Puritanism Parallels with Mormonism: Preparation for the Restoration – Part 2

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Because of their beliefs, many Puritans viewed themselves as standing as examples to their neighbors – they felt they should be lights unto others. Many of these Puritans viewed their towns in the flat fields of eastern England as spiritual cities upon hills or as candles on candlesticks, a view they would carry with them to the New World. That’s a view that many Americans incorporated for America as a whole (based on Puritan influence). It’s a view members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold of themselves and the church. We talk of raising an ensign to the nations; we have temples which are lights upon hills to all around. We believe our lives should be as lights unto others. Being a light unto others is not done in an attitude of condescension but rather as a solemn responsibility for fulfilling the sacred covenants we make as members of the LDS church. It is the beckoning call of, “Come, partake of milk and honey without cost.”

In addition to the Protestant feelings of many people in the eastern parts of England, anti-monarchical political feelings were also prevalent in that part of England. Numerous peasant uprisings occurred in eastern England. During the English Civil War, when many sought to reject the monarchy and establish a parliamentary government system, the strongest support came from that eastern part of England. These were people who sought not only religious freedom but also political freedom. This was an important desire that would eventually lead to the founding of the United States of America. Latter-day Saints, like the Puritans, had and have a strong desire for political freedoms (i.e., democracy). Even as the government of the United States failed to protect the persecuted Mormons in the 1830s and 1840s (and later), Latter-day Saints were some of the staunchest supporters of the government. We believe that the founding of the United States was inspired by God; prophets had preached about it thousands of years before (see 1 Nephi 13:17-19). The United States existed in part so that the Restoration of the gospel could occur – even so, the Church barely survived in this land of freedom (eventually they had to leave the country for a while to gain religious freedom). After the prophet Joseph’s assassination, some scorners of the prophet prophesied the demise of Mormonism. Yet the stone cut without hands did not and will not fail (see Daniel 2:34,45; D&C; 65:2). The Puritans helped loosen that rock from the mountainside.

When many Puritans started moving from England to the New World, they left largely as family units – more so than any other concurrent migration. Family was very important to these Puritans. They viewed marriage as a covenant relationship between two willing partners (i.e., marriages were typically not arranged). They had some of the highest marriage rates in the world – many towns in the 1600s had marriage rates of close to 100%. Husbands and wives “worked very hard at perfecting their relationship, in a mutual effort to achieve love and harmony within the household.” In addition, they also had a strong love of genealogy; they cared about their family names and their hearts were drawn to their ancestors. Their love and respect for family was strong – they viewed their families as part of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Puritans in Massachusetts also had very large families. In some communities over a span of years they had an average of almost 10 children per family! While many children died in infancy and in childhood, they still had many children survive. Family was important. Fathers also played a strong role in the raising and care of their children – they were very involved in their education, training, discipline, and care. Many of these are similar to LDS beliefs and practices about families.

Link to part 1 of this essay.

Reference

Fischer, D. H. (1989). Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Sin, Sorrow, and Suffering – Part 7

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The Prophet Joseph Smith also suffered much affliction; however, most of his suffering was due to the persecution he received from others who did not believe his story. “I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until…one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I had seen a vision” (JS-H 1:27). Joseph Smith was persecuted from when he had the First Vision until he was assassinated 25 years later. He was persecuted and murdered for telling the truth; he was despised and rejected yet he remained faithful.

The word suffering implies patience. The Lord stated on occasion, “Suffer it to be so” (cf. Matt. 3:15). Suffering can mean “allow”, as in “suffer [allow] me first to go and bury my father” (Matt. 8:21). Thus, the word suffer is used contritely, even in a begging manner. In these instances suffering is a plea for patience. We should follow the Prophet Joseph Smith’s example and be faithful and patient in our afflictions and sufferings.

Three young Jewish men named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were living in captivity in Babylon. They, like Joseph in Egypt, impressed their captors and were eventually placed as rulers over the province of Babylon. They were respected by Nebuchadnezzar and many others. However, not all were fond of these men. When the king made a large gold idol, some of his advisers and other leaders sent out a decree that all people must worship the idol. The king signed off on the decree. Then his advisers told the king that these men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not worship the idol. The king was upset and sent for the three men. Their reply shows their faith and courage. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee [we won’t try to hide the truth] in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). What an example of faith! They would not deny their faith even if it cost them their lives.

The king was furious with these men. He commanded that the furnace be heated up 7 times hotter than normal. The fire was so hot that it killed those who put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the furnace. However, when the king looked into the furnace he saw 4 men, one of whom looked “like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25). None of the men were hurt. The astonished king commanded them to come forth, which they did. None of their hair had been burned. None of their clothes had been so much as singed. They did not even smell like smoke. They had been protected and strengthened by God. They were blessed because of their faithfulness. After this, the king commanded that no one should speak ill of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He also promoted them to a higher position in their government, they had impressed him so much.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were faithful. They did not suffer but were strengthened in their afflictions. They were patient when being punished for their faithfulness. They were like Joseph in Egypt, or Moses, or Daniel who sat with lions, or Joseph Smith, who all were patient and suffered long, yet remained faithful. The Lord’s chosen have always suffered many afflictions at the hands of their enemies but they always could look to One who is more powerful and comforting than the waters of Bethesda. The Lord’s people are rarely without affliction but they need not suffer. They can have the faith of Alma and his followers: “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15).