A people extraordinarily given to unusual religious beliefs

The Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle posted an interesting article about the Rochester area during the religious fervor that earned it the title, “Burned-over District.” Though not the focus, the article puts the birth of Mormonism within its cultural context. To foster some conversation and whet your whistle, here’s a short excerpt:

”Strange cults, psychic currents and extraordinary religious fervor rippled and roiled all across central and western New York during the first half of the 19th century. It became known as the “Burned-over District,” and within it ran a ‘psychic highway’ — a roughly 25-mile-wide belt along the Erie Canal, from east of Albany to west of Buffalo.

“Within these boundaries, writes Whitney R. Cross, congregated a people ‘extraordinarily given to unusual religious beliefs, peculiarly devoted to crusades aimed at the perfection of mankind and the attainment of millennial happiness.’

“At least seven new religions, sects and communes were established in the ‘Burned-over District.’ They included the Shakers near Albany, John Humphrey Noyes’ religious commune at Oneida and the Society of Universal Friends at Dresden and Jerusalem.

“They included the Millerites, who had a strong following in the Rochester area. They were convinced that the world would end on April 23, 1843, and then on Oct. 22, 1844 and, despite the obvious miscalculation, strongly influenced later Adventist religions.

“They included Joseph Smith, who established a new religion near Palmyra. Mormonism, eventually transplanted west, became the most successful of American-born religions.”

Though late LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley said the beginning of Mormonism was unique (Church News, 11/7/98 2), Joseph Smith’s claims of visions and angelic visits were not at all unusual. He was but one of many making such claims, gathering followers, and beginning new religions.

For more information see A Familiar Spirit.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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60 Responses to A people extraordinarily given to unusual religious beliefs

  1. Berean says:

    My guarantee comes from what Christ said in the New Testament (John 3:16; John 6:47 and Romans 6:23). It centers on what I what I believe and who is the center of that belief. A gift isn’t something you can earn. Eternity with Heavenly Father is not a reward – it’s a gift. Jesus perfected us by his offering, not us perfecting ourselves by our works or doing rituals (Hebrews 10:10-14).

    Those people that say they are believers in Christ that go right on continuing in sin with an idea of having a free license to do whatever they want are not believers in Him. They are only fooling themselves and the truth is not in them. I serve Christ because I love Him very much. He paid a price and a penalty for me that I never could. I obey and serve him because I WANT to – not because I HAVE to. There is a big difference. Christians obey Christ from the heart…a heart of gratitude (Romans 6:17). Christians are not under law and it is impossible to keep the commandments. The commandments were only to make us aware of our sin and the futility of our own efforts in trying to reach Heavenly Father in keeping them all (Romans 3:20). Christ fulfilled the law for us. His atonement fully completed what I need to have eternal life – the gift. I accept the imputed righteousness that Christ gives to me and the perfection that He gives me right now (Hebrews 10:14). This is available to all Mormons if they would only come to the Christ of the New Testament.

    The Mormon view is that everyone gets to go to heaven. There are three choices. 99% of all people will go to one of those. This isn’t the biblical Christian view. There is only one heaven. Instead the Bible says most people are going to outer darkness (Matthew 7:13-14). I don’t want Mormons going there. That is why I post on this blog. For those Mormons that are looking at this blog and not posting that are having issues with the Mormon belief system I encourage you to look at the New Testament message and come to Christ.

  2. subgenius says:

    i agree, there is a difference in want to and have to. However, your point seems to reflect that this difference does not matter because you have a “guarantee”. It is not a “gift” but rather a covenant. John 3:16 is clear that eternity comes with a condition, a condtion that is met through free-will, which is great gift from Our Heavenly Father. Romans 3:20 is not a comment on futility, but rather more support for the idea that there is no guarantee. Hebrews 10:14, again no guarantee, one must be “sanctified” – and faith is never without action.
    Finally, your assumption that Mormons have not already come to Christ is why you are unable to understand the truth that appears in God’s words. I am an LDS member and i have come unto Christ and i beckon you to come forth and realize that you can be a positive person in this world with the power to bring joy to lives everywhere.

    thank you for your sincere concern and thank you for the concise, valuable, and typical input except most of the anti-mormon commenters are so wordy.

    well said, indeed.

    what seperates us is our tolerance and the LDS church’s ability to establish a better organized Church of Jesus Christ. Your faith is strong and you are free to worship as you may, but know that you can be better. You can become enabled by your own admitted love of Jesus to impact the world with a positive and loving spirit.

    see my comment to Berean here but begin at “Finally”.

  3. Berean says:


    That “guarantee” is the big difference between Mormonism and Christianity. Christians know that they have eternal life based on the promise that is given in the Bible by the Living Lord (1 John 5:13). The Bible calls this a gift. I didn’t choose the word. The Holy Ghost did and that is the word used in the texts that I listed. You can’t earn a gift. What could we do to ever earn or work for such a gift from God? Our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

    I’m afraid that our Mormon friends don’t know what a covenant is. In the Bible there are two kinds: conditional and unconditional. The conditional covenant was in the Old Testament (Exodus 19:5). In the New Testament the covenant is unconditional. Nobody is justified by the law (Romans 3:20,28; The JST even says the same thing “faith ALONE”; Gal 2:16).

    Who is the sanctified in Hebrews 10:14? Look at verse 10: We are. Jesus did it all. It is finished. No more needs to be done; no more can be done. We receive imputed righteousness through Jesus.

    Mormons have come to Christ, it’s just the wrong one. There are a lot of Jesus’ running around. The Mormon Jesus is a different Jesus (2 Cor 11:4). We have Jesus’ around today such as Rev. Moon and others. David Koresh said he was Jesus. There is another man in New Mexico saying the same thing too. He was on CNN the other night. This was going on back in Jesus day and has never stopped. The real Jesus warned us as did Paul (Gal 1:6-9).

    I appreciate your concern, but I believe I am a positive person in this world now bringing joy to people that I am in contact with. I don’t feel it’s important to give references on the blog to validate it though. Sub, I will be praying for you. Have a good weekend, my friend.

  4. falcon says:

    People have a choice to follow the Christ of the Bible or to follow an imitation-this would be an antiChrist. It’s really not that difficult to see the difference. Everyday, on this blog and on others, the Jesus that provides salvation to all who will turn to Him in faith is presented in clear, unadulterated language. Momonism is a strong spirit. It’s very difficult to break free from its entanglement. The fear of spending eternity in outer darkness keeps a firm psychological grip on Mormons. The fact of the matter is that without deliverance by God’s Holy Spirit, that’s exactly were devout and committed Mormons will end up, outer darkness. Jesus was quite plain when He answered the people that claimed all these works in His name but weren’t saved. He told them to depart from Him. There’s a reason you Mormons are drawn here everyday. God is reaching out to you ready to set you free in Christ Jesus. You can have your own spiritual awakening like countless others have had. Trust in the Jesus of the Bible and you will receive the assurance of eternal life a part from any religious gymnastics you can do. Trust the real Christ today. He’s reaching out to you. Don’t reject Him. Today could be the day of your salvation.

  5. falcon says:

    The Great Awakenings in America were the result of a tremendous move of God’s Holy Spirit. Peeople came to an understanding that their salvation, their eternal destiny was the result of placing their faith in Jesus Christ. Religious rules, regulations and requirements not only won’t insure salvation, they often hinder faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They give a form of religion but lack the real power that comes with faith in Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Before his ascention Jesus told His disciples that they would receive the Gift of the Father and power from on high. On the day of pentecost the Father sent His Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire. This Baptism in the Holy Spirit provided the frightened disciples with the boldness to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bring salvation to a lost and weary world. The Christian life is not a list of rules or an endless repetition of religious rites and rituals. It is a life that is led by faith; by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gives us the means by which to live the transformed life. Faith in Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit leads us to a relationship with Jesus Christ and an intimacy with God that religion can’t provide. Just like people in the Great Awakenings, it’s time to wake-up. Wake-up to the fact that the endless, tedious treadmill of religion can’t provide, what a true faith in the real Jesus can. He is the Christ of the Bible. He’s not “a” god, one of many. A poor imitation and counterfit of the real Jesus can’t save. This is indeed a spiritual battle. The stakes are high. On one side of the battle Jesus reaches out with His nail scarred hands to lost sinners. On the other side is an imitation Jesus, an invention of false prophets and teachers who inslave people but bring no real assurance of salvation. Move from outer darkness to the eternal light of salvation through faith in Jesus.

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  7. Berean says:


    Thanks for posting this audio clip. As always, you offer us interesting perspectives on Christian history that are not very well known. I look forward to the next installment and in hearing how you have experienced this manifestation of power from God.

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