No. 22 February 2003
Because the emphasis in this website is on the architectural aspects of the early churches of New Jersey, we've noted the architect or master builder wherever that information was available. We have compiled a directory of individuals and firms who worked in the state, and offer it now, even in incomplete form, for suggestions, corrections and additions.
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the eighth century when the Muslim religion was founded has there been
a new religious denomination as successful as the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Better known as the Mormon church, it was
formally organized in 1831 at a time when dozens of new sects were formed
in this country, including the Owenites, Fourierites, and a variety of
perfectionist and millennial communities. Most died out within a generation
or less, but the LDS church thrived, with more adherents today outside
the U.S. than within the county, according to the Economist (12/21/2002).
Upstate New York was the spawning ground for many of these sects, and
was where Mormon founder Joseph Smith uncovered the golden plates in 1823
that contained the entire text of the Book of Moroni, although
the church was legally constituted in Ohio. The LDS headquarters were
soon moved to Missouri, but because of conflicts with neighbors in 1838-39,
the leaders were expelled and the church relocated to Navoo, Illinois,
where their history becomes much better known. Following the murder of
Joseph Smith and his brother in 1844, the major part of the faith left
for Utah (in 1847), where they flourished, although often amidst conflict
with other settlers and with the federal government. This is mildly interesting,
you may say, but where is the New Jersey connection?
There was a widespread falling away from the church after 1850; one historian says "this apostasy eventually became complete and universal, incurable at mere attempts at reform,"but Mormon religious services continued in the 1860s and early 1870s. The death of Smith caused a schism in the church, with some advocates for designating Joseph Smith's son, rather than Brigham Young, as successor. That group eventually became the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and some in New Jersey, according to depositions taken much later, became members of the RLDS. There are hints in the record that the Mormons were harassed here as they were elsewhere, and essentially chased from the state. A Methodist congregation in time took over the building, and sometime in the last several decades, it was acquired by the present congregation.
For additional information, see A.William Lund, “The Early Mormons of New Jersey” in The New Jersey Genesis, (n.p., n.d.) and Claire Bay and Alfred Carlson, A Bit of Zion on Barnegat Bay, 1997.