Mormonism’s Mutable Zion
THE SOURCE: “Visions of Zion” by Patrick Q. Mason, in Christian Century, Aug. 22, 2012.
Joseph Smith (1805–44), who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830, had a radical vision. Zion, the earthly community where “the Saints” would await the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ, was to be a classless commune in which Mormons would “hold all things in common,” writes Patrick Q. Mason, a professor of North American religion at Claremont Graduate University.
What happened to these early ideals? “In the late 19th and early 20th century,” Mason writes, “the church dropped many of its overtly communitarian practices and shifted toward making personal morality the mark of saintliness.” This change roughly followed the path of conservative Protestant churches at the time as they parted ways with the reform agenda of the liberal Social Gospel movement.
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