Mormon Apologists Paint Pretty Picture of Polygamy

The Salt Lake Tribune, Saturday, August 10, 2002


OREM — The fourth annual FAIR Conference, a gathering of defenders of the Mormon faith, got under way Friday with about 70 people attending presentations on links between The Book of Mormon and the Bible, Joseph Smith’s mystical attributes and the purpose of polygamy in early Mormon times.

The topics were in keeping with the theme of the conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research: “Turning Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones: Responding to Challenging Issues in Mormonism.” The conference runs through today at Utah Valley State College.

FAIR President Scott Gordon said the purpose of the gathering is to study some of the “thorny” issues Mormons face and use them to build stronger faith.

Organizers wasted no time, then, in attacking one of the thorniest issues of Mormonism — polygamy.

Kathryn Daynes, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University and author of More Wives Than One, said nearly everyone with any knowledge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a story about polygamy. The problem is, few of them understand the social, economic and political climate that surrounded plural marriage, which the church renounced in 1890.

Once the Mormons arrived in Utah, practicality dictated that plural marriage was for women who were alone, Daynes said. She studied the genealogical records of 269 pioneer polygamist wives who lived in Manti. One-third of those plural wives had fathers who either were dead or not in Utah; one-third were either widowed or divorced; and one-third were simply single.

“So two-thirds of these women didn’t have a male breadwinner, and in the pioneer economy, that was very difficult,” Daynes said. “There were few economic opportunities for women. What could they do? They could sew or they could teach, but those were low-paying positions. If you were a midwife, you did a little better.

“Plural marriage helped people through during their times in crisis,” she said.

Even so, there are those pioneer women whose experiences in a plural marriage were so bad they
did not speak of them. One was Emma Lynette Richardson, whose journals carry only a brief note saying she had been married twice.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 12, 2002.
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