Given the state of medical knowledge during the 19th century, it seems likely that missionaries could have unwittingly spread disease, as they traveled from area to area. Historically, traveling merchants are today thought to have been a factor in spreading disease around the world, although I’m not sure to what extent that was known historically. It was considered a possibility early in Mormon history, if the following article is any indication. Local residents in Western New York State feared that Mormons might spread smallpox, and that Mormon beliefs might exacerbate the possibility:
Archive for October, 2012
For early Mormon church members in Nauvoo the death of Joseph Smith and the ensuing anti-mormon violence must have been very traumatic. With the trek westward beginning more than 18 months after the martyrdom and with initial uncertainty over who exactly should lead the Church, many members must have been uncertain what to do. And at least some of them decided to just go home.
In the mid to late 19th century, if you knew something unusual, of public interest, you set up a series of lectures on the issue, and toured starting in New York and Boston. Like it is today, this was a very common approach to the issues of the day, something less expensive and involved than publishing a book (in fact, it was a common way of promoting a book), and something that allowed discussion of issue more complex and involved than what could be published in newspapers. And Mormonism was one of those frequent topics that appeared on the lecture circuit.
This past week I came across a couple of newspaper articles suggesting that Mormons were looking to rent or even acquire real estate in Philadelphia in the 1840s. Given that there were perhaps 300 Church members in Philadelphia at the time, the idea seems improbable. But, these claims made the newspapers at the time.