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The United Society of Believers in Christs Second Appearing is an interesting religious group with over 200 years of history Commonly called Shakers the group first arrived in America in 1774 with only nine members This small collection of devoted believers worked tirelessly in the new world to grow their church to over 4000 members in 1840 The Shaker doctrine fell outside mainstream Christian theology and some of their beliefs such as a lifelong commitment to sexual abstinence seemed counterproductive to producing a stable church from such few fledgling members Yet despite these obstacles the Shakers were still able to grow This paper is going to analyze three different types of literature that has been published concerning the Shakers particularly their growth from the late eighteenth century through the first half of the nineteenth century The first group will be labeled as contemporary These works range in dates from the late 1700s to the late 1800s Many of these pieces were written by Shakers or by individuals that worked against the Shakers However there are a few pieces that chronicle different individuals experiences without any preconceived bias The second group will be labeled as internal These works are labeled as internal not because they were produced by the Shakers but because they focus on Shaker life and culture and how the Shakers viewed themselves The internal groups publication dates range from the beginning of the twentieth century until the late 1970s The final group will be characterized as external Many of these publications examine Shakerism under a critical light and try to examine the decisions made by the elders and eldresses by comparing them to external sources Most of these books and articles have been published since 1980 but go back as far as 1955 It should be understood that though these three groups have distinct publication periods dates are not what has divided them Their divisions are a result of source content and the
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