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A View Into Utah Polygamy - Ida Hunt Udall


John Corrill

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Hi Charity.... :P

truth dancer, I know you said "consenting adults" etc. But most arguments which feature the misery in specific polygamous marriages are used to condemn all polygamy. The misery found in specific monogamous relationships is not used to condemn monogamous marriage or marriage in general. That is the difference.

There are distinct differences between monogamous relationships and polygamous ones. My observation is that those arguments suggesting many women found polygamy difficult have to do with the details specific to women sharing their husbands.

Polygamy has some basic aspects to it which are common among virtually all of its participants... women agreeing to the fact their husband will be sleeping with other women, for example; or a man given rights/privileges not afforded to women; a man having to divide his limited time to multiple women in intimate ways, etc. etc.

So these are the issues discussed because they are unique to the institution. One cannot separate these dynamics from the institution/practice.

IOW, take the word polygamy out of it, (if this is helpful), and just discuss the dynamics of women who agree to share their husbands with other women.

Do you see the point?

<_<

~dancer~

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If it is not disrespect, what is it? An "oversight"? Again, I did not ask why "polygamy was not discussed" at this sight. I asked "why not show the same recognition, respect and honor for the polygamous marriages of past prophets as they do for monogamous marriages".

lds.org doesn't list the plural wives of former prophets of the Church because that is Correlation Committee policy for all of its publications. It doesn't matter whether a publication is hard-copy or electronic it is the same thing.

Having said that, I received today a copy of Stan Kimball's biography of Heber C. Kimball. You'll be happy to know that it includes all of Heber C. Kimball's wives and children. And that Deseret Book, owned by the Church, had the book in stock and I received it promptly after 7 days.

lds.org and lds Church manuals do reference additional books where one can look up more information. These books include the wives and children of former prophets. I mentioned earlier that John Taylor's biography includes this information; the Wilford Woodruff biography includes that information as does the Lorenzo Snow book and so forth. All can be ordered from Deseret, or borrowed from one's library or via an interlibrary loan. Some are available via GospeLink.

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lds.org doesn't list the plural wives of former prophets of the Church because that is Correlation Committee policy for all of its publications. It doesn't matter whether a publication is hard-copy or electronic it is the same thing.

Reference please. Further comment possible after seeing it.

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But in the broader culture of the mid to late 19th century, wasn't polygamy looked down upon by our society as something that was very detrimental, and even perhaps abusive? It got Joseph Smith in significant trouble in Illinois, was against the law in many states and brought on the fury of the Federal Gov't with the Morrill Act and other initiatives. Certainly, based on history, our culture during that time took a very negative view of polygamy. While "abuse" may not apply in every situation, I think it would be very safe and reasonble to say most, if not all outside the lds church, felt it was immoral and could certainly lead to abuse. If not, why the Federal mandates of the time and actions taken against the Lds Church?

Probably the best parallel that can be drawn is that most in the non-LDS culture of the mid 1800s viewed polygamy at about the same place that strict conservative Christians view homosexuality today--as a huge violation of God's law and order. (This is not speaking against homosexuality, mind you; it is just drawing the parallel in reactions to the practice of polygamy then.)

That being said, it does not (and did not) rise to the level of "abuse" in the public mind. For John to try to raise it to that level now is more telling of his mindset than it is of anything in reality. From what I have read, no public figure from that period ever said that polygamy could lead to abuse; that is a modern construct.

-Allen

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My observation is that those arguments suggesting many women found polygamy difficult have to do with the details specific to women sharing their husbands.

Just curious, Dancer... Did you see the quote I provided earlier in this thread where Annie Clark Tanner said that most of the difficulties were due to economics? Did you factor that in to your concepts of what "must have been" in the practice of polygamy?

-Allen

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Probably the best parallel that can be drawn is that most in the non-LDS culture of the mid 1800s viewed polygamy at about the same place that strict conservative Christians view homosexuality today--as a huge violation of God's law and order. (This is not speaking against homosexuality, mind you; it is just drawing the parallel in reactions to the practice of polygamy then.)

I would tend to disagree. I think the best parallel is that most in the non-lds culture of the mid 1800s viewed polygamy at about the same place that most view it today, perhaps including many within the Lds culture today. Remember, we are talking culturally in both settings. Polygamy has NEVER been accepted culturally by our society in this country. Today you have far more cultural acceptance of homosexuality than we can ever find for polygamy, then and now. You have organized groups, professionals in every walk of life, public companies and even state governments that "outwardly" recognize and accept homosexuality. I really don't think the comparison of these two aspects of culture come close.

That being said, it does not (and did not) rise to the level of "abuse" in the public mind.

Again, I'm not sure I would agree here. Perhaps a definition of abuse would be meaningful, but also subjective. With all of the laws and initiatives to outlaw and punish polygamy , I find it difficult to conclude our broader cutural society in the 19th century didn't find it abusive in some form or fashion.

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With all of the laws and initiatives to outlaw and punish polygamy , I find it difficult to conclude our broader cutural society in the 19th century didn't find it abusive in some form or fashion.

How meaningful is that when they put Mormons in the same anthropological category as blacks (meaning sub-human, of course.) What is your point? Are you ever going to get to one? They thought their treatment of women was just wonderful, too. When do we get to the point that you acknowledge all of the 19th c. cultural mores instead of the convenient ones?

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I would tend to disagree.  I think the best parallel is that most in the non-lds culture of the mid 1800s viewed polygamy at about the same place that most view it today, perhaps including many within the Lds culture today.  Remember, we are talking culturally in both settings.  Polygamy has NEVER been accepted culturally by our society in this country.  Today you have far more cultural acceptance of homosexuality than we can ever find for polygamy, then and now.  You have organized groups, professionals in every walk of life, public companies and even state governments that "outwardly" recognize and accept homosexuality.  I really don't think the comparison of these two aspects of culture come close.

You are disagreeing with what you think I said, not what I said. :P Go back and read, and you will see that I said the way that strict conservative Christains view homosexuality; I didn't say today's society at large. Let me provide you with an insight as to how folks in the 19th Century viewed homosexuality, based on the teachings of Calvin:

Calvin grounded various biblical rules against illicit sexual unions in the created structure of marriage--a lifelong monogamous union of a fit man and a fit woman. Citing Moses and Paul, he condemned as "monstrous vices" sodomy, buggery, bestiality, homosexuality, and other "unnatural" actsand alliances--arguing cryptically that to "lust for our own kind" or "for brutes" was "repugnant to the modesty of nature itself." [John Witte, Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 99.]

This is very close to how strict conservative Christians view homosexuality today, although the law of the land does not support them in punishing such behavior. Compare that to how Calvin taught about polygamy:

Calvin condemned, at greater length [than the foregoing], the traditional Hebrew practice of polygamy, which had again become fashionable in a few quarters of sixteenth-century Europe. To allow polygamy, Calvin argued, is to ignore the creation story of "the one man and the one woman" whom God had created and joined together in Paradise. "God could have created two wives for Adam if he wanted to," Calvin preached. "But God was content with one." "Since this mutual union was consecrated by the Lord, the mixture of three or four persons is false and wicked" and "contrary to the order and law of nature." [John Witte, Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 99.]

On Calvin's scale, polygamy was worse than homosexuality. Even if strict conservative Christians mitigated their feelings a bit by the time the nineteenth century rolled around, they still felt very strong abhorance of polygamy based on strict Calvinistic interpretations of God's law. Assuming further mitigation in the subsequent 150 years, the feelings against homosexuality among the crowd I cite is just as strong today as it was against polygamy then.

Additionally, Calvin's abhorance of polygamy was not based on any sense of abuse that John C. may see relative to women and children, but on his interpretation of God's law. Plenty of examples can be cited of women and children being treated as property in monogamous marriages during Calvin's era and in the subsequent Victorian era. While religious leaders had no problem with such a property treatment of women and children (which we would, today, classify as abuse), they still had problems with polygamy on wholely different grounds.

Hope that helps.

-Allen

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With all of the laws and initiatives to outlaw and punish polygamy , I find it difficult to conclude our broader cutural society in the 19th century didn't find it abusive in some form or fashion.

How meaningful is that when they put Mormons in the same anthropological category as blacks (meaning sub-human, of course.) What is your point? Are you ever going to get to one? They thought their treatment of women was just wonderful, too. When do we get to the point that you acknowledge all of the 19th c. cultural mores instead of the convenient ones?

Juliann,

I really find a great deal of hostility and badgering in your responses. You might do better with a bit of calm and rationale.

First of all, Awyatt and I were analyzing a comparison of polygamy and homosexuality. Again, I would appreciate you staying on topic or starting your own thread.

Second, "WHO" put mormons in a "sub-human" category??!! What is the basis of such statement and what does that have to do with my response and why try and merely inflame a conversation. [but please start a separate thread as it has nothing to do with this one.]

Third, I have no obligation to discuss ALL of the 19th century mores here as this thread is dealing with polygamy. If you believe our culture accepts polygamy any different now than they did then, please express yourself but I would appreciate you staying on topic without the flame throwing.

If you find difference with my reasoning, please explain why. I have no problem with that. But you tend to come here with a real "persecution complex" or something! Chill!

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Second, "WHO" put mormons in a "sub-human" category??!! What is the basis of such statement and what does that have to do with my response and why try and merely inflame a conversation. [but please start a separate thread as it has nothing to do with this one.]

Juliann is correct; Mormons were viewed by many East-coast preachers as sub-human. I'll have to see if I can dig out my references on this, but someone else may beat me to it.

-Allen

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If one goes to familysearch.org, you can find virtually all the genealogical information for deceased general authorities and their deceased spouses and off spring.

Other than post manifesto marriages (of which there is little physical evidence), everything is out and open.

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I would tend to disagree.  I think the best parallel is that most in the non-lds culture of the mid 1800s viewed polygamy at about the same place that most view it today, perhaps including many within the Lds culture today.  Remember, we are talking culturally in both settings.  Polygamy has NEVER been accepted culturally by our society in this country.  Today you have far more cultural acceptance of homosexuality than we can ever find for polygamy, then and now.  You have organized groups, professionals in every walk of life, public companies and even state governments that "outwardly" recognize and accept homosexuality.  I really don't think the comparison of these two aspects of culture come close.

You are disagreeing with what you think I said, not what I said. :P Go back and read, and you will see that I said the way that strict conservative Christains view homosexuality; I didn't say today's society at large. Let me provide you with an insight as to how folks in the 19th Century viewed homosexuality, based on the teachings of Calvin:

Calvin grounded various biblical rules against illicit sexual unions in the created structure of marriage--a lifelong monogamous union of a fit man and a fit woman. Citing Moses and Paul, he condemned as "monstrous vices" sodomy, buggery, bestiality, homosexuality, and other "unnatural" actsand alliances--arguing cryptically that to "lust for our own kind" or "for brutes" was "repugnant to the modesty of nature itself." [John Witte, Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 99.]

This is very close to how strict conservative Christians view homosexuality today, although the law of the land does not support them in punishing such behavior. Compare that to how Calvin taught about polygamy:

Calvin condemned, at greater length [than the foregoing], the traditional Hebrew practice of polygamy, which had again become fashionable in a few quarters of sixteenth-century Europe. To allow polygamy, Calvin argued, is to ignore the creation story of "the one man and the one woman" whom God had created and joined together in Paradise. "God could have created two wives for Adam if he wanted to," Calvin preached. "But God was content with one." "Since this mutual union was consecrated by the Lord, the mixture of three or four persons is false and wicked" and "contrary to the order and law of nature." [John Witte, Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 99.]

On Calvin's scale, polygamy was worse than homosexuality. Even if strict conservative Christians mitigated their feelings a bit by the time the nineteenth century rolled around, they still felt very strong abhorance of polygamy based on strict Calvinistic interpretations of God's law. Assuming further mitigation in the subsequent 150 years, the feelings against homosexuality among the crowd I cite is just as strong today as it was against polygamy then.

Additionally, Calvin's abhorance of polygamy was not based on any sense of abuse that John C. may see relative to women and children, but on his interpretation of God's law. Plenty of examples can be cited of women and children being treated as property in monogamous marriages during Calvin's era and in the subsequent Victorian era. While religious leaders had no problem with such a property treatment of women and children (which we would, today, classify as abuse), they still had problems with polygamy on wholely different grounds.

Hope that helps.

-Allen

Awyatt,

I thought we were addressing the "broader cultural" aspects of polygamy then and now. Accordingly, I did not think your comparison was very compelling. I recognize that the strict broader Christian religious cultures may not accept homosexuality today, but again, I thought we were addressing "broad cultural" acceptance.

But even if we were to confine it to strickly Christian culture, I think there is a strong case to be made that many Christian churches have accepted homosexuality in a capacity far more than polygamy. Just look at all the gay and lesbian priests that have been ordained. Look at the Episcaple Church and its gay leader. Yet I don't find one christian church accepting polygamy today [outside of the FLDS and related off-shoots]

Juliann is correct; Mormons were viewed by many East-coast preachers as sub-human. I'll have to see if I can dig out my references on this, but someone else may beat me to it.

Perhaps that is the case. But I don't think the opinions of a few "east coast preachers" is support for the broader cultural claim that Mormons were designated as "sub-human". As far as I know, they were allowed to hold offices in Washington, vote in elections, apply for statehood, etc. Are far cry from being classified as "sub-human"!!!!

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lds.org doesn't list the plural wives of former prophets of the Church because that is Correlation Committee policy for all of its publications. It doesn't matter whether a publication is hard-copy or electronic it is the same thing.

Reference please. Further comment possible after seeing it.

The Correlation Reading Committee severely restricted references to polygamy in official Church literature and public discourse, reflecting an unspoken assumption that difficult doctrinal or historical topics are best left unmentioned.

- Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 217. (Working draft, 2005).

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I'm still working through this thread, so I'll probably have more comments, but I loved this from Froggie! LOL

Evolution-wise, it was likely polygamous behaviors that gave birth to the black widow spider and praying mantis eating the male after mating with him. :unsure: 

Big green hugs,

Froggie

It's nature's way of giving the female species ultimate revenge! <_<:P

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I thought we were addressing the "broader cultural" aspects of polygamy then and now. Accordingly, I did not think your comparison was very compelling. I recognize that the strict broader Christian religious cultures may not accept homosexuality today, but again, I thought we were addressing "broad cultural" acceptance.

I was addressing the broad societal view of polygamy in the non-LDS population during the nineteenth century. I drew a parallel to one subset of society today in order to explain what their feelings were back then. If you don't accept Calvin's teachings (which, I believe, were the most widely accepted teachings in the US during the nineteenth century) as indicative of the general sentiment, then what would you accept?

Ref said: Perhaps that is the case.  But I don't think the opinions of a few "east coast preachers" is support for the broader cultural claim that Mormons were designated as "sub-human".  As far as I know, they were allowed to hold offices in Washington, vote in elections, apply for statehood, etc.  Are far cry from being classified as "sub-human"!!!!

Actually, the quotes are (if I recall correctly) from the Congressional Record of the period, during all the anti-Mormon/anti-polygamy hysteria. I wasn't trying to minimize the pervasiveness of the sentiment by mentioning "a few."

I wish I could find the book; I know I have it somewhere. It is Nancy Cott's examination of marriage and changes in the institution of marriage. (Juliann or Nighthawke, can you find the quote?)

Of course, the pervasiveness of such sentiments can be seen in the laws that were passed that basicly, over time, removed the laws of citizenship and even rights deemed "inalienable" from those who practiced polygamy. As those who practiced bararism (or, at least, one of the twin relics thereof), Mormons were not viewed as fit to take part in any civilized society.

-Allen

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I wish I could find the book; I know I have it somewhere. It is Nancy Cott's examination of marriage and changes in the institution of marriage. (Juliann or Nighthawke, can you find the quote?)

Kathryn Daynes lectured on it but I don't remember which book she published it in and Ref gives no incentive whatsoever to waste time finding documentation when he ignores the documentation already presented. Ref needs to stop relying on emotion and start documenting if he expects anyone to take him seriously. His grasp of 19th century women's history is underwhelming to say the least.

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I found it.

Antipolygamy rhetoric in the United States of the 1870s and 1880s in effect made the Mormons over into nonwhites. It was common for Americans who addressed Mormon polygamy not only to call it a "monstrous evil" or a "deadly meance to free government," but also to link it to the "Incas of Peru," "Turkey," "Mohammedan countries," or "the Barbary states"--savage and slavish places of colored peoples Even an author critical of extremism among antipolygamists could not forbear identifying the Mormon priesthood with "the King of Dahomey." The Supreme Court's opinion declaring polygamy unprotected tye the first amendment incorporated this discourse about civilization and elevated it to the level of constitutional interpretation. [Nancy F. Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000), 117-118.]

At the time, polygamy was seen as antithetical to and incompatible with Christianity, very similar to the quotes I provided earlier relative to Calvin's teachings. This pervasive abhorance of polygamy reached all the way to the highest levels of government:

Mormons resisted the provisions of the Edmunds-Tucker Act by legal suit. They were turned back again, definitively, by the Supreme Court. In order to answer the central question whether Congress had the power to dissolve and expropriate the corporation of the saints, against the church's claim to be a protected religious and charitable body, Justice Joseph Bradley felt it necessary to assess polygamy. He summarized, for the court, that polygamy was "a blot on our civilization ... in a measure, a return to barbarism. ...contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world." He intended moral condemnation as well as political rejection. In full cognizance of the constitutional separation of church and state, the court assumed that the United States was a Christian nation. The opinion said, in essence, that polygamy was so abhorrent that it could not be considered a religious tenet; the group practicing it could not be a church; consequently there was no constitutional bar to the governments dissolving the corporation. [Nancy F. Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000), 119-120.]

Cott's book is an amazing read, and I would recommend it to anyone. In America of the late 1800s, polygamists couldn't participate in civilization; they were savages or barbarians and not worthy of the status afforded those who believed monogamy was the only way that God intended man to live. (At least, civilized man.)

-Allen

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Meanwhile, back on the farm with the Defenders of Dead and Dumb Mormon women and their like minded compatriots:

As state laws were codified in the early decades of the nineteenth century, married women found that informal and formal procedures allowing them the right to own, manage, or inherit property, or even to obtain custody of their children, were not codified in the new laws.
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Notice the part about the accessibility of divorce (a successful and happy marriage being the ultimate goal in achieving deification) being reduced once the government took over?  This is what the self appointed Defenders of Dead and Dumb Mormon women want for them....the inability to decide their own lives just like the rest of the working class women of that era.  With friends like this who needs enemies.

Cott makes some interesting comments about the liberal divorce laws in Utah, as well:

On several counts, the Utah territory made reformers long for a national standard of legal monogamy. Divorce was more common there than elsewhere, for Utah allowed a judge to grant a divorce whenever he found it appropriate. A petitioner did not even have to be a resident but merely had to express the intention to become one. Fears that thsi leniency would affect the rest of the nation intensified when the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. It was rumored that lawyers in Utah used divorce forms preprinted with a notice of intention to take up residency and the claim of irreparable marital breakdown, so taht only names and the date need be added.

The Mormons' liberality with divorce exacerbated the errors of their defiant polygamy, which seemed allt he more heinous after slavery was eliminated. No matter that only a small proportion of the Latter-Day Saints, mainly among the top hierarchy, could afford to indulge--they posed a threat to the political and moral character of the nation. The continued practice of any polygamy in the west (now completely in the jurisdiction of the United States, which had not been the case in the earlly 1850s) evoked a huge and protracted federal opposition. The "zeal and concentration" of the federal firepower aimed at polygamy was, int he words of one legal historian, "unequalled int he annals of federal law enforcement." [Nancy F. Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000), 111.]

Not only was polygamy an evil, but so was the divorce that Utah readily granted women.

-Allen

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