Religion In North American Towns Religion has played a vital role in the settling of many pre-industrial North American towns and cities. In fact, religion proved to be one of the main reasons Europeans broke their affiliation with the dictatorial and the monarchial rule in Europe and came to settle the Americas. Generally, these particular religious settlers incorporated town-planning ideas developed in Europe and translated them into their particular beliefs. However, some specific and influential settlers broke away from the norm in a progressive attempt to invent new societies in a new land based on accumulated knowledge.
John Reps, the pre-eminent American historian on town planning has this to say about those who strayed from the common ideals. “Almost from the beginning of settlement, America attracted a variety of reformers, utopians, and pariah religious sects.These dedicated.. groups shunned existing cities with their temptations and distractions, preferring to create settlements in harmony with their religious, economic, or social convictions.” In this paper, I will analyze and compare the influence of two different religions in the settling of their respective towns. The first will be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons, and the second is the Church of the United Brethren, also known as the Moravians. ? THE MORMON MISSION The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian religion that came into existence during the early 19th-century American movement of religious revivalism called the Second Great Awakening.
Officially, Joseph Smith, who is recognized as a prophet in modern Mormon teachings, founded the church in 1830 after he said that God had spoken to him.In that same year, he organized his first followers in New York. From that point on, as they marched westward, he experimented in building towns that revolved around “..order, unity, and community.” These values were viewed as supreme in the prophets ideal society, and these same values were at odds with values that were characteristic of many cities and towns already existing in America at that time.
It is said that his aim was to realize the Christian commonwealth that had been the ideal of John Winthrop in Puritan New England. According to one account, Winthrop at one time had said to the colonists, “Wee must be knit together in this work as one man.” This one statement seems to provide the basis of Smiths convictions when he set out to form new towns in hopes of turning people on to his religion. The Law of Consecration and Stewardship was outlined by Joseph Smith in 1831, and marked the beginning of Mormon communitarianism. This law “..was a prescription for transforming the highly individualistic economic order of Jacksonian America into a system characterized by economic equality, socialization of surplus incomes, freedom of enterprise, and group economic self-sufficiency.
” Basically, what this meant was that all members of the church and hereafter, the community, would deed all of his/her property to the bishop of the church.On top of this, the community was to farm and cultivate the land together and share equally the crops. In turn, the bishop would appropriate these assets out based on the need of an individual or family residing within the community.
Doctrines of the church such as these held a paralleled relationship to the planning of the towns. By early 1831, Joseph Smith and his following had moved west to Kirtland, Ohio. Kirtland was an ideal spot for Americans seeking prosperity given its ripe location for trade as well as agriculture.The land in Ohio had richer soil than that found along the Atlantic coast, and the climate was much milder. A good reason for this can be attributed to Ohios gentle topography. This was beneficial to the Mormon people who relied on farming and trade.
The location was in close proximity to both Lake Erie, which provided the transportation to the East, and the Ohio Canal, which connected to the Ohio River and hence the entire Mississippi River system. The Mormons however did not take full advantage of this beneficial location for settlement, as they left after only a short period of time.Kirtland was a settlement where many firsts occurred in the Mormon religion, and it was a settlement that would aid Mormons in molding future settlements. The House of the Lord, also referred to as the Kirtland Temple, was the first major permanent structure for worship built by the Mormons, and it served as a pattern that was to be followed by future designs of churches in Mormon settlements. The temple served dual functions as a temple of education and as a temple of worship. Since it served two main functions within the community, and since it was seen as the most vital aspect of the religion, it was located accordingly: for all residents to view as the largest structure at the highest point in the town. Also, it had two floors that divided the different functions of the temple.
The first floor was the floor of worship, while the second floor was used for education and studies. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the built temple was the fact that the builders had very little, if any architectural experience. The design plans for the church were handed down to the workers from Joseph Smith, who deemed the temple be built, not after the manner of the world, but “..after the manner which I shall show unto you.” Their motivation was not found in professional pride, but instead came through the belief that they were building a house where God could reside with them.This form of divine revelation was a strong belief of the Mormon religion, and it would be a divine revelation of Joseph Smith that initiated the Mormons decision to leave the Kirtland settlement and move further west to Jackson County, Missouri. Although Kirtland proved to be a successful plan, it was never intended as a permanent settling place for the religion.
Instead, it was Joseph Smiths vision received from God of the “City of Zion” that kept the new religion pleased but unsatisfied until they were able to establish themselves in Independence, Missouri. In 1833, the plan of “the City of Zion” was being drawn up under the direction of Smith. Essentially Jackson County, Missouri was located in the center of the North American continent.To Smith, this was a vital aspect of the city plan, because it was his belief that from this settlement, the religion could radiate outward in all directions, preaching to others the essence of his newly formed church. This plan for the city to be centrally located in the continent reflected the religions fixation on the church as the center. In a similar manner, the temple was located at the center of settlement planned for Independence, Missouri.
From the center, the other public buildings of the city were immediately to the east and to the west of the temple, and the residential buildings and plots of land radiated outward to the periphery of the city. Smiths planning for the “City of Zion” was very particular and his plan contained quite a few exact number measures to be used in platting the city. Some of the particulars included that a plot should contain one square mile, with ten ten-acre squares each.With one thousand (1,00 …