The Puritans also often referred to themselves as “saints.” Members of the LDS Church call themselves saints, not because we believe our behavior is particularly saintly (although it should be!) but saints was a term used Biblically to refer to members of the church Christ established. We also use the term in reference to the name of Christ’s church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Puritans came over to the New World almost exclusively in order to have religious freedom, just as Mormons fled westward seeking religious freedom; it was ironic that Mormons eventually had to leave the United States in order to find the religious freedoms promised in the Bill of Rights. The Puritans settled in the cold Massachusetts area (it was going through a mini Ice Age at the time), which helped them develop into hearty people and protected them from many of the contagious diseases so prevalent in the south. The men and women were strong and did physical labor. Utah, with its altitude and dry air, similarly provided protections against many transmittable diseases. Diseases still ravaged but they were relatively mild compared to pandemics further south.
While Puritan society was patriarchal, there was no tolerance for abuse of women (or men, for that matter). Their patriarchal society was founded on Biblical principles. Women and men were punished equally for adultery or other sins or crimes. Women, while principally domestic in their roles, were often encouraged to be intellectual, courageous, have strong characters, and have integrity. Puritan women in New England were not “just mothers” – they were fulfilling important roles as the “head of the family” (Fischer, p.85). The LDS church has a patriarchal priesthood. The extent of our patriarchal organization outside the priesthood organization is explained in The Family: A Proclamation to the World: “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”
While the Puritans differed significantly in their religious doctrine from the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which would not be restored to the earth for 200 years), there were some similarities. Puritans were Calvinists; they believed that some were predestined by God to go to Heaven. One sign of God’s grace was old age; the aged were venerated and respected. The elderly often were in political and religious positions of power. Many of the general LDS Church leaders (especially the Apostles) today are older – in their 60s through their 90s. However, as members of the LDS Church we do not believe that old age is a sign of God’s grace and mercy but we often do respect the wisdom of our elders. While we do not believe in predestination like Calvinists do, we believe in fore-ordination. We believe that many people were pre-ordained to certain responsibilities or missions or callings; this fore-ordination does not, however, determine those responsibilities or missions or callings.
Fischer, D. H. (1989). Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.