Quest for Refuge
The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism
by Marvin S. Hill
The culmination of more than twenty-five years of research by one of Mormonism’s premier historians, this insightful new interpretation of the Latter-day Saint movement explains Mormon religious and political developments in terms of class struggle and a rejection of American pluralism. According to Hill, the Mormon attempt to develop a communal utopia under a theocratic government during the 1830s and early 1840s was in large measure a reaction to the diminishing role of religion in an emerging democratic, competitive, and increasingly secular world. Quest for Refuge skillfully details the religious, economic, political, social, and psychological challenges facing Joseph Smith and other early Mormons in their attempt to build a New Jerusalem in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
“From 1827 on,” Hill writes, “Joseph Smith had little good to say about contemporary religion, and his calling as prophet became increasingly important to him. To satisfy his own religious conscience, to escape contending denominations, to reconcile his parents’ differences on religion, to please his new bride, he had to find a church that he could accept and that would accept him. Joseph Smith at this point became a religious seeker. But he began with a much stronger sense of alienation from society than most other seekers of his day. His poverty, his much disparaged career as a money digger, his court trial, and his expulsion from the Methodist church left him outside the usual religious and social circles. He would of necessity have to pursue a course radically different from that of the ordinary seeker.”
Marvin S. Hill is a Professor of American History at Brigham Young University. He is co-author, with Dallin H. Oaks, of Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith, winner of the 1975 Best Book Award from the Mormon History Association; with C. Keith Rooker and Larry T. Wimmer, of The Kirtland Economy Revisited: A Market Critique of Sectarian Economics; and co-editor, with James B. Allen, of Mormonism and American Culture. He is married to Lila Foster. They have six children and currently reside in Provo, Utah.