Question: Why did Joseph Smith claim that the religious excitement in the Palmyra area in 1820 "commenced with the Methodists"?

Table of Contents

Question: Why did Joseph Smith claim that the religious excitement in the Palmyra area in 1820 "commenced with the Methodists"?

There is documented evidence that the Methodists were holding camp meetings in the Palmyra area in 1820

Joseph Smith claimed that the religious excitement in the Palmyra area "commenced with the Methodists":

It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

An article from the Palmyra Register June 28, 1820 shows that at least one camp meeting occurred at that time:

Effects of Drunkenness.—DIED at the house of Mr. Robert M'Collum, in this town, on the 26th inst. James Couser, aged about forty years. The deceased, we are informed, arrived at Mr. M'Collum's house the evening preceding, from a camp-meeting which was held in this vicinity, in a state of intoxication. He with his companion who was also in the same debasing condition, called for supper, which was granted. They both stayed all night—called for breakfast next morning—when notified that it was ready, the deceased was found wrestling with his companion, whom he flung with the greatest ease,—he suddenly sunk down upon a bench,—was taken with an epileptic fit, and immediately expires.—It is supposed he obtained his liquor, which was no doubt the cause of his death, at the Camp-ground, where, it is a notorious fact, the intemperate, the lewd and dissolute part of the community too frequently resort for no better object, than to gratify their base propensities.

We find in the following issue that the Methodist's objected to the paper's implication of what happened at their camp meeting, and the Register published something of a retraction. From the Palmyra Register July 5, 1820:

"Plain Truth" is received. By this communication, as well as by the remarks of some of our neighbors who belong to the Society of Methodists, we perceive that our remarks accompanying the notice of the unhappy death of James Couser, contained in our last, have not been correctly understood. "Plain truth" says, we committed "an error in point of fact," in saying the Couser "obtained his liquor at the camp-ground." By this expression we did not mean to insinuate, that he obtained it within the enclosure of their place of worship, or that he procured it of them, but at the grog-shops that were established at, or near if you please, their camp-ground. It was far from our intention to charge the Methodists with retailing ardent spirits while professedly met for worship of their God. Neither did we intend to implicate them by saying that "the intemperate, the dissolute, &c. resort to their meetings."—And if so we have been understood by any one of that society, we assure them they have altogether mistaken our meaning.

Therefore, the Palmya Register documents, indirectly, that the Methodist's were holding a camp meeting in June 1820.

For a detailed response, see: Methodist camp meetings in the Palmyra area in 1820

Notes