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Radical Origins: Early Mormon Converts and Their Colonial Ancestors Hardcover – May 12, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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About the Author

Rust is a professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press (May 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252029100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252029103
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,307,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Through exhaustive genealogical and historical research, as well as an interesting new hypothesis, Val Rust has endeavored to show that the roots of Mormonism extend well back of the 1830 date of the official organization of the Church. He has identified 583 of the earliest converts and carefully reconstructed genealogies and attendant family histories for each. The result is really quite fascinating. A majority of the earliest converts to Mormonism came from family religious traditions that uniquely prepared them to accept the radical new Church. Ancestors of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt and other lesser known founding fathers, have a religious heritage spread among the Antinomians, Seekers, Anabaptists, Quakers and other radical religions (including the Family of Love). Rust endeavors to show that a proclivity for free-thinking in religious matters as well as a family tradition of "seeking" a restoration of original Christianity was transmitted along family lines. Although treated elsewhere, I particularly enjoyed Rust's presentation of the strong New England influence on Joseph Smith's family, and the indentifying of specific congregations to which they belonged.

To my knowledge, an attempt of this kind has never been made before, at least not on this scale. And it would be safe to say that Rust succeeds quite nicely with his hypothesis. While those unfamiliar to Mormonism may find find some of the references to earliest Mormon history a little arcance, there is no denying that he makes a compelling case for a people prepared to receive a restoration of the gospel. A 40-page appendix gives ther names of all 583 early converts in this study, together with their known ancestors through five generations.

This is the kind of work that reshapes our view of history and encourages us to look in a different direction for an historical understanding of those spiritual forces that drive us all. We need more research of this kind.
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Not being a Mormon, I approached this book somewhat hesitantly, but ended up being quite impressed by the author's research in proving his thesis. This book is an interesting and intricate detailing of the ancestry of those individuals who were numbered among the first converts of Joseph Smith in New York and Pennsylvania. The premise is that the majority of these early converts were descended from certain individuals who practiced "unorthodox" religious beliefs and migrated to western New York from New England. Basically, the idea behind the book is that these individuals, because of the history of radical religious thought and expression in their ancestry, were more likely to accept the rather radical ideas of Joseph Smith. Anyone interested in the Second Great Awakening or the Burned Over District would definitely find this book interesting.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Radical Origins" is a story of American religion and migration. Not everyone links Mormons with radical thought and colonial dissidence, but Rust shows us why we should. His well-documented research also reminds us that freedom of religion isn't always free, even in a nation founded by people seeking such freedom.

US westward migration was influenced by War of 1812 land grants and bad weather in New England, especially the "year without summer" in 1816. I would have liked to have seen more information about early Mormons' links to these stressful events. Early converts were perhaps destined to be receptive to a new ideas, as Rust shows, but land grants and poor crop weather also may have provided strong influence for a fresh start.

My family is not Mormon. An ancestor's older brother was an early Mormon, baptized in 1831. Both were born in VT, lived in upstate NY, and moved to OH, my ancestor before his brother. The brother and his family lived in Kirtland, OH, and Nauvoo, IL, before eventually settling in UT. One of his sons helped Mormons to settle in UT. I sometimes wonder why only one brother and his family joined the LDS. Rust's book doesn't answer my questions, of course, but it does provide interesting information on the brothers' shared times and history. I'm glad to have the book in my genealogy collection.
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