Two early critics of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon noted:
A. Campbell wrote:Before this time synagogues with pulpits were built, ‘for the Zoramites,’ a sort of Episcopalians…
In considering the many possible inspirations for BofM peoples, beyond the observations above, I haven't found much exploring the possibility that Episcopalians may have served as inspiration for the BofM's Zoramites.E. Howe wrote:The next sect was a kind of Episcopalians, who were also heretics …
(and in another place)
The Episcopalians and Universalists can claim, on Mormon authority, great antiquity for their orders, at least fifty years before the gospel dispensation
How would one consider the question of whether the Zoramites may have been a parody of the Methodist Episcopalian church? What clues might exist in the text if Joseph's bricolage moved him to dictate a not so subtle condemnation of the same congregation he attended with Emma and the Hales during translation of Alma 31? By the way, this same congregation was headed by minister Nathaniel Lewis, who was also Emma's Uncle (Nathaniel's sister was Isaac Hale's wife, Elizabeth). So adding to the tension between Joseph and Isaac, we have Isaac's brother-in-law running the congregation and leading study classes, some of which we know Joseph attended, with a controversial ending. Separately, Adam Clarke was a Methodist Episcopal, and we know that Joseph was intimately familiar with Clarke's writing, thanks to the work of Wayment and Wilson.
Anyway, have any of you seen this explored before?
For your consideration, some interesting data points I found through reading. Episcopalian liturgical prayers and worship procedures are documented in the Book of Common Prayer (BOCP). The BOCP covers the practice of meeting on the Lord's day, specific rote prayers to recite while standing, in an elevated place, sometimes with a loud voice. Some of the prayers begin with "Holy, holy..." and invoke a recitation of parts of the Nicene creed. It discusses election and predestination/preordination, and discusses status as a holy, chosen people. Thanks is given for holiness and for God's election. All incredibly similar to the Zoramites. It is easy to see why Campbell and Howe noticed and simply labeled the Zoramites as Episcopals.
Later, as we transition from Alma 31 to 32, the motifs of pride, vanity, and being puffed up, all leading to denying Christ and, worse, grinding the face of the poor. A number of phrases here are in common with a heading to Matthew Henry's Exposition, in the preview and commentary on Corinthians re Paul's response to "gross disorders" during his absence. Henry notes that Paul had labored with "great success," but that wealth and pride led to lust and vanity, manifest in luxury dress, being "puffed" and ultimately leading the people to "dispute against the doctrine of the resurrection." Further on, Henry notes that these gross errors led to mistreatment of the poor by the rich during the Lord's supper, "the rich despised the poor, and ate and drank up the provisions that they themselves brought, before the poor were allowed to partake; and thus some wanted while others had more than enough. This was profaning a sacred institution, and corrupting a divine ordinance, to the last degree." Henry continues still later, "such behavior tended much to the shame and discouragement of the poor, whose souls were as dear to Christ, and cost him as much, as those of the rich."
So it's an interesting set of correspondences between Zoramites and Episcopalians, noted by at least two of Joseph's contemporaries. After a little bit of digging, I found some expanded correspondences between the pattern of apostacy > denying Christ > grinding the face of the poor. If Alma 31 opens a parody of Methodist Episcopalians to which Joseph had direct experience while translating, then the adaptation also includes, via chapters 31-32, a damning rebuke of its members by incorporating the pattern found in Henry's Exposition, namely that when converted members fall away, the grossest perversion leads to denying Christ, which is revealed by the action of cutting off the poor from formal worship.
Sources can be provided, for any of the quotes or summaries above.