Study Questions

Paul E. Johnson & Sean Wilentz
The Kingdom of Matthias

How did the meeting end of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Prophet Matthias in Kirtland, Ohio? What, according to the authors, did they have in common? Who were "Finneyites"? What issues relating to economics and gender raised so much hostility to them?

How did Elijah Pierson's boyhood and youth affect him? Describe his rise and success in New York City. Describe Pierson's religious development and his marriage. What was "retrenchment"? Describe their mission goals and activities. How was Elijah affected by Sara's illness and death? What do the authors mean when they say, "In its odd and touching way, the life of Elijah Pierson was a love story" (p. 14)?
Note: Lewis and Arthur Tappan were brothers who were very successful in business. They used their wealth to further philanthropic causes like missionary societies, colleges, and theological seminaries, as well as the causes of temperance and Sabbatarianism. They are best know for their active support of antislavery organizations.

Describe the community of Scottish immigrants in the Coila neighborhood of Cambridge, New York, in which Robert Matthews grew up. What kind of young man was he as he made his way up in the world? Describe his religious development after he lost his economic independence. Who was Edward Norris Kirk, and what was his role in the lives of the Matthews family? How did Matthews become a "prophet"? As he traveled, what sort of person did he become, with what message?
Notes: Jeffersonians would evolve into the Democratic Party after 1830.
Tammany Hall was a political organization in New York City originally organized to support Jefferson's party. It later became the powerful political headquarters of the Democratic Party in the city.
The Bucktails were a faction of Jefferson's party in the 1820s that evolved into major supporters of the Democratic Party when it was founded later.
The Anti-Masonic movement arose after the mysterious disappearance of William Morgan in western New York in 1826. Rumors arose that the Masons had killed him to prevent him from exposing the secrets of their organization. Masons were suspected of being a pseudo-aristocracy that secretly controlled the nation, and the Anti-Masonic Party began winning elections. After a poor showing in the 1832 Presidential election, it disappeared.
The Whig Party was organized in 1834 to oppose President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. Whigs favored government policies to foster national economic development and a strong national government. In the North they tended to support moral reform movements like temperance, Sabbatarianism, and by 1850, antislavery.

In New York, what was the Prophet Matthias's message, and how did he live and dress? Describe Matthias's run-in with the mob and the police. Describe the household at "Mount Zion" in Sing Sing, New York, and the Prophet's lifestyle there. Identify Isabella Van Wagenen's origins, the tragedies of her life, and her religious journey. How were sexual relationships reshuffled at Mount Zion?

Why did Isabella Laisdell leave? Describe Benjamin Folger's revolt, and Ann's slow return to him. How did Pierson die? How did Benjamin Folger lay a trap for Matthias? How did the penny press treat Matthias's murder trial? How did Matthias's lawyers win a dismissal of murder charges? Of what was Matthias actually convicted, and what was his sentence?

Who wrote books about the affair, and with what motives? How did Matthias foreshadow people like Jim Jones and David Koresh? What happened to Matthias afterwards? Who is Isabella Van Wagenen now better known as?