The Shakers view their founder, Ann Lee, as being sent from God to redeem the chosen seed, or the Shakers, by teaching them to lead a pure life of celibacy. Ann Lee delivered her message to those who were willing to listen to the truth that she dispensed. She revealed the truth to others, but at the same time she was revealed to be the female manifestation of Christ. Her role as spiritual head of the society was essential to the recognition of Lee as none other than the Second Appearance of Christ on earth. The Shakers had only a rich oral tradition until Lee died in 1784. After her death, the need for a written doctrine intensified. In early unpublished Shaker manuscripts, doctrinal beliefs of Ann Lee as the Second Corning of Christ appeared as early as one year after Lee's death. However, the first substantial published doctrine of the Shakers did not appear until the 1800s, nearly twenty years after Lee's death. It was during this transition from an oral tradition to a formalized, published doctrine, that the Shakers fully grasped the idea of Ann Lee as the Second Corning of Christ. Furthermore, they understood the importance of celibacy as the truth of the New Millennium. Ann Lee delivered this message of the celibate life to her followers, and although she did not record any of her teachings, many writings of those whom she taught have survived to this day. By examining their words, it is clear that the doctrine of celibacy was at the core of Lee's teachings. It is also apparent that, by viewing Lee as the Second Corning of Christ, her followers completely surrendered to her teachings since they were seen as direct revelation from God. Lee taught her followers the truth of celibacy and this is what the Shakers reveal in their earliest manuscript writings and published doctrine.


Duntley, Madeline


Religious Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

Request Access



© Copyright 2003 Marta N. Zaborowski