Illusions of Innocence: Protestant Primitivism in America, 1630-1875

The restoration perspective has been employed in American life both as an ideal to be followed and as a guide for judgment. Illusions of Innocence is an excellent study of the restoration perspective in that it not only considers the restoration movement among Puritans, Baptists, Mormons, and “Christians” (referring primarily to movements led by Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and Benjamin M. Palmer), but also attempts to help us better understand the relationships between these traditions and the American experience.

Richard T. Hughes and C. Leonard Allen challenge the popular thesis that restoration evangelists (and many others) were responding to a mounting sense of social disorder. Although Hughes and Allen do not reject the view that social disintegration can intensify a belief in the need to restore an ancient order, they challenge those who focus their interpretations on a chaos or social disintegration theory. Hughes and Allen argue that if major restoration movements resulted almost exclusively from such disorders, their restoration pulse would subside when order was restored. The nineteenth-century movements explored in this work do not follow such a pattern.

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