Mormon Rationalism in the Life and Conversion of Anson Call
Hadyn B. Call
Utah State University — Member ΦΑθ-AΓΟ
Published in Utah Historical Review, Vol IV.
In his article, “Infallible Proofs, Both Human and Divine: The Persuasiveness of Mormonism for Early Converts,” Steven C. Harper argues that Mormon conversion was a rational commitment and that Mormonism was an attractive, newly restored religion. He states that Mormon conversions did not come, “from the ranks of the superstitious and gullible” but, “Those who joined Mormonism came from a band of the spectrum where contemplative belief in the Bible melded into democratized rationalism.” He explains, “Converts thought about the primitive gospel, restoration of divine authority, healing, and the signs of the times,” not to mention the Book of Mormon, rationally and empirically. The purpose of this paper is to support Harper’s thesis, by illustrating, through the experience of one particular man, that early converts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became Mormons not because of irrational emotionalism or extreme spiritualism typical among the various Christian denominations of the Second Great Awakening, but because of empirical evidence, the most compelling of which was the Book of Mormon, rational thought, prayerful guidance, and a conscious decision. To elucidate how this Mormon rationalism unfolded, Harper tells the stories of sundry Mormon conversions including that of Anson Call. This short work will expound on Anson’s experiences to further support the thesis of this article and that of Harper’s essay. Mormonism grew steadily from its infancy. After its official organization on April 6, 1830, church membership increased and continues to do so today. Why did people find Mormonism attractive? What was the allure? “Mormonism simultaneously satisfied both the intellectual and spiritual longings of the adherents.” For Anson Call (1810-1890), this new religion answered life’s most significant questions, and he saw the Book of Mormon as indisputable evidence of its verity.
Hadyn B. Call is a history teacher for the Davis School District. He has an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from Weber State University and an MA in History from Utah State University. Currently, a student at Utah State University, Hadyn plans on finishing his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Social Studies in 2018.