School of music
Thinking Aloud
Beautiful Death in 19th Century America
Physician and student of history Samuel Brown has made a study of the beliefs surrounding death in parts of Protestant New England (and areas influenced by Protestant New England) in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. What in most instances is now a very private moment, the deathbed scene, was then a very public event. If the deathbed scene happened to be your own, you were likely expected to ""perform"" your death for others in prescribed ways. This cultural phenomenon, known as the "Beautiful Death," played a vital role in the religious edification of all those who attended the decedent's deathbed scene. The article behind this interview, "The 'Beautiful Death' in the Smith Family," appeared in BYU Studies (vol. 45 no. 4, 2006), wherein Brown focuses on the way this mode of bereavement shaped the behavior of the founding family of Mormonism, the Joseph Smith Sr. family.—Original airdate: 5/10/2007

Listen to Audio

<< Back to archive