Early Mormon Perceptions of Contemporary America: 1830–1846

Since scholarly study of Mormon history parted company with polemics several decades ago, historians have become increasingly interested in locating Mormonism within the social, intellectual, and religious geography of Jacksonian America. Over the years much has been learned about how antebellum Americans perceived their “curious” counterparts, but far less has been documented about the reverse. It is still largely terra incognita. Extensive scrutiny of early Mormon primary sources ranging from periodicals and pamphlets to letters and diaries has revealed that the Saints commented on a wide variety of secular as well as sectarian aspects of nineteenth-century society. This paper, in particular, samples five such strands of their cultural and intellecutal history—the Mormon response to contemporary medicine, polite society, reform movements, science, and perfectionism.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 26:3
Purchase this Issue