Aug 26, 2019

Visiting Church of Latter-day Saints sites in New York State

The founding of the Church of Latter-day Saints took place during what is called the Second Great Awakening. The early 19th century in Western and Central New York  is referred to as the “Burned-over District” where religious revivals and the formation of new religious movements of the Second Great Awakening took place, to such a great extent that spiritual fervor seemed to set the area on fire.

Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the Church of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, lived during the time of intense religious revivalism. The family farm and his home are outside Palmyra and open for tours.  Smith experienced a series of visions including one of angel, Moroni, who directed him to a buried book of golden plates which told of a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization. There are free guided tours every day of the Smith Farm and Frame
Home.  It is wheelchair accessible. Today visitors can walk to the Sacred Grove where the visions occurred. Smith had English translation published called “The Book of Mormon,” which first published at the Grandin Building in Palmyra. There are guided tours of the print shop with hands-on activities and at the end visitors are free to explore interactive exhibits, artwork, and artifacts that tell the story of the Book of Mormon.

Down the road is the LDS Visitor Center with interactive exhibits and artwork that tell the story of Joseph Smith and the Church of the Latter-day Saints.  There is a road and walking path that lead to the top of Hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith was tutored by Angel Moroni.  It is where the Hill Cumorah Pageant has been held for years; however next year, 2020, will be
the last pageant.  Regardless of one’s religion it an amazing presentation.  Everyone should go at least one; I have been three times.  It is a chance for non-Mormons to learn more about the beliefs of a religion that has spread to all corners of the earth. The church was formally organized in the Peter Whitmer Home in Fayette, NY, in 1930.  It is on my list of places to visit.  It is open every day but Sunday. 

While the Church of the Latter-day Saints is the largest of the religions that can trace their heritage to New York State there are others.  There were the Millerites who thought the “Second Coming” would be Oct. 22, 1844, and the Shakers who has the communal West Shaker Farm near Albany. 

Most people have heard of Oneida Community but did not

associate it with a religion. It was a large Utopian group established in 1848 and became very successful until it was disbanded in 1881. It was known for group marriages where mates were paired by committee and the children of the community were raised in common. Today their Mansion House is a National Historic Landmark where they offer tours and have overnight housing. Occasionally they offer a two-part tour that includes the Mansion Home and former Oneida Limited factory, now the home of Sherrill Manufacturing and Liberty Tabletop. 

Social Gospel was founded by Washington Gladden while he was living and working on a farm near Oswego. Social Gospel was a Protestant movement that applied Christian ethic to social problems, especially issues of social justice such as economic inequality, poverty, racial tension, child labor and the like. Elements of it can be found today in several religions.