Social and economic upheavals in Vermont sparked a wave of intense religious fervor. Great competition arose between old denominations and many new faiths. Revivals, passionate emotional gatherings led by charismatic preachers, were conducted in churches, large tents, and clearings in the countryside. These meetings could last for days as people listened to sermons and prayed collectively. Revivals peaked around 1831. The main beneficiaries of this increased spirituality were established evangelical churches such as the Methodists and Universalists. The era also witnessed the creation of new sects and religions. Many of them failed, but some succeeded and prosper to this day, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons) and Seventh-Day Adventists.
Joseph Smith was the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was born in Sharon, Vermont in 1805. When he was ten, he moved with his family to western New York. Smith claimed he was visited by angels, who in 1827 delivered to him the record of the prophets of ancient America, which he translated into the Book of Mormon. Smith organized his church three years later and eventually was joined by thousands who followed him west to Illinois in search of Zion. Some of Smith’s closest followers, who became leaders of the church, were from Vermont. These men, who were successful missionaries in Vermont, included Brigham Young, Oliver Cowdery, Orson and Parley Pratt, and the Carter brothers of Benson.
William Miller was a charismatic Baptist minister. In the 1830s he preached to Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalists about his belief that the Advent, the second coming of Christ, would occur sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. Thousands believed Miller, but when nothing happened on the appointed dates, his reputation was ruined. Undaunted, Miller went on to create the Adventist Church in 1845 and continued to preach until his death in 1849.
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