Joseph Smith as Occultural Bricoleur

Kent, Sheldon and Partridge, Christopher (2023) Joseph Smith as Occultural Bricoleur. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

[thumbnail of 2023kentphd]
Text (2023kentphd)
2023kentphd.pdf - Published Version

Download (1MB)


Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism), is arguably one of the most complicated and fascinating individuals to emerge out of the religious milieu of nineteenth century America. While, understandably, much confessional, not to say hagiographical literature has been produced about his life and work, as well as a number of largely biased studies by religious and secular detractors, there have been comparatively few objective, scholarly analyses. The most recent scholarly studies have contributed to our understanding of the social, cultural, and religious elements that influenced his religion building imagination. However, each has tended to focus on a particular feature of Smith’s religious background. One of the areas in which this thesis is distinctive, is that it argues that Smith was fundamentally and methodologically eclectic in his approach. In order to develop this line of argument, it uses Christopher Partridge’s theory of occulture to develop a thesis around the notion of Joseph Smith as ‘occultural bricoleur.’ Using the theory of occulture, we are able to see that Smith, rather than drawing on one or two features of the vibrant spiritual milieu of nineteenth century America, actually draws liberally from a range of sources. While it is argued that there were three foundational traditions that provided a loose framework for his early thought—Universalism, Swedenborgianism, and Freemasonry—it also argues that he incorporated a range of other popular folk and magical elements. As such the thesis provides a new theory of early Mormonism.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
16 Jun 2023 16:00
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 06:03