Review: The Persistence of Polygamy, Volume 1

Persistance of PolygamyThis intriguing volume has been available for several years now, but I only recently read it through in its entirety. This is germane at this time because Brian C. Hales and his lovely wife, Laura, will be coming out with a related book in the near future.

Besides, I always think it is germane to talk about polygamy. Especially if it means I can further explore the terrible damage John C. Bennett inflicted with his corruption of sexuality in Nauvoo.

Three volumes are planned in the Persistence of Polygamy series, with this first volume discussing the Origins of Polygamy and Joseph Smith. This is the controversial and bothersome part for so many people. The issue of how polygamy evolved after Joseph’s death isn’t particularly controversial, in my opinion. I do wish I could have been a bug on the lapel of Brigham Young in the fall of 1844, able to ask him the reasons for his actions. But after the die was cast in September, 1844, the way things evolved was understandable and a matter of history.

A third volume, which has not yet appeared, will talk about polygamy after the Manifesto, primarily (as I understand it) focusing on the fundamentalist groups who persist in practicing polygyny today.

At the very end of the collection, Jessie L. Embry asks: “Where does the study of polygamy go from here? As I read through these essays, I wondered if scholars need to come up with new questions, Maybe there are questions other than when Joseph Smith married his first plural wife? How many wives did he have? How old were they? And how did people react?” 1

Jessie continues: “While I recognize the need for new questions, I am caught in the old trap… I believe that scholars will continue to just rehash the same information unless someone comes up with new questions. Then Mormon history could be “researched” and “reinvestigated” and not just “retold,” defended, or attacked…” 2

For my part, I was continually frustrated that the impact of John C. Bennett, so obvious to me, is entirely absent from these essays. Bennett himself is nominally present, but the vast scope of what happened is clearly still being ignored in this volume, reflecting research as recent as 2010.

Why Polygamy?

Section 132 and Joseph Smith’s Concept of Family
Craig L. Foster (pp. 87-98)

I should remark here that I am not using the full titles of articles, but the short and pithy versions that grace the tops of odd pages in the book.

Had I edited this book, I would have started out with Craig L. Foster’s delightful explanation of Joseph’s teachings regarding eternal families, which necessitated instances of polygamy. It is, for an individual comfortable with the Mormon view of eternal families, entirely non-troubling.

Craig L. Foster and I have interacted on the internet over my Faithful Joseph series, so I was braced for some semblance of the impression I had formed from those interactions. Instead, I find the Craig L. Foster of this essay to be someone I would love to meet. His thinking on this matter entirely conforms to my own feelings. I was entirely delighted by his explanation of the four-generation family unit referred to as derbfine, used in North Britain and Ireland to define descent of property. An image of the traditional four generation genealogical charts flashed into my mind, with an “Ah Ha!” feeling.

The only other comment I noted was Craig L. Foster’s description of the saints literally rushing from a meeting at which Joseph had preached about baptism on behalf of the dead, running down into the waters of the Mississippi to be baptized as proxy. I’m sure that is factual, however the first such baptism didn’t occur until a month after the Brunson funeral, when Jane Nyman prevailed upon Brother Olmstead to perform a proxy baptism of her son, with Jane acting proxy.

My written comment at the end of this article, however, was “Nice – very lovely, but hardly touching on the matter at hand.” However it is that very niceness that makes this particular essay a nice break from controversy, a chance for the possibly troubled soul to regroup.

The First Instance of Polygamy?

Weighing the Case of Fanny Alger
Don Bradley (pp. 14-58)

My husband finished reading this article before I had a chance to do so. He commended it to me. He said that the author was dispassionate and looked at the pros and cons of all the evidence. It was only then that I recognized that this was written by Don Bradley. And I do like Don Bradley. Aside from his writings, my personal interactions with him (via the internet) have left an impression that he is a gentle, thorough, and kind individual.

The upshot of this delightful article is that all the data is consistent with Fanny Alger formally covenanting with Joseph in the spring of 1836, after Joseph would have received the sealing power from Elijah in the Kirtland Temple. Yet Don Bradley leads us through the key data, so by the end we as readers feel entirely comfortable with how Don arrives at this hypothesis.

One bonus point for me is that he sheds light on a matter that involves my ancestor, Jonathan Harriman Holmes, who would have been a boarder in Joseph’s home in October 1835, when Joseph writes that he dismissed his boarders. Don Bradley makes the case that the boarders of whom Joseph was talking were likely men associated with the printing office. 3 Thus when Joseph dismissed his boarders, it does not necessarily mean that Jonathan Harriman Holmes was dismissed from the home. Assuming I ever do publish my midrashic novels about early polygamy, this minor factual point will play a relatively important role. So thank you, Don, for allowing me to more plausibly spin a tale.

I would quibble with a few points.

First, Don is entirely uncritical about Chauncy Webb’s assertion circa 1885 that Fanny Alger had been pregnant. By the time Chauncy reported his recollection of Fanny’s state, he was officially opposed to Brigham Young and polygamy, based on the infamous divorce that occurred between Brigham Young and Webb’s daughter, Ann Eliza Webb.

As for reasons a roommate might suppose a woman was pregnant, I myself was questioned regarding pregnancy as a teen due to stress-related cessation of menstruation, so this possible explanation for Webb’s late recollection regarding pregnancy resonates with me.

Second, Don is absolutely certain that Emma made her fuss regarding Fanny because she discovered Joseph and Fanny being intimate together. Here again, I don’t believe the data are as conclusive as he has presumed.

Third, Don’s certainty regarding how Emma perceived the relationship between Joseph and Fanny prevents him from more expansively exploring why Oliver Cowdery reacted as he did. As I watched Don lay out the data, it actually occurred to me for the first time that Oliver Cowdery himself makes a great candidate for having officiated at the sealing of Joseph and Fanny, if one temporarily ignores his reaction to Emma’s distress. His departure from Mormon circles would explain why the officiator of this ceremony is unknown. Fanny’s departure from the community would explain why Joseph and Emma never bothered documenting the ceremony.

Despite my quibbles with Don’s certainty regarding points that I don’t consider settled, Don Bradley’s article here about Fanny Alger is an absolute gem.

Did Joseph father children with his plural wives?

Joseph Smith and DNA
Ugo A. Perego (p. 233-256)

Speaking of the widespread certainty that Joseph necessarily had sex with his plural wives and engendered children, Ugo Perego’s exploration of the DNA evidence is by far the most important article in this book. You should buy the book just so you have a copy of this article. Seriously. Here’s the Amazon link so you can go purchase it now. I’ll wait.

I should mention that I have a soft spot in my heart for Ugo Perego as well. He’s Italian, and I served my mission in Italy. So he’d pretty much have to firebomb my house for me to get irritated with him. Besides that, he’s been so gracious the times that I have e-mailed him, asking about his research into the DNA evidence.

Obviously not every instance of sexual contact is guaranteed to result in pregnancy. And not all pregnancies result in a baby. Of the babies known to have been born to women believed to be Joseph’s plural wives, several died before they engendered children of their own.

But for those cases where a child survived and produced a posterity that survives to our day, there is no case where Joseph’s paternity is proved. Ugo leads us through this analysis and the techniques required to test the hypothesis of Joseph’s paternity.

In the case of Sylvia Sessions and her daughter, Josephine Lyons [Fisher], the data is not yet conclusive. Though the indications Joseph engendered a child with Sylvia are faint, there was genetic overlap. Ugo looked into the other ancestors of Sylvia’s posterity by her daughter Josephine, and finds that there is common ancestry between Joseph Smith and the descendants of Josephine Lyons. Therefore, the tentative indication that Joseph could have fathered Sylvia Session’s child has an alternate explanation.

In the sea of speculation based on rumor and inference, Ugo Perego’s solidly scientific work is a delight.

So did Joseph have sex with married women?

The Puzzlement of Polyandry
Brian C. Hales (p. 99-151)

Brian Hales examines the question of whether or not Joseph can rightly be accused of committing adultery with married women. Though Joseph certainly covenanted with married women, Brian Hales finds that there is no proof that Joseph engaged in sexual polyandry, where both Joseph and the legal husband of a woman were both engaging in sex with that woman during the same period of several months.

Brian is a sweet and gracious individual. I’m not sure what he thinks of me. I have had delightful correspondence with Brian’s wife, Laura. So at any rate, I would be happy to treat them to dinner should they ever be in the same town as me and have a free evening.

Intriguingly, Brian Hales presumes that Josephine Lyons was engendered by Joseph Smith, despite the tenuous state of the DNA data. Brian proposes that when Windsor Lyon was excommunicated in November 1842, this was seen by Sylvia as an end of their marriage, certainly from an eternal standpoint. This, then, would have been a timeframe when Sylvia could have entered into an eternal marriage with Joseph Smith that might have legitimately included sexuality, as Windsor might be understood to no longer be in the picture from the perspective of marriage. Thus Brian proposes that the undocumented date of the sealing between Sylvia and Joseph occurred between November 7, 1842, and the likely conception of Josephine in May 1843. Brian ignores the fact that Sylvia reportedly witnessed the sealing of her mother, Patty Sessions, to Joseph in March 1842. Such an act, a woman serving as witness to the sealing of a plural wife to Joseph, is the sole “documentation” supporting the undated sealings joining Joseph to Elizabeth Durfee and Sarah Cleveland, incidentally two other married women Joseph supposedly married.

While Brian has found a place where he can have Josephine as Joseph’s biological daughter, as inferred from Sylvia’s deathbed confidence to her daughter, and yet claim this didn’t comprise polyandry, he does not question this construct by examining why Sylvia would have witness the sealing of her mother to Joseph in March 1842 or what could have prompted a sealing between Sylvia and Joseph in 1843. Also, secure in his belief that Josephine was Joseph’s biological get, Brian Hales doesn’t explore other reasons why Josephine, alone, would have been recipient of her mother’s secret. There are other explanations, notably in the case of Josephine’s full-blood siblings that they had died when still children. In the case of her half-sisters, they would have learned about their relationship to Joseph in the temple. Josephine’s half-brother never married, but could have been presumed to learn what he needed to know if he did marry in the temple. Only Josephine, of Sylvia’s children, had initially married outside the temple. Again, I invite Brian, Laura, or anyone else who wants to blow me out of the water on this to examine the record of Josephine’s sealing to her husband. If it was performed by an individual who should have known of Josephine’s covenant relationship to Joseph, then I will admit defeat. I would look for this documentation myself, but I live in Virginia and the records are restricted and are therefore only available to those who visit the Family History Center in Salt Lake City.

As someone who is now an “older woman,” I was amused how often Brian C. Hales discounts the likelihood of sexual activity due to the advanced age of the woman. Not that I think there was sexual activity, but claiming that it is simply due to the age of the woman seems entirely insufficient.

Finally, there is more about the marriage between Elvira Annie Cowles and Jonathan Harriman Holmes than Brian includes in his summary.Particularly, Brian fails to report the family history documented by Elvira’s daughters, that Jonathan only became Elvira’s husband at Joseph’s request, after Joseph’s death. This, combined with Elvira’s fertility in later life and a complete lack of children conceived during Joseph’s lifetime, leads to the reasonable hypothesis that Joseph officiated at the civil marriage between Elvira and Jonathan with all three parties knowing that this was a pretend marriage, intended to protect Elvira in some way for a future time when she could be sealed to Joseph (as occurred on June 1, 1843). Analysis of Eliza Snow’s poetry also suggests that Jonathan had agreed to be a front husband, though it isn’t clear that Elvira was originally the woman he was to protect.

However to those who wish to boldly accuse Joseph of sleeping with married women, Brian’s article goes far to establishing the lack of evidence that such was the case.

Were Joseph’s marriages to young teenagers unusual?

Teenage Brides and Polygamy
Craig L. Foster, David Keller, and Gregory L. Smith, pp. 152-183

We know that several of the women Joseph married were teenagers, including Helen Mar Kimball, who was still fourteen when she was sealed to Joseph.

The authors of this first essay exploring the phenomenon of teenage brides get deep into the data of marriage through the ages.

Early on, they make the important point that there is no evidence that any marriage between a 14-year-old girl (Helen Mar Kimball, Nancy Winchester) and Joseph was consummated. They then show how Roman, Christian, and Islamic law historically permitted girls to marry at the age of menarche, which was often specified as typically occurring at age twelve. 4

Unrelated to this article, there are interesting modern studies looking at the age of first intercourse among modern individuals. For the percentage who initially have sex when teenagers, the mean age is less than 17 years old. This calculation doesn’t include the individuals who reported age of first intercourse as occurring at age 11 or younger, as the researchers felt that there were other factors in play for intercourse occurring before the traditional age of menarche. 5

The age at which women do marry varies widely in any society, forming a cumulative distribution function that has a highly predictable shape, as shown on page 176. This curve looks somewhat like the side of a hill, with the incline starting before age 15, increasing up to the mean age of marriage, by which 50% of the women have married, and then tapering off as the rest of the women, late to marry, finally become married for the first time.

The authors show how economic opportunity and lack of available women tends to shift the cumulative distribution to the left, with more women marrying in their teens. In all these discussions, it is seen that the number of girls marrying before age 15 is a tiny percent of the whole.

Looking at the specific macro-economic environment in which Joseph introduced polygamy (and married two fourteen year old women), the authors find that the cumulative distribution function of bride marriage age is shifted to the left, with nearly 2% of women marrying prior to the age of 15. They demonstrate that this occurs in Illinois counties that did not contain Mormons, much less Mormons who were engaged in polygamy.

Finally, the authors find Joseph’s marriages to extremely young teenage women fell inside the 95% binomial distribution one might expect for a small population of marriages in that specific macro-economic milieu (1840 for western Illinois).

Aside from what I’ve already noted, I don’t know these authors. But I adored their use of math. In keeping with the math-heavy nature of this article, the authors end with an equation for the binomial distribution for a population where N=33.

So seriously, wives that are fourteen?!?

Early Marriage: What Was the Norm?
Todd M. Compton, pp. 186-232

I like Todd Compton. I don’t always agree with him, but my personal correspondence with him across the years has always been genial. If anyone can legitimately accuse me of simply making things up, it would be Todd, as I began corresponding with him roughly a decade ago, back when I was explicitly aspiring only to discuss these things in the context of plausible fiction.

I got better though.

Todd describes himself as being horrified with the idea that fourteen-year-old brides were perfectly normal for the United States and the western frontier, as portrayed by apologists such as the earlier set of authors. Ironically, he then proceeds to present a bunch of data that is entirely consistent with the charts in the earlier work.

Except that instead of looking at the macro-economic reality of western Illinois, Todd chooses to evaluate Massachusetts specifically and the Northeast United States as a region. As the earlier authors had already mentioned, that settled part of the United States had a notably higher mean age of a bride’s first marriage. So it is not inconsistent that there are many fewer brides who are extremely young teenagers. Indeed, there are instances where there are no women who get married before age fifteen in Massachusetts and the Northeast.

Just after I had complained to my husband about the silliness of telling me the ocean temperature in the arctic when I am sailing in the Mediterranean Sea (being about as silly as telling me Joseph was wrong in Illinois because he wasn’t conforming to marital norms a thousand miles away though he was consistent with his non-Mormon countrymen in western Illinois), Todd got to the good stuff.

Independent of whether Joseph’s likely unconsummated dynastic marriage to Helen Mar Kimball was aberrant, polygamy in Utah severely shifted the cumulative distribution function of initial bridal age. For example, in Manti Utah in 1860, more than 50% of the women between 14 and 20 were married, a shift of more than a year relative to the cumulative distribution function for the West as a region (c.f. p. 176). This would have appeared particularly shocking to Todd, as he was focusing on the Northeast, where only 22% of woman were married by age 20 in 1880.

Todd repeats Wilford Woodruff’s comment in 1857, when Saints throughout Deseret were being urged to marry, and urged to marry polygamously, “nearly all are trying to get wives, until there is hardly a girl fourteen years old in Utah but what is married, or just going to be.”

Despite the pressure men felt to snap up women as wives as soon as it was possible to do so, Todd also comments on the fact that many of these marriages to extremely young brides were not consummated until years later. One particular example is Mary Ann Williams, either fourteen or twelve, who married John D. Lee in 1856 with the understanding that she would not need to have sexual relations with him until many years later. Before the age when she might have been expected to consummate the marriage with John D. Lee, she fell in love with Lee’s son. John D. Lee granted Mary Ann a divorce and allowed her to marry his son.

Frankly, this matter of Mormons in Territorial Utah marrying young women as soon as they were “available” was not that different from the way moderns will stand poised at their computers to purchase concert tickets as soon as sales go live. It’s an obvious effect of supply and demand. For Mormons in Territorial Utah and the extended Mormon settlements, the lack of women in the valley could be mitigated by finding women from outside the Territory, as a result of either missions or serving on the Down and Back wagon trains. In these contexts,young men who might not be competitive suitors in the Territory of Utah could artificially shift the demographic odds in their favor.

Finally, Todd comments on the state of modern Mormon Fundamentalists. They have all the pressure Mormon men felt in Territorial Utah to snap up women as soon as possible (even sooner than appropriate) but they don’t have the outlet of sending men abroad as missionaries or as helpers for Down and Back companies. Thus their young women are subjected to intense pressure to become married very early and their young men have no opportunity to win brides who might reasonably be expected to embrace Fundamentalism.

While mainstream Mormons are relatively untouched by the extremely young age at which some women in the early Church entered into marriage, Fundamentalist Mormons look to the examples set by Joseph Smith and other early Church leaders and feel that this is justification for continuing to practice very early marriage in our day.

Todd finds the cultural legacy of early and very early marriage in nineteenth-century Mormon polygamy troubling, even though I don’t recall him specifically discussing the increased risk of death women have been found to face if they conceive children before age sixteen.

While I applaud Todd’s concern, I can’t help but compare the extremely early marriages, often unconsummated until the woman was nearly twenty, to the way modern teens are engaging in sexual relations at extremely young ages.

Damned if you do have illicit sex, damned if you don’t get married.

Section 132: Contents and Legacy
Newell G. Bringhurst, pp. 59-86

I haven’t personally interacted with Dr. Bringhurst, but his biography on Fair Mormon is impressive. As the fourth generation of women in my family who attended BYU, I can’t help but be a bit suspicious that he’s a Ute who got his doctorate at UC Davis. But then my mother got her Master’s degree at the University of Utah and I got my Master’s degree in California, so it’s all good.

Dr. Bringhurst reviews Section 132, bringing a nice dispassion to the eschatological implications of this particular section of the Mormon canon. Of all the authors in the main body of this compilation, Dr. Bringhurst is the one author who touches on the perceived disparity between the implications of the new doctrine for men and women. Particularly, he quotes Melodie Moench Charles (incidentally sister of a friend of ours) who is incensed that women who commit adultery after having entered into the new and everlasting covenant will be destroyed, while men who commit adultery after having entered the covenant will merely have their betrayed wife bestowed on another.

My comments on this disparity were “Yet this mirrors reproductive consequence.” and “Nah, they just wanted folks to avoid pox and clap.”

Melodie Moench Charles and her opinions regarding sexual disparity in Mormonism for women are mentioned again. In fact, this particular article is the exact opposite in many ways to Craig L. Foster’s benevolent view of D&C 132.

Dr. Bringhurst covers a wealth of historical ground, illuminating the way that the Church issued an official statement in 1933 clarifying that the Church had ended the practice of polygamy, working with local government to forever prohibit the practice of polygamy. Dr. Bringhurst finds it amusing that the justification for the prophet’s authority to end polygamy draws from the very 1843 revelation which provided the scriptural justification for polygamy in the first place. 6

As Dr. Bringhurst traces the trajectory of D&C 132, from justification for polygamy to rationale for ending any hope of polygamy’s return, he concludes with the observation that Fundamentalist Mormons, who persist in emphasizing the plural marriage aspects of the document, are more akin to nineteenth century Latter Day Saints in what was viewed as an essential tenet than their modern counterparts in the mainstream LDS Church may arguably be found to be.

And yet, if the point of D&C 132 was to scripturally explain the mechanism by which all mankind could be bound together in one Adamic family, with baptism a necessary precursor, then both the Fundamentalist Mormons and the Reorganized Church cling to forms of marriage at the expense of embracing the power of God to make those marriages eternal and in the process giving all members of the human family the chance at Christian salvation.

I presume this is why Craig L. Foster’s article was arranged in the original compendium after Dr. Bringhurst’s history, that the reader might have the taste of eschatological honey after a potentially bitter exposure to history.

“Joseph was a Monogamist!!”

RLDS Reaction to LDS Section 132
Newell G. Bringhurst, pp. 257-283

After all this sturm and drang about Joseph and polygamy and suspicions he had sex with married women and sex with extremely young teens, we are exposed to an alien landscape. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was explicitly formed to retain the original doctrines taught by Joseph Smith while rejecting the doctrines related to polygamy.

Dr. Bringhurst explains to us how the original intent to merely reorganize the Church without polygamy as a tenet was then transformed into complete denial that polygamy had ever been part of Joseph’s ministry, a conviction championed by Joseph’s own son, Joseph Smith III.

Early on, members of the RLDS Church attempted to challenge Joseph Smith III’s stance. William Marks had heard Hyrum Smith read the revelation. Zenas H. Gurley Jr., challenged the posture of basing the RLDS Church claim to validity on Joseph Smith’s purity, stating “I believe firmly in your father’s guilt and think it susceptible of proof, and have for years.”

It is in this section regarding the RLDS tradition that we hear the term spiritual wifery and spiritual marriage mentioned in the same breath as polygamy. To someone, like me, who perceives a distinct difference between Joseph Smith’s teachings regarding the New and Everlasting Covenant on the one hand and the the illicit intercourse Dr. John C. Bennett promoted among dozens if not hundreds of Nauvoo Mormons on the other, it is painfully clear that what Emma Smith claimed her husband had never done was illicit intercourse, which at a later point in RLDS circles became synonymous with polygamy.

It is fascinating to view Mormon history through the eyes of this mirror Church, which believed in Joseph Smith and his early teachings, yet was as dismissive of the possibility Joseph had taught eternal marriage as Brigham’s followers were insistent that eternal marriage (with a side of plural marriage) was crucial to salvation.

In time, some RLDS members who had fought against the idea that Joseph taught eternal marriage began to recant. Jason Briggs, who had strenuously fought the idea that D&C 132 was valid, completely reversed his position in 1888, stating “I have no doubt as to the authorship of that revelation of July 12, 1843. It has all the ear marks necessary to identify it as the production of… Joseph Smith!”

Another, inexplicably, acceded that Joseph Smith had produced a revelation “permitting couples already married to be sealed to each other to be sealed for eternity.” For some unknown reason, this idea (so precious and glorious to Utah Mormons) was to have been the revelation Emma demanded be burned.

Over time, historical documents emerged which forced the RLDS leadership to accept Joseph’s involvement in establishing the Mormon practice of officiating as though marriages could be eternal, with the concomitant teaching that a man could be sealed to more than one woman. Given the traditional teachings of the RLDS Church, they had no way to understand this as righteous. They had to see this as ministerial abuse, and see Joseph Smith as a human who, though having done shocking things, was used by God to minister and lead. 7 The RLDS Church, now the Community of Christ, has now accepted the view of Joseph as an actor in the origins of Mormon polygamy. They perceive this to have been an aberrant marital practice, and see these facts as their burden of history.

Final Comments

Given that the practice of Mormon polygamy produced such strong female leaders, I was intrigued that none of the core authors for this work were women. True, there is a forward by Linda King Newell and an afterward by Jessie L. Embry. However for the rest of it, we are learning about a practice that deeply impacted thousands of women from a handful of men.

Sweet Jessie referred to the fundamental problem in her afterward. The topic of Mormon Polygamy has been examined from the same perspective for decades going on centuries. The fundamental questions haven’t changed, and so the many experts involved in studying this fascinating branch of history have continued to find the same answers.

Here is my question: Given the fact of pastoral confidentiality, the known teachings of John C. Bennett regarding illicit intercourse, and documentation from many women confessing to having been seduced by Bennett or his acolytes, what was the extent and shape of the sexual apostasy that coincided with Joseph Smith’s teachings in the 1840s regarding eternal family and proxy ordinance work?

I will attempt to answer my own question in a scholarly manner, but I call on the experts who participated in this volume to join me in this vein of research.

Notes:

  1. The Persistence of Polygamy, edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster, John Whitmer Books, 2010, p. 288.
  2. ibid., p. 289.
  3. ibid. pp. 21-22.
  4. ibid., pp. 163-164.
  5. Kathleen E. Kiernan and John Hobcraft, Parental Divorce during Childhood: Age at First Intercourse, Partnership and Parenthood, Population Studies, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Mar., 1997), pp. 41-55, Taylor & Francis, Ltd., available online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/2175072, retrieved 10 April 2015.
  6. The Persistence of Polygamy. p. 85, “[T]he 1933 statement, with no little irony, was quoting directly from the 1843 revelation!”
  7. ibid. p. 281.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

8 thoughts on “Review: The Persistence of Polygamy, Volume 1

  1. Thanks for this useful book review. I am somewhat tempted to buy the book now, but I am more eager to get a published version of your “Faithful Joseph” series.

  2. I wouldn’t say that. Merely that his attempt to exonerate Joseph of committing adultery with married women focuses in one instance on a very elaborate scenario that ignores several other possibilities, including at least one factor that argues against his elaborate scenario.

  3. I’m looking forward to more of the “Women of Nauvoo” series you seemed to be starting a while ago. I was intrigued that a recent attempt to obtain information about Joseph’s children led me to a wikipedia article that reflected the idea that there are no offspring proven from any but Emma. The hypothesis presented in ‘A Faithful Joseph’ may not be widely accepted, but they may be influential.

  4. Nice review Meg. Interesting to note how many of these authors you have corresponded with over the years. Our Mormon intellectual world is a small one.

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