The early Shaker belief system rested on an understanding that Christ's second coming had arrived. The founder of the sect, Mother Ann Lee, experienced a mystic vision of Christ while imprisoned. This vision was of the Christ and his church on earth. The early Shakers believed Ann Lee was the bride of Christ, and in this spiritual marriage Ann Lee and Christ had become one. Ann Lee was the second coming. Because of this dispensation, there was sufficient grace in the world for true believers to become perfect. The power to forsake sin was described by a member as, We materially differ from others in not only confessing our sins, but in receiving power to forsake them. We have experienced the second coming of Christ.
Shakers believed the proof of the second coming was in the apostolic gifts manifested by some of the Shakers. These spiritual gifts included speaking in tongues and the ability to cast out demons. The sect held distinctive worship, singing distinctive words as well as dancing in the worship service. Shakers believed that dancing was a gift of God in the church. Dancing is the gift of God to the church, or the way in which it has been led. In this exercise we receive that strength, and consolation to which the world are total strangers.
[...] Following Lucy Wright, leadership of the Shakers was divided between several individuals and no longer rested on a single charismatic figure. Leadership became collective which was the norm for the rest of Shaker existence. The middle of the nineteenth century saw the economic boom of Shaker communities. Since the westward expansion created a need for communication infrastructure, the communities had built in distribution networks for their cash crops, pressed herbs and seeds which offered the largest profit during this time period. [...]
[...] The Shakers developed the notion of the body of Christ existing with membership of the rich and poor, of all races, genders, united in one community. Shaker Villages in Massachusetts existed at the same time as the utopian communes of Brook Farm and Fruitlands. Even the liberal transcendentalists were caught by the spirit of communal life and common labor which expressed itself in Shaker life. After the demise of the transcendentalist communes, some members joined with Shaker Villages where sustainable communal life was a reality. [...]
[...] Communal labor did bring economic success for a time, with Shaker prepared herb and seed sales spreading throughout much of the nation in the early nineteenth century since the Shakers could communally afford the industrial capital to properly set up the scale required for such and industry and their traveling missionaries acted as the distribution network. The religious mandate came from their imperative that only through equal pooling of resources would the brotherhood and affection of all members be genuine. Realized Eschatology While millennialism was not unique to the Shakers, the notion that Christ had come again altered the urgency of the Dispensationalism. [...]
[...] The root cause of the arrests was over the herding of sheep, which the forces of the crown might capture since the Shakers did not take up arms. This was the first recorded public example of anti Shaker sentiment in the colonies. In a similar time frame of the incarceration of the Shaker leadership, the Baptist minister Valentine Rathbun published a negative account of the Shakers. This first apostate publication extolled the violent enthusiasm of Shakerism as witchcraft and delusion. [...]
[...] The Shakers were not wholly isolated from the rest of the world as time and worldviews shifted. Shakers were self critical of their distance from the rest of American and the world. Anna White of the Mount Lebanon Village offered the following claim in 1905: You may think that, cloistered as we are from the outside world, pursuing the even tenor of our ways, the larger affairs of life, those pertaining to country and nation and not directly affecting us, would not enlist our sympathy or engage our attention. [...]
using our reader.