Binding Earth and Heaven: Patriarchal Blessings in the Prophetic Development of Early Mormonism

Paperback | March 30, 2016

byGary Shepherd

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In Binding Earth and Heaven, Gary Shepherd and Gordon Shepherd use early nineteenth-century Mormonism as a case study to examine questions about how new religious movements may, as rare exceptions, survive and even eventually become successful in spite of intense opposition. Initial scorn and contempt for Mormonism—the fledgling creation of the young Joseph Smith—quickly elevated to mob violence as both Smith’s innovative teachings and converted followers proliferated, resulting in the widely held perception that the Mormons constituted a social menace. This book examines how Mormonism attracted and maintained the loyalty of increasing numbers of people despite mounting hostilities and severe hardships.

The book focuses on the unique Mormon ritual (and accompanying doctrinal underpinnings) of “patriarchal blessings.” Patriarchal blessings were an innovative adaptation of the Old Testament practice of fathers making quasi-legal pronouncements over the heads of their sons—a way of verbally conferring rights, promises, admonition, and guidance to heirs. Binding Earth and Heaven shows how the organizational complexities of this practice contributed to strengthening and sustaining member faith and fealty, thereby bolstering the continuity and development of Mormonism.

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In Binding Earth and Heaven, Gary Shepherd and Gordon Shepherd use early nineteenth-century Mormonism as a case study to examine questions about how new religious movements may, as rare exceptions, survive and even eventually become successful in spite of intense opposition. Initial scorn and contempt for Mormonism—the fledgling creati...

Gary Shepherd is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology at Oakland University. Gordon Shepherd is Professor of Sociology at the University of Central Arkansas.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:184 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.42 inPublished:March 30, 2016Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271056347

ISBN - 13:9780271056340

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Contents

List of Tables

Preface

Introduction

1 The Commitment and Doctrinal Functions of Early Mormon Patriarchal Blessings

2 Unity and Conflict in Early Mormon History

3 The Office and Calling of the Church Patriarch

4 The Problems and Promise of Patriarchal Blessings as Historical Artifacts

5 Patriarchal Blessing Themes, 1834–1845

6 Gender Differences in Early Patriarchal Blessings

7 Latter-day Saint Patriarchal Blessings Yesterday and Today

Appendix A: Examples of Oracular Versus Inspirational Modes of Prophetic Rhetoric

Appendix B: Blessings Randomly Sampled from Marquardt’s Early Patriarchal Blessings

Appendix C: Thematic Word Index for Patriarchal Blessings

Notes

References

Index

Editorial Reviews

“Gary Shepherd and Gordon Shepherd have provided a welcome and successful case study of early Mormonism. Binding Earth and Heaven is generally focused on the tumultuous decades before the martyrdom of founder Joseph Smith, and specifically focused on the function of patriarchal blessings. . . . This is a strong and valuable work, especially in its core statistical analysis.”—Christopher W. Chase, Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions