Mormonism began in a cauldron of religious excitement. The Pennsylvanians, eastern New Yorkers, and Yankees who left the rocky soil, rigid society, and lack of opportunity of the New England hill country in the 1790s to settle west of the Catskill and Adirondack mountains were mostly young, disillusioned with their previous economic and spiritual life, and ready to adapt to a new one. When in 1799 and 1800, the Second Great Awakening began to sweep the country, it struck a tinderbox in western New York.
Another source states… the book of Mormon represents a rewording of Smith s [founder of the religion] private concerns and the larger issues swirling about western New York. Certainly the origin of the American Indian, anti-Masonism, anti-Catholicism, and questions of authority, predestination, and baptism loomed large in the minds of the Book of Mormon. Such parallels suggest to some scholars that the book originated in the fertile mind of a questioning youth [Smith] in nineteeth-century western New York, not in ancient America.
However, Ray Benedict West, Jr. in Kingdom of the Saints insists that Smith s limited education made it impossible for him to produce such a long and complex book himself. The issues in the book are seen by defenders as universal, and likely to have aroused interest in ancient times as well as in modern America. Some Mormons have pointed out a number of esoteric connections between their scripture and ancient Mediterranean cultures.
Since the Book of Mormon does not pretend to tell the history of all of the peoples of the entire Western Hemisphere, there is always the possibility that the particular peoples whose story is recounted in the Mormon scripture existed elsewhere than the places and times that have been thoroughly investigated by archaeologists.
Whatever the origin of the Book of Mormon, its translation raised some questions. One source states that: Beyond the preparation of the Book of Mormon, the exact nature of that cause was yet to be specified. In May of 1829, Smith wrote, he and Cowdery on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found in the translation of the plates.
While the two prayed, a being who identified himself as John the Baptist appeared to them and, laying his hands upon their heads, conferred upon them Priesthood if Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the Gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. At an unspecified date later that summer Peter, James, and John, the ancient apostles, similarly restored the Melchizedek, or high, priesthood, the authority by which Smith and his followers would establish a church.
The same source goes on to quote Smith, From this time forth, Smith later wrote, many became believers, and some were baptised, whilst we continued to instruct and persuade as many as applied for information. In the Book of Mormon it states…if ye believe and are baptised with water and fire, it shall be well in day of judgement… This tall, robust, blue-eyed man [Smith] could receive a revelation, wrestle a workman, outrun a mob, and develop plans for a model city virtually in the same day. He incited many to either despise or deify him. Inside him was a force that impelled him to prophethood and attracted devoted followers to him.
As Sir Richard Francis Burton notes in The City of the Saints and Across the Rocky Mountains to California…the best biographies have been written out of hate or disdain posses the stuff of life, portraying for our imagination a vibrant if rascally scapegrace. The saintly Joseph of Mormon biography, on the other hand, has often seemed to dwell above human passion and earthly circumstance. Both extremes miss the heart of man, whose often contradictory acts and paradoxical rhetoric suggest that the stereotypes ignore his humanity.