Religion In North American Towns

.. 0) house lots, the average family was to contain somewhere between fifteen (15) and twenty (20) people. As Reps notes, “Although the controversial doctrine of polygamy was not officially adopted until 1852, perhaps Smith had this already in mind when he devised the plan of his city.” Space was also a key element that can be found throughout the town plan. The streets of the town were wide and ran in a gridiron pattern throughout the town, while the residences in the town were pushed a good distance away from the streets. This made the town plan very efficient and systematic in nature.

While the town was still being laid out, converts continued to flock to both Independence and Kirtland, which continued to be occupied by some settlers of the Mormon faith. However, at the same time, local residents confronted the Mormons with threats and violence, triggered by fears of economic and political competition. Because of this violence, the Mormons were forced to flee to Illinois in 1839. Their city plan remained the same as they settled on the bank of the Mississippi River in a town that they called Nauvoo in Illinois. Joseph Smith was murdered while his newly founded city of Nauvoo flourished under his design so much so that in the 1840s, it “..became the largest town in the state.” Because of Joseph Smiths determination in the westward movement of his new found religion to the “City of Zion” in Independence, Missouri, John Reps considers him “..the most successful city builder of all the religious and utopian societies.” ? MORAVIAN TOWNS The Moravian Church began in Bohemia before the Unitas Fratrum (another name given to the Moravian Church) migrated to form the town of Herrnut, Saxony in 1722. This is where the church stayed until the decision was made to travel to the Americas in 1734, where they landed in Georgia.

An established settlement was never made in Georgia however, and in fact settlement of a town did not occur until they again migrated. This time they migrated north to Pennsylvania, where they began to establish a plan for a town named Bethlehem, in honor of the birthplace of Jesus Christ, that ran along the Lehigh River in eastern Pennsylvania. The land in this town was very good for harvesting crops, although the Moravians traditionally not a harvesting people. They specialized in industry, and in a fashion similar to that of the Mormons, they worked in an organization of the communal form, whereby the profits made from the mills and other crafts and industries were handed over to the public fund. From the public fund, the brethren in charge of the society appropriated them as they deemed necessary.

The Moravians were very particular and careful when developing their town plan much like Joseph Smith was in his planning of “The City of Zion.” The focal point of the town was the Gemein Haus which, according to Reps, was”designed as a community center, [but] also served as church, town hall, hospice, and church office.” However, as particular as they were in planning Bethlehem, they opted not to make it symmetrical (whether or not this was based on the topography, I could not find). They had communal housing that was similar to those found on modern day college campuses. On one side of the square in the center of town was the residency of the towns single males, which included widowers. On the other side of the town square was the residency of the town’s single females, including widows. Attached to each one of these community-housing establishments was a boarding school. Following the success of the Bethlehem town plan, Moravian town settlements were being formed with greater frequency from 1742 when Nazareth, Pennsylvania was settled, through 1766 when Salem, North Carolina was settled.

According to Reps, the settling of Salem in 1766 was the most important of Moravian towns. The land in the newly developed Salem was not very fertile. The land was sufficient for gardens, however it did not possess the qualities of the land in Bethlehem that allowed them to harvest more crops. But this was not as relevant to the Moravians as it may have been to the Mormons, because, as it is mentioned earlier, they were craftsmen by trade, not farmers. Therefore, even if the land were fertile, they would still probably depend on neighboring farmers.

The original plan for Salem, as it was platted by Christian Reuter, provided for a central Square, with”houses of the congregation grouped around it, and the streets radiating from it like spokes of a wheel.” However, Friedrich Marshall, who planned the town of Bethlehem, insisted to him in a letter that the town be closely knit socially, and that he consider this in developing the town plan. ? COMPARISON / ANALYSIS Many similarities existed between the two different religions and the respective town plans. The people residing in the Mormon towns, and the people residing in the Moravian towns “all worked under general church direction in a communal form of organization.” All of the money and assets of families within the communities was given back to the church, so that it could be appropriated back out into the community. One common aspect that both religions shared was a fixation on the one major building as the towns focus. In Kirtland, it was The House of the Lord, and in Bethlehem it was the Gemein Haus. However, there were also differences, not just in structure, that separated the two. The Gemein Haus served more purposes in the functioning of the town than did The House of the Lord.

Another aspect that both types of communities shared was that “church doctrines and settlement forms were considered to be closely related,” in both religions settlements. Both religions designed towns for a limited population within a closed society. Yet another common aspect shared by the two religions in their town plans was the importance of recruitment into their religion and communities. While the Moravians set-up missions specifically to teach Indians about Christianity in an attempt to convert them to their faith, the Mormons took a less direct approach. They too wanted to recruit individuals into their new religious practice, however they counted on the location of the town plan in Missouri to enable this to occur.

One main difference that existed between the two groups can be found in the skills of the people. The Moravians were craftsmen and individuals of industries, whereas the Mormons were much more agricultural in nature. Although the earliest Moravian town of Bethlehem was designed for communal living in a college dormitory-style, the latter southern Moravian town of Salem was designed with families in their own separate houses. The early communal form used a very conservative approach to the town plan by strictly separating the single men from the single women, including widowers and widows. On the other hand, Mormon towns such as the one planned for Independence, Missouri provided a much more liberal dwelling setting one that was designed to house families upwards of fifteen to twenty people large.

In the cities of today, individuals strive to be free to do their own thing, and avoid giving of themselves to benefit the community without incentive for the most part. In direct contrast, the communal aspect stressed by each of the aforementioned.

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