The evidence presented in this thesis supports a view of the first Mormon men as coming from the agrarian majority of early nineteenth-century American farmers and artisans who embraced a set of manly ideals that differed significantly, in many ways, from those embraced by their middle-class contemporaries. These men's life writings attest to boyhood experiences of working alongside their fathers as soon as they were physically able, and subsequently of acting as substitute farmers and breadwinners as well as being put out to work outside the direct supervision of their fathers. Such experiences enabled them to frequently follow in the occupational footsteps of their fathers and almost always to marry at ages significantly lower that those of their more upwardly-mobile urban counterparts. Thus, they were able to follow a path to manly independence that was difficult yet direct and relatively rapid

Early Mormonism attracted an unparalleled percentage of men, who, in turn, embraced and supported the development of a the more self-confident and self-assertive theology of man in early Mormon doctrine. Compared to the other denominations of the day, a disproportionate number of early Mormon converts were, or were led to Mormonism by, men. Although these men had received prior religious instruction in their earliest years, typically from their mothers, the content of that instruction was not of the feminized variety stressed by many historians, and a significant portion of these men had been unable to achieve evangelical conversion experiences. Since many of them had previously turned to more liberal religious beliefs regarding the nature of man and his relationship to God, these men undoubtedly supported Mormonism's development of similar doctrines. Their rejection of revivalist rites of passage, which stressed submission and self-abnegation, is also consistent with their enthusiastic participation in more traditional, physically assertive, unrestrained and combative passages to manhood and rites of male bonding. Such beliefs and behaviors were in marked contrast to the manly self-restraint increasingly enjoined by the Northeastern middle class which has provided the model for most previous studies of nineteenth-century American manhood.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History



Date Submitted


Document Type





Men, United States, Religious life, History, 19th century, Identity, Mormon converts, Mormon men