Research

joseph-smith-vision-mormonChristophanies during the Second Great Awakening: Throughout the early 19th century, numerous Protestant Christians within the young American Republic reported having supernatural encounters with Jesus Christ. Men and women claimed that Jesus visited them personally, while others dreamed of him, and some even claimed to be Jesus themselves. Scholarship has typically focused on only a few notable individuals, such as Mother Ann Lee, Joseph Smith, Robert Matthews, and the like, and this usually has been done in isolation. My research seeks to bring this perplexing religious phenomenon together in an attempt to better understand this wide occurring trend.

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Joseph Smith and the Presidential Election of 1844: In 1844, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, then mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, launched a presidential campaign, unlike anything the United States had ever seen. Smith believed that the United States had failed the Latter-day Saints and that only he would be a suitable candidate that his people could back. While Smith’s campaign for the presidency has been the subject of little research, most of has centered on Smith himself and the politics of Illinois. My research is focusing on how Smith’s campaign can be understood within Jacksonian Democracy, that is, the expansion of suffrage to non-property holding white men.

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American Witchcraft in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: With the dawning of the so-called ‘Enlightened’ eighteenth century, scholars have assumed that debate over the existence of witches was already almost at a close. Yet new evidence and a rereading of old sources suggest the belief in witchcraft did not decline, but rather, changed. Though previous generations had expressed extreme paranoia over the ever-present magical attacks of Satan via witches, the early eighteenth century came to understand the presence of witchcraft marginalized but not extinct. My research focuses on how ministers such as Johnathan Edwards, maintained belief in witches and witchcraft, despite displaying skepticism to the how previous generations had understood the power of the witch.

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The Religious Life of Andrew Jackson: While the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, has been the subject of much study, little has been done on his religious beliefs. Jackson spoke of God and providence often, he regularly turned to the Bible in times of need, and his final words expressed a belief that he was destined for heaven: “I hope to meet each of you in heaven. Be good, children, all of you, and strive to be ready when the change comes.” Jackson was also a member of the Freemasons and spent most of his life as a devoted Presbyterian. My research will focus on his personal beliefs, his concept of God and other theological issues, and reconstruct his religious life within the matrix of early 19th century America.

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The Colonial Bishop Controversy in Atlantic Perspective: The debate over the establishment of a Church of England bishop in and for the American colonies has been the subject of much scholarship but missing from most of this work is an Atlantic perspective. As the British Empire’s colonies extended beyond the Americas, into the West Indies and Africa, the appointment of a bishop in the so-called New World would have affected these colonies as well. By bringing in other British colonies and comparing their protests against and promotion of a colonial bishop, historians will have a better understanding of the colonial bishop controversy.

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The Existence of Jesus and the New Atheists: In recent years, a growing number of laypeople have developed an interest into the question of whether or not Jesus of Nazareth existed as a historical person. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Constantin-François Volney, Charles François Dupuis, and Bruno Bauer all advocated for the theory that Jesus did not exist as a historical person. While their arguments failed to convince the academy, their questions have persisted and inspired a new movement within North America, which also argues that Jesus did not exist. Originally known as the ‘Christ Myth theory,’ this school of thought has more recently adopted the moniker ‘Jesus Myth theory’ or ‘mythicism’. Those who support this theory call themselves ‘mythicists’ and label those who maintain the view that Jesus did exist as a historical human person as ‘historicists’. My work is focusing on how mythicism has also been amplified by internet conspiracy culture, pseudoscience, and media sensationalism related to the historical Jesus and Christian origins.

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