To Overcome the “Last Enemy”: Early Mormon Perceptions of Death

American society in the years prior to the Civil War was, generally speaking, “saturated” by a concern with dying. Indeed, throughout the nineteenth century the specter of physical demise was, to quote a recent study of the subject, a “familiar personage in most Victorian households” and on most Victorian minds. However, in contrast to the fearful vision of death dictated by the strict Calvinism of early New England, Americans of the 1800s responded to it with qualified resignation, as is manifested in the following verse, published in 1820, which combines a sense of the futility of mortal existence with the prospect of justification for having faithfully served the Lord while in the earthly probation.

Instead of the eternal agony conceived by earlier generations, these later ones, the cultural offspring of romanticism and Jacksonian enthusiasm, expected an immortality that offered a cessation of evil and an endless time of peace and harmony.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 26:3
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