Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds : Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries
Indiana University Press
The author argues that Shakers and Mormons elevated the level of tension between themselves and the outside world in order to foster cohesive religious communities. The Mormons created tension-generating boundary markers such as communalism, polygamy, and aggressive land settlement policies, while the Shakers employed celibacy and communalism. The Shakers' practice matched their rhetoric while the Mormon's rhetoric outstripped their practice. Few Mormons actually ever engaged in polygamy and communalism, and Mormons failed to build their physical kingdom in the midwest. When faced with annihilation, Mormons more easily reversed course and adjusted their boundary markers, while Shakers faced a good deal of disruption to their community living practices when their boundary markers were changed.
"Among America's more interesting new religious movements, the Shakers and the Mormons came to be thought of as separate and distinct from mainstream Protestantism. Using archives and historical materials from the 19th century, Stephen C. Taysom shows how these groups actively maintained boundaries and created their own thriving, but insular communities. Taysom discovers a core of innovation deployed by both the Shakers and the Mormons through which they embraced their status as outsiders. Their marginalization was critical to their initial success. As he skillfully negotiates the differences between Shakers and Mormons, Taysom illuminates the characteristics which set these groups apart and helped them to become true religious dissenters." [Publisher's abstract]