Most people have heard of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, but far fewer are familiar with Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson, the Smokey Mountains very own (non-Mormon) ‘latter day saint.’
Tomlinson went to the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina to hand out Christian tracts to the mountain people, hoping to convert them. Instead Tomlinson, was himself changed after he said he experienced a vision on a mountain. He then took over the fledgling Church of God of Prophecy, which today claims more than 700,000 members.
Among the beliefs of the Church of God of Prophecy are that this particular brand of Christianity was created by Jesus and restored only in modern times through the likes of Martin Luther and later, Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson. The Church believes in strict literalism, and take the word of the bible as infallible. They also practice immersion baptism, feet washing, and all members must profess to be being born again before being made official members.
Curiously, Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson, to commemorate his vision of the Church of God of Prophecy, he marked the spot of his revelation by founding the successful religious theme park, Fields of the Woods close nearby. It s one of the oldest such theme parks in the country, and one of North Carolina’s most successful tourist attractions.
The main draw of the park is no doubt the massive Ten Commandments, the world’s largest, written on a hillside with concrete letters 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Among the other attractions are “the world’s largest altar, a concrete structure 80 feet long erected where Tomlinson prayed, and the world’s largest New Testament, an open concrete Bible 30 feet tall and 50 feet wide.”
Besides just enormous religious symbols, the park also boasts a Baptismal Pool available to be used for Summer baptisms, a re-creation of Golgatha “the place of a skull” where Jesus was said to be crucified, and a re-creation of Jesus’ Tomb.
In case all this hiking up huge religious monuments, and exploring replicas of sacred burial sites gets the visitor peckish, nearby the tomb is the “Burger Mountain Cafe” where you can snack on home made fudge, all while never having leave the location of modern religious revelation.