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This history of Mormonism can be traced back to a single story: in 1823, a young Joseph Smith was visited by an angel in a vision. Yet all of the earliest sources forgo the term vision, and instead describe a dream. This research will argue that Smith's original religious career was founded upon an early "dream narrative," which was later edited into a vision by 1830. The question of why Smith would advertise a dream as the basis of his religious authority leads this research to investigate the cultural context which surrounded Smith. Through analyzing the roles of dreams in nineteenth-century popular religion, treasure digging, and folk magic, it becomes clear that Smith was familiar with, and participating in, a popular culture which took dreams seriously as conduits for the supernatural. This culture, in turn, informed his early religious pursuits. Ultimately, the dream narrative becomes a lens by which we can view and understand early American beliefs about dreams, visions, and metaphysics.
Mormonism, Dreams, Visions, Nineteenth-Century America, American Religion,