliest Mormonism appears to have been shaped by a set of movements in the same time and place (New York State in the 1820s) that I am calling “American proto-Zionism,” which aimed to colonize Jews in the United States. The early Mormon movement can be considered part of American proto-Zionism and was influenced by developments in early nineteenth century American Judaism.
Bradley, Don, "American Proto-Zionism and the "Book of Lehi": Recontextualizing the Rise of Mormonism" (2018). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 7060.