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Living in a Mormon Society

Updated on September 6, 2009

The book of Mormon

A Mormon Atmosphere


I grew up living in a  Mormon atmosphere in Idaho,went to school,played sports and worked and played with Mormon's.

I am a Protestant.

I lived with a Mormon family for some time and was treated as part of that family.

Not once in all my time in that family did I hear the word POLIGAMY.

My thinking is that these compounds spring up through some sick person,who wants to control someone Else's life,

and satisfy their own.

All you need to do is go back in history and read on the Roman Empire.

I have found a few interesting facts here in my research of

this subject to place in this hub.



Mormonism, like many Protestant churches, began as a restorationist movement, which is to say that it was dedicated to "restoring" everything in the Bible.Joseph Smith jr. Mormonism's founding prophet, felt especially close to the Old Testament, so he believed his mission was to restore Old as well as New Testament traditions such as the authority of prophets, temple rituals, and the ancient Semitic custom of plural marriage.


Midwestern Origins

According to Mosiah Hancock, whose father, Levi, reportedly performed a plural marriage for the Mormon prophet, the first of these unions occurred in Ohio in 1833 when Joseph married sixteen-year-old Fanny Alger. Smith's next marriage, or "sealing" according to Mormon terminology, may have occurred in 1838 in Missouri, but the great majority of his thirty-three well documented marriages, give or take a few because formal records were not always kept, occurred in 1841-44 in Navuu, Illinois. There he combined restorationist biblical polygamy with the idea that one gained a higher status in the next life based on the quantity of wives and offspring in this life. This gave the religious rationale for large plural families in later Mormonism. Thus, polygamy-called "celestial" (meaning heavenly) or "patriarchal" marriage after the polygamous patriarchs of the Old Testament such as Abraham and Jacob-was accepted as necessary for "exaltation," the highest salvation in the Mormon heaven. Present-day Mormons generally accept that eternal monogamous marriage is sufficient for exaltation but also still anticipate that there will be polygamy in heaven. Joseph Smith experimented with polyandry, as well, by marrying eleven women who were already civilly married to other men.


With very few exceptions, such as the practice of marrying older women in order to provide for them or to form an alliance in the next life, polygamy was oriented toward childbearing. For instance, Brigham Young had about fifty-six wives, many of whom maintained a platonic relationship with him; but he also had fifty-six children by nineteen of his connubial wives. His predecessor, Joseph Smith, never lived openly ("cohabitated") with any of his plural wives, though some of them later confirmed that the union was sexual in nature. When Joseph Smith introduced polygamy as a religious necessity to his closest followers, some regarded it with Puritanical horror, while others accepted it and soon acquired large plural families of their own.


The Practice in Utah

During Smith's lifetime, polygamy in Nauvoo and elsewhere was kept secret because it was also illegal. However, after Smith's death, during the Mormon exodus to Utah, and in frontier Utah, the era of "open" plural marriage began and Mormons experienced the nuts and bolts of daily life in large plural families.


The results were various. One finds many inspiring stories of women and men who struggled against great challenges to make the ancient Semitic custom work in modern America. On the other hand, there are stories of polygamous husbands giving greater attention and financial assistance to favored wives, while less favored wives had a difficult time surviving financially and emotionally. Even in the best of plural marriages, a woman had only limited access to her husband's time, resources, and emotional attention. To compensate, plural wives often developed especially close relationships with their children to make up for often distant husbands. Despite such problems, polygamy was regarded almost as the most central, highest revelation to Joseph Smith and a necessary prerequisite for complete salvation. It was widely accepted as a divinely inspired concept by church members, male and female. However, plural marriage was more widely practiced among the elite than among the church's rank and file, a good number of the latter remaining monogamous. One myth about Mormon polygamy was that only about 2 or 3 percent of the church membership ever practiced polygamy. Actually, something like 20 or 30 percent of Latter-day Saints engaged in the practice depending on the statistical strategy one employs.


The motives for practicing polygamy, while primarily religious, also allowed for parallel objectives. Sometimes two prominent Mormon leaders cemented a friendship by one giving another his daughter (polygamy allowing such dynastic alliances to a greater degree than in monogamy). Sometimes polygamist men married widows or unmarried women to provide for them economically. Sometimes a man and a prospective plural wife felt a strong spiritual or emotional attraction.


One lingering myth of polygamy was that it was practiced by lustful old men who forced helpless young women into harems, a stereotype that was much prized by anti-Mormon propagandists and Western dime novels of the era. While undoubtedly there were abusive husbands, and many older men did indeed unite with younger women (a tradition beginning with Joseph Smith's marriage to the fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Whitney in Nauvoo), most Mormons practiced the principle out of idealism and viewed sexuality almost from a Puritanical perspective, although child-bearing was, in fact, actively encouraged. As has been well documented, many plural wives were very intelligent and capable women.


The Legal and Political Battle

Some of the prominent visitors to pioneer Utah, such as Richard Burton and Mark Twain, looked at polygamy with respectful curiosity or irreverent amusement. However, there were reformers in the eastern states who were shocked by its affront to Protestant and Victorian mores, generally overlooking the fact that biblical prophets and some earlier Protestants had practiced polygamy. In 1854 the first Republican party platform inveighed against the "twin relics of barbarism" -slavery and polygamy-and after Congress passed the Merrill anti-Bigamy Act of 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed it into law. Believing that the revelations of God took precedence over laws of man, Mormons ignored it. Yet, the political pressure against polygamy increased throughout the century. Utah was still a territory and desperately seeking statehood so it could legalize polygamy; as it happened, polygamy was one of the central reasons Utah could not obtain statehood.


In 1882 Congress passed the Edmunds Act, which disfranchised Mormon polygamists and allowed them to be imprisoned on grounds of "unlawful cohabitation." John Taylor, the church president at the time, remained defiant, vowing that Mormons would never forsake plural marriage. He went into hiding, as did many prominent polygamists at the time. Nevertheless, many Mormon men were arrested by federal marshals (much despised in Utah) and served terms in jail as "prisoners of conscience."


In 1887 Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker bill which required the church to give up its property to the federal government, including its prized temples. But the Mormons continued their counter-cultural quest: the church's second in command, presidential counselor George Q. Cannon, served a term in prison for cohabitation in 1888. One of his statements is typical of the sentiment shared by many in the church at the time: "To comply with the request of our enemies [and give up polygamy] would be to give up all hope of ever entering into the glory of God,the father, and Jesus Christ, the son. So intently interwoven is this precious doctrine [polygamy] with the exaltation of men and women in the great hereafter that it cannot be given up without giving up at the same time all hope of immortal glory."


Nevertheless, legal and political pressure inevitably mounted until church president Wilford Woodruff, faced with the loss of all church facilities and any political influence in Utah, produced in 1890 what was called a "Manifesto" in which he stated that Mormons would give up plural marriage. This, along with the church's commitment to staying out of politics, allowed Utah to become a state in 1896.


Post-Manifesto Polygamy

The transition to monogamy was not easy because polygamy had played such a central role in Mormon doctrine and culture for so long. It was regarded as theologically necessary for complete salvation. Many church leaders therefore continued a sub rosa promotion of polygamy, inaugurating what has been called the post-Manifesto era. The Woodruff presidency, including George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, sent Mormons to church colonies in Mexico to be married plurally. Among the apostles (members of the second-highest quorum of the church), those who married plurally after the Manifesto included John W. Taylor, Brigham Young Jr., Marriner W. Merril, Abraham Owen Woodruff, Matthias F. Cowley, Rudger Clawson, Abraham Hoagland Cannon, and George Teasdale. Many of these marriages were solemnized in Mexico by Anthony Ivins, who later became a member of the First Presidency. Other post-Manifesto marriages were solemnized in Canada, shipboard on the Pacific Ocean, and in Utah and neighboring states.


Word of these secret marriages leaked out and anti-polygamy activists were infuriated. Apostle Reed Smoot, himself a monogamist, was elected a U.S. senator in 1904, but the Senate refused to fully accept him until it had examined the sincerity of LDS allegiance to its public Manifesto. The hearings were a great embarrassment to the LDS church. As a result, Joseph F. Smith released a "Second Manifesto" in 1904, reiterating that the church had abandoned polygamy. Two apostles who had been prominent in post-manifesto plural marriages, John Taylor and Matthias Cowley, were released from the Quorum of the Twelve and subsequently dismissed from the church-excommunicated in one case and disfellowshipped in the other. Since 1904, LDS members who practice polygamy have usually been excommunicated. Meanwhile, Mormons have become monogamous to a remarkable degree as they have sought to enter the mainstream of American culture.


Fundamentalist Persistence

On the other hand, and partially as a result of the conflicting messages of church leaders during the post-Manifesto period, many Mormons felt the need to continue "the principle" even though they knew they would be excommunicated from the church as a result. They traced their authority lineage through what they describe as a secret transfer of authority effected by John Taylor in 1886. Most present-day polygamists view Mormon church presidents after Taylor as traitors to the true restored religion.


Presently there are an estimated 30,000-60,000 polygamist "fundamentalists" living in Utah and surrounding states. The two leading groups are the United Apostolic Brethren, located in a suburb of Salt Lake City, and residents of the twin border towns of Colorado City and Hildale (originally called Short Creek), straddling the Utah-Arizona border and known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The latter are the most conservative and separatist of all the major fundamentalist groups. In one of the ironies of history, the LDS church coordinated with political leaders for a police raid on Short Creek polygamists in 1953, during which mothers were separated from some 263 children and fathers sent to jail. This turned into a public relations debacle for the Utah and Arizona authorities.


Many fundamentalists continue to practice marital plurality for idealistic religious reasons. Nevertheless, in recent years the fundamentalist community has been plagued by power struggles that have sometimes ended in bitter disputes, financial losses, and violence, as well as accusations by teenage girls of having been pressured into abusive relationships with older men. A third group of Utah polygamists, the Kingston group, became widely known in 1998 when a fifteen-year-old girl accused her father of having forced her into marriage with her uncle as the uncle's fifteenth wife; she stated that both her uncle and father had beaten her when she had tried to leave the relationship.


Echoes in Contemporary Mormonism

For many mainstream Mormons, practical polygamy has faded safely away into the pages of history. Nevertheless, the impact of polygamy lingers on. First, because there are so many statements in church literature in praise of polygamy-statements from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and Joseph F. Smith, among others-stating that polygamy is necessary for the highest salvation, many present-day Mormons expect to be polygamists in the next life even though they may be personally uncomfortable with the concept. Influential apostle Bruce R McCronkie, in his book Mormon Doctrine, looked forward to the time when "the holy practice" of polygamy would be practiced once again. Furthermore, if a faithful man's wife dies and the man remarries in the temple, he is sealed to both women for eternity. Many contemporary Mormon widowers thus regard themselves as "eternal polygamists."

Thank God


Thank God for the return of these children to their parents

as they would have grown up in another world and would have

most likely been pyscologically ruined in their minds for the

rest of their lives.

Members of a polygamist sect in Texas were overjoyed after

an appeal court ordered the state authorities to return 440

children taken from a church compound during a raid.

The children - who have found themselves at the centre of

the biggest child-custody case in US history - are in foster

care across the state, with some brothers and sisters

separated by as much as 600 miles.

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin said on Thursday that

the state had failed to show that the children were in any

immediate danger - the only justification under Texas law for

taking children from their parents without a court order.

Child-protection officials argued that five of the girls had

become pregnant under the age of 16 and that the sect

was essentially a paedophile ring. Warren Jeffs,

the "prophet" of the church, is serving a ten-year sentence

in Utah for rape.

However, of the 31 girls seized as "underage mothers" at

least 15 have since been reclassified as adults. One was

aged 27. Identifying the sect members was difficult because

many have the same names.

The Texas child welfare authorities appealed to the state

Supreme Court to block the ruling yesterday. "This case is

about . . . the need to take action under difficult, time-sensitive

and unprecedented circumstances to protect children on an

emergency basis," the state agency said. The authorities

agreed later to reunite 12 of the children with their parents,

under state supervision, until the appeal was heard.

The decision to return the children was seen as an

embarrassment for the child welfare authority and as

vindication for members of the Fundamentalist Church of

Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), who claim that

they are being subjected to religious persecution.

The Church has staged a remarkable PR offensive,

questioning why separating 440 children from their mothers

could be regarded as good policy, while trying to show that

they live "normal" lives. On the Larry King Live show several

mothers begged the authorities to allow the seized children

to tell their stories.

Every child at the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado was

taken into custody more than six weeks ago after someone

called a helpline claiming to be a pregnant, abused, teenage

wife. It remains unclear whether the call was a hoax. There

were 150 law enforcement officers involved in the raid on

the 1,700-acre property, which was bought by the Church

in 2004 to house about 500 sect members trying to flee from

media and law-enforcement attention in Utah and Arizona.

The Third Court of Appeals said that the local authorities

had acted too hastily by not going to court first. "Even if one

views the FLDS belief system as creating a danger of sexua

l abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse

and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse . . . there is no

evidence that this danger is ‘immediate'," the court said in its


"Evidence that children raised in this particular environment

may some day have their physical health and safety

threatened is not evidence that the danger is imminent

enough to warrant invoking the extreme measure of

immediate removal


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    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      Very interesting hub indeed, thanks for the insight.

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 

      10 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Well all I can say is I wouldnt want to share my man with any one. So polygamy mormonism would be a total suckfest from the point of view of me.

    • fivetexans profile image


      10 years ago from Texas

      I appreciate what you have written about your faith and growing up in a Mormon culture. I am sure you will agree that every day life in a Mormon culture is certainly not a bad thing. You may not find a friendlier neighbor than a Mormon neighbor. However, friendly or good does not necessarily mean truth.

      In 1986, growing up in central Illinois, I didn't know much about Mormons. However, I met a girl who had been living with her uncle, but was getting ready to move out to Utah so she could find a husband and be married in the temple. I didn't think much about it. Her uncle ran a Christian camp and was going to take this girl on a vacation to a Christian convention before leaving for Utah.

      God had other plans. This girl (it would better if I didn't use her name) met a guy named Ben Alexander, of ESP Ministries. He's not near as dramatic as his website, and actually a very soft spoken gentle man. However, Ben can speak very clearly and met this girl and gave her a couple of thoughts about her Mormon faith.

      I ran into this girl at the convention, not knowing she would be there too. I found out she was scared, nervous, and she told me she would feel less scared if someone had a gun pointing at her head.

      We began to talk about things, and she was wrestling with the Holy Spirit over her faith. Ben planted a couple seeds of doubt and I came along and shared with her some Scripture, as well as some insights from an incredible book called "The Bible and The Mormon Scriptures Compared" by Charles Crane. It is a very short, but excellent book that shows from a facts, logical standpoint that nothing can be substantiated in the Book of Mormon and other books.

      Two days later this girl accepted Jesus and actually went to Bible College to deepen her faith and knowledge of Scripture so she could deepen her roots.

      Anyway, I saw your hub, and wanted to let you know that I appreciate everything you wrote, and if you can find that book, it would certainly be worth your money.

      God Bless.


    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 

      10 years ago from Iowa

      Excellent hub! Thanks!

      I think you gave a very even and informative view on this topic. It isn't apologetic (in a religious sense) in any way, and that's what the topic needs.

      A lot of early Mormonism was Utopian in practice, and I believe the practice of polygamy flourished because the Mormon settlers were socially isolated and didn't live in society with non-Mormons for a time.

    • jormins profile image


      10 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Great hub. As I watched news of the polygamy scandal in Texas I often wondered is the FLDS and the Mormon church related. I even heard political analysts saying Mitt Romney's quest for Vice President is dead now because of the polygamy scandal. I'm glad I read this hub as I now know much more about the subject than I will ever learn from the news media.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California


      You have done a wonderful job of researching and communicating the historical facts about the early LDS church practices and it's leaders. Being a Mormon myself, I have read most of the books you have suggested by your links and have studied the topic of polygamy fairly extensively. With the fundamentalists in the news of late, this is a timely topic to discuss. Living in a polygamous family was at best hard, as I have read in several of my ancestral journals, however it was a preparation time allowing those involved in the practice to experience living more closely the law of consecration. It was in preparation of a Zionistic society where all were to be of "one heart and one mind." I honor and show respect and tribute to my pioneer ancestors who practiced the law of polygamy and in no way am ashamed of my Mormon heritage. I feel that the spiritual side of the law is yet to be told, but you have done an awesome job of explaining the historical side. Thank you for your Hub attempt at educating us on this subject, as many people today still confuse the fundamentalists groups with the Mormon Church.

    • solarshingles profile image


      10 years ago from london

      Very, very nice hub about one, otherwise quite challenging topic. As European, my knowledge about Mormon life style wasn't really shining, though. I know much more, now. Thanks!


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