was born in 1801 born in Whittingham, Vermont. He was the ninth of eleven
children, growing up in an unsettled frontier environment characterized
by frequent family moves to various communities throughout upstate New
York. Despite the influences of a strict, moralistic family and being
exposed to the religious fervor that characterized the "burned-over-district"
of upstate New York, he was slow to associate with a particular religious
denomination until he formally joined the Methodist Church in 1824.
His formal education was minimal and he was apprenticed to be a carpenter,
painter, and glazier--trades which he used to support himself. In 1824
he met and married his first wife, Miriam Works, by whom he had two
By 1830 he was
living in Mendon, New York where he first came in contact with the teachings
of the newly-formed Mormon Church. However, he did not submit to baptism
until 14 April 1832 and only then when other members of his immediate
family joined. He found Mormonism appealing in its emphasis on Christian
primitivism, its millennialistic orientation, authoritarianism, certain
Puritan-like beliefs, and the fact that it offered him an avenue to
achieve status and recognition through its lay priesthood.