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The encounter between the prophet Matthias and Joseph Smith ends in Smith banning Matthias from Kirtland, Ohio and the two men swearing the other is possessed by Satan. Smith clearly thought Matthias was deranged saying “his mind was evidently filled with darkness (5)” and fully acknowledges Matthias as a murderer on page six in Kingdom of Matthias. The two men shared the bond of being poor uneducated men who had fallen on hard times during the Market Revolution. They were products of a theological movement that relied less upon learned ministers and more on everyday people who had intense religious experiences. “Building on more than two centuries of occultism and Anglo-American millenarian speculation, the seers of the new republic set the pattern for later prophetic movements down to our own time” is a quote from page six that explains the impact both men and their followers had on American history. Another sect of religious fanatics from this period was the Finneyites who rejected the Calvinistic approach of determinism and predestination. They believed that “individuals could overcome inherited human selfishness and be saved through repentance and prayer (7)”. Though they advocated mobility along the religious hierarchy, the Finneyites sought to keep two spheres of society, an industrial side and a domestic side. The industrial and monetary side was to be dominated by men while women were allowed to lead in child rearing and home keeping activities associated with the domestic side.
Elijah Pierson was shaped by his disapproval of the class system established in his home in Morristown, New Jersey. As a young man he was appalled by the assigning of seats at church with the more elite getting better seats. “By standards that Elijah Pierson would later adopt, the immutable inequality of this tight-knit patriarchy was a perfect model of injustice (17)” is evidence to how the intolerance shown in Morristown affected Pierson. This mentality made him want to spread the words of God to every caste of people imaginable, choosing to set up store fronts in the Five Points and Bowery Hill. He was able to become successful as a clerk on Wall Street in New York City, where he established his ties to Spring’s Brick Presbyterian Church. Through this church Pierson meets Sarah Stanford and they become married shortly after, and practice retrenchment which was “the ultra-evangelical movement to avoid luxury in diet, clothing, and home furnishings”. The ironic thing is that the fasts that were practices in retrenchment are almost certainly what led to Sarah’s death and Elijah’s madness. Also he remained a virgin until the age of 35 which disallowed him the opportunity to grow up as a normal person and he must have been socially awkward and incapable of keeping his sanity after the death of Sarah. The tale of Pierson can be referred to as a love story because he was a man who fell into a dark spell after the death of his one and only lover in Sarah Stanford.
Robert Matthews, the man who would become the prophet Matthias was born and raised in a Scottish Settlement in the Hudson valley. It was here that Matthias witnessed fire and broom stone sermons and people having visions of Jesus (56). It would have been common for Matthews to view visions with serious conviction and take action upon them. As a very young boy growing up in this area he lost both his parents and was viewed as being nervous growing up (57). This could have attributed to his sudden need to gain followers under the self-proclaimed child of Israel. The loss of his economic independence was the final straw that cast Matthews into full blown madness. His perceived abandonment by his parents probably made it easy for him to abandon his own family in pursuit of his prophet status. The fact that he had no means to provide for them must have been another incentive to leave them.
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