Mormon History

Fascination With Religious Revivals - 1824

New York Religious Chronicle November 20, 1824

From the Christian Secretary.


Extract from a letter from Mr. Israel Douglass, of Leyden,
Lewis county, New-York, to Rev. Asahel Morse,
of Suffield, Conn. containing a short account
of a gracious Work of the Lord in that vicinity.

"In the month of February last [1824]. the Church generally arose, and made public confession of their stupidity and coldness. From that time an unusual zeal and engagedness was manifest in some of our brethren. Soon solemnity was depicted on the countenances of some of our youth.

Preachers and brethren began their labours, after the Apostolick order, from house to house.

On the first of May, the revival was powerful. On the 5th of May, six were baptized in the likeness of Christ's death. Meetings were frequent. Two or three at the same time in different parts of the town. Since May commenced, to Sept. 15th, one hundred and thwelve have been added to this church by baptism, and ten or twelve by letter....

In this part of the country there is a very genral and lamentable coldness which prevails, with few exceptions, if we mistake not, in all our churches. This is a circumstance that cannot be too deeply regretted; nor can the causes that have led to it, be too speedily investigated, or the means of its removal be too soon, to earnestly, or too prayerfully applied.

Palmyra, is one of the exceptions, and there are, we believe, a very few others of an encouraging nature, not many miles distant from this place. From these, however, we have not as yet received any very definite accounts... -- West. Recorder.

Note: By consulting various subsequent reports (in the NY Rel. Chrn. of Apr. 9, 1825 and various issues of the 1824-25 Western Recorder) the location of the "Palmyra" with religious developments of "an encouraging nature," is definitely identified as Palmyra, Wayne Co., New York. In 1824 the degree of religious activity demonstrated by that towns residents was "encouraging," but it had not reached the proportions of a full-blown revival. The editor of the Feb. 1825 issue of the Western New-York Baptist Magazine was probably reporting news from Dec. 1824 and Jan. 1825, when he said: "The town of Palmyra, N. Y. is graciously visited. It is hoped that about 100 [Baptist converts] have experienced pardoning mercy." Thid revival chronology agrees with the 1883 recollections of William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith, Jr. He says: "In 1822 and 1823, the people in our neighborhood were very much stirred up with regard to religious matters by the preaching of a Mr. Lane, an Elder of the Methodist Church, and celebrated throughout the country as a "great revival preacher. My mother, who was a very pious woman and much interested in the welfare of her children, both here and hereafter, made use of every means which her parental love could suggest, to get us engaged in seeking for our souls' salvation, or (as the term then was) 'in getting religion.' She prevailed on us to attend the meetings, and almost the whole family became interested in the matter, and seekers after truth." All evidence indicates that the 1822-1823 "regard to religious matters" by people in the Palmyra area did not develop into a remarkable revival until late in 1824. That revival carried over into the first months of 1825, bring with it a flood of new converts and revitalized old members into the local congregations. It was in the midst of this 1824-25 religious excitement that Lucy Smith and her children (Hyrum, Sophronia, and Samuel) joined the Presbyterian church in Palmyra. Their conversions to Presbyterianism evidently did not occur until after the death of Lucy's son Alvin -- who passed away in Nov. of 1823.