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🚀  Thematic Guides

🐎  Unit 4: 1800-1848

🌎  Unit 7: 1890-1945

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4.10 The Second Great Awakening

#period4

#secondgreatawakening

#charlesfinney

#mormons

⏱️  4 min read

written by

Robby May

robby may

sally kim


Beliefs

People began to believe that ordinary people should have a say within the government. They extended this idea into churches, and ministers now had to appeal to everyone else as their success depended on how much they appealed.

Calvinist (Puritan) teachings of origin sin and predestination had been rejected by believers in more liberal and forgiving doctrines such as those of the Unitarian Church.

  • Original Sin: is the doctrine which holds that human nature has been morally and ethically corrupted due to the disobedience of mankind's first parents (Adam and Eve). The doctrine of original sin holds that every person born into the world is tainted by the Fall, and people are powerless to rehabilitate themselves, unless rescued by God.

  • Predestination: is about God being in control of all that happens through history, including his choice of saving some people for himself, while allowing others to go their own way along the path of sin.

Emotional religious experiences became important because Market Revolution caused their work and economic relationships to become less personal.

🎥 Watch: AP US History - The Great Awakenings

Charles Grandison Finney

Charles Grandison Finney, the best known preacher of the Second Great Awakening, taught that sin was voluntary. He believed everyone had the power to become perfect and free of sin. He also saw that women could help convert their husbands and fathers.

He sought instantaneous conversions through a variety of new and controversial methods. 

  • Holding protracted meetings that lasted all night or several days in a row. 

  • Placing an “anxious bench” in front of the congregation where those in the process of repentance could receive special attention

  • Encouraged women to pray publicly for the souls of male relatives. 

  • Sometimes listeners fell to floor in fits of excitement.

The Legacy of the Second Great Awakening

The Second Great Awakening touched off social reforms. This is how it differs from the first 100 years earlier, which focused on bringing people back to the church. Activist religious groups provided both the leadership and the well-organized voluntary societies that drove the reform movements of the antebellum period such as abolition, temperance, etc. 

Baptists and Methodists

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/1839-meth.jpg

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

In the South on the western frontier, Baptist and Methodist circuit preachers, such as Peter Cartwright would travel from one location to another and attract thousands to hear their dramatic preaching at outdoor revivals or camp meetings.

Highly emotional camp meetings were usually organized by Baptists or Methodists. In the southern backcountry, it was difficult to sustain local churches with regular ministers. The Methodists solved the problem with circuit riders.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

Joseph Smith of Palmyra, New York was the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In 1830 he revealed that he had received over many years a series of revelations that called upon him to establish Christ’s pure church on Earth.

He published the Book of Mormon, a scripture in which he claimed to have discovered and translated with the aid of an angel. Basically, the Book of Mormon covers the following: 

  • It was the record of a community of Jews who left the Holy Land six centuries before the birth of Christ and sailed to the American continent. 

  • After his crucifixion and resurrection, Christ appeared to this community and proclaimed the Gospel.

  • 400 years later, a civil war in the group annihilated the believing Christians but not all the descendants of the original Jewish migrants. 

  • One of those survivors contributed to the ancestry of the American Indians. 

Smith and those converted to the faith were committed to restoring the pure religion that have one thrived on American soil by founding a western Zion where they could practice their faith and carry out their mission to convert Indians. 

In the 1830s, Mormons established communities in Ohio and Missouri. The one in Ohio went bankrupt and then later was the target of angry mobs. Smith led his followers back across the Mississippi to Illinois where he received a charter from the state legislature. 

Smith then reported new revelations that caused hostility from neighboring people. The most controversial was the authorization of polygamy. In 1844, Smith was killed by a mob while being held in jail.

In 1845, Smith's successor, Brigham Young, decided to send a party of 1500 men to assess the chance of a colony in the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake. In 1846, 12,000 Mormons took to the trail. Young arrived in Salt Lake and sent word back on the trail that he had found the promised land. 

🎥 Watch: AP US History - Abolitionism and Reforms

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