What was Joseph Smith Jr’s religious upbringing like? It turns out his parents were quite different. Joseph Sr, might be describes as spiritual but not religious, while Lucy was more of a visionary. We’ll learn more about their family religion with Dr. Mark Staker.
GT: Can you talk a little bit about the dynamics of the family? It sounds like Lucy was very spiritual, and Asael wasn’t, and influenced Joseph, Sr, as well, to be non -religious.
Mark: They’re spiritual, but in very different ways. Lucy grows up. She’s part of that great awakening that moves up through the Connecticut River Valley. She comes from kind of the eastern side of the Green Mountains where it’s really going on. She’s involved in the revivals there in the area. We can document a lot of revivals up in Chelsea township area north of them, out in Randolph, where they ended up moving and other places, and so very much a part of their experience. Joseph goes to those with her, but apparently to appease her more than anything. But, he’s religious, just in a different context, The family’s Universalists. Asael and Mary, and the children are all drawn into the Universalist doctrine to a greater or lesser extent. They are very much seen as heretics there in the area. In Randolph Township, there’s a church where they bring everybody in and they have to sign a document, saying that they’re opposed to the Universalists who have nothing to do with them.
GT: Who signed it?
Mark: Members of the Congregationalists.
GT: Lucy was a congregationalist. Is that right?
Mark: Lucy is a congregationalist. Here in Tunbridge, the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians meet together. Out in Palmyra, they do the same thing. She eventually becomes part of the Presbyterian [church] but it’s the same thing that she’s grown up with. They have kind of a combined community. The Universalists, Asael and Mary appeared to be involved in the universals before they even come to Vermont. The gentleman that helps them move to Vermont, he’s from a Universalist congregation, but he doesn’t live in their Township. So, you wonder, how did they meet him, if he wasn’t part of the religious denomination that they were involved in all that? But, there are other things that suggest that they’re Universalists early. The very first meeting that Joseph, Sr. and his brother Jesse go to in the township, before their families even moved north, that’s the meeting where there’s this big controversy over not everybody wants to support the main church in town, and that some people have different religious perspectives. So, it all kind of falls apart at that first meeting that they go to.
Were you aware of the spiritual dynamics of Joseph Smith’s parents? Check out our conversation….