Aug 10, 2015

Hill Cumorah where the Mormon religion was born

The Hill Cumorah Pageant is an amazing spectacular performed every summer on the hillside near Palmyra. It is an incredible light and sound show with special effects and hundreds of performers from all over the world.  The pageant is based on the Bible and Book of Mormon.

There is seating for 8,000 but some bring blankets and/or folding chairs. There is food for sale and transport for the handicap. One does not have to be a Mormon to enjoy the show even if some of the scenes may seem a bit mystifying. Before the grand procession of the actors at the beginning of the show some of the cast members in costume circulate in the audience offering great photo ops.  If one wants to discuss religions
or ask questions then they can but the cast members are not pushy trying to convert non-Mormons.  It would be wise for the non-Mormons to learn a little about the religion so as to better understand the scenes.  There are several Mormon sites in the area including the small log home in Waterloo that belonged to Peter Whitmer Sr., and where Joseph Smith Jr., Whitmer, and five other men formally organized the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

If you think that the founding of the Mormon religion was an isolated religious event occurring in New York State or in the United States at that time, then you are wrong.  During the early 19th century there were many religious revivals and new religious movements called The Second Great Awakening.  It was basically a time when there was a Protestant revival during which membership rose rapidly among Protestant
congregations. In central and western regions of NYS the religious fervor was so intense and widespread that region was referred to as the “burned-over district.” It was the time of the canal boom and professional and established clergy were scarce leaving room for evangelists to convert people to some of the established religions. Besides the Mormon religion other religious groups were formed including the Millerites and the Oneida Community. 

William Miller who lived in Low Hampton near the Vermont border preached that the Second Coming would occur October 22, 1844.  Millerism was extremely popular in western NYS. Some of the concepts can be found in the religious groups that sprang from the Millerites: The Adventists, Seven Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and International Bible Students.  

One of the most interesting spiritual groups formed around the Fox Sisters of Hydesville, Wayne County, New York. The three sisters conducted popular table-rapping séances whereby people could communicate with the dead. Another group, the Shakers, began in England and spread to American. They established their first communal farm in Western NY. When John and I were in Albany we detoured to Colonie, site of the first Shaker settlement in America.  The Watervliet Shaker Historic District has several buildings and the burial site of Mother Ann Lee, the leader of the group in the United States. Several of the revival groups tried to create utopia including the successful Oneida Society.  John and I toured the Oneida Community Mansion House where we learned more about attempts to create the perfect society under the leadership of John Humphrey Noyes who had interesting views on property ownership, gender roles, child-rearing, and concepts fostering the abandonment of the self for the good of the whole. It seems mankind was and still is searching to create the perfect world.