This thesis compares the dancing of the Shakers (The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearance) and the Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS Church) during the nineteenth century, as it was influenced by their doctrinal beliefs about the human body. Specifically, it examines how the role of the physical body in achieving mortal happiness and immortal salvation was viewed by each group and how these beliefs were reflected in their dancing. It describes the different forms of dancing performed by each religious group and how dance functioned as worship and recreation for the members of each religion during the nineteenth century.

Research for this study was taken from primary and secondary sources, including a large number of Shaker and Mormon journals, diaries, and autobiographies. Major doctrinal works from each religion were also consulted to compile a summary of doctrinal beliefs about the physical body for each religion.

This study found that the dancing of the Shakers reflected doctrinal beliefs of the need to be freed from the corrupt human body. In contrast, the dancing of the Mormons exhibited the Latter-day Saint belief in celebrating the body. The doctrines of each religion about the role of the body in attaining mortal joy and immortal salvation were easily recognizable in the dances that the two groups performed. Although beliefs about the body cannot be considered in isolation of other motivational factors, they can be used as a means of studying how and why particular religious or cultural groups dance. This method of evaluating dance, as a function of beliefs or ideologies about the human body, is given as a possible method for studying other cultural or societal groups who dance and whose beliefs about the body may be reliably gathered.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Dance



Date Submitted


Document Type





Dance, Religious aspects, Christianity, Symbolism, Shakers, Mormons