Polygamy: The Mormon Enigma

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Perhaps Helen Mar Kimball.

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Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith

But whoever it was, it obviously made an impact. And understandably so.


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  • Emma and Polygamy– Summer Book Club Week 8: Mormon Enigma, Chaps. 21-23.
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We often either overlook or under-discuss the emotional toll historical research can bring a person. We have our own conceptions and complications that we bring to the table, a table that is quickly dirtied with the elements of our research. At a conference this last weekend, Laurel Ulrich noted that the historical craft is a delicate dialogue between self and subject. Similarly, at the same conference both Richard Bushman and Armand Mauss noted that their own scholarship was an indirect attempt to address their own questions of faith, morality, and community.

Biography, then, is always at least in part a form of autobiography. These were the challenges of Nauvoo. But they are also framed in a way that reflected modern gender crises within the LDS tradition during the s and s, as well. Concurrent with Newell and Avery writing their classic text, Mormonism was facing its own cultural war concerning traditional family, communal mobilization, and ecclesiastical retrenchment: the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment.

It would have been impossible for the authors not to be tinged by their surrounding environment. Far from it.

Polygamist Mafia: Escaping The Kingston Clan

The perspective made the authors attuned to the anxieties at play. The men who cover Nauvoo Flanders, Leonard, Bushman often fail to capture the turmoil the practice caused. I was just reminded that I left out Compton. Big omission! Comment by Ben P — June 20, am.


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Thanks, Ben! Insightful comments regarding biography, it makes me want to go back and reread Fawn Brodie. Review by Eric Johnson. Emma Smith may not be as well-known as her husband, Joseph Smith, Jr. In this book, two female historical researchers—Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippets Avery—tackled the life of the first wife to the founder of the Mormon religion. These traits remained with her for the rest of her years. After the church was founded, there were growing pains.

Probably the issue that most tried Emma was polygamy, also known as plural marriage. One night Emma went to go look for Joseph and Fanny and found them together in the barn.

Summer Book Club Week 3: Mormon Enigma, Chapters 7-9

This caused quite a dissension in the church, with six of the twelve apostles rebelling. The climax of polygamy took place in Nauvoo. When the Relief Society was formed, Joseph used some of the women for secret tools of gaining new wives. Yet even many of her closest friends lived double lives with her.

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After all, many of them were married to her husband, or at least know about the affairs; some of their daughters were also married to Smith. While there is no documentation, Emma was stunned when she found out that her friend Eliza R. Emma could no longer believe that Joseph was not involved, and he could no longer deny it. Emma had not acted with violence before; now her determined opposition might show up again with unexpected force.

He worked overtime trying to convince his wife of the spiritual benefits of polygamy.

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He apparently used their rides together to teach her the necessity of the endowment and sealing. There is no evidence that she ever opposed him on any doctrine but plural marriage. Convinced that it was necessary for her salvation and essential to their continued relationship, she may have decided to compromise with Joseph.

For his first polygamous wives, she picked two sisters, Emily and Eliza Partridge; however, Joseph did not tell her that he had already married them two months earlier! So, with Emma in attendance, he married them again in a ceremony. A few days later, Emma was sealed to her husband for time and eternity. On July 12, , Hyrum Smith told his brother Joseph to write the revelation down. Emma is very bitter and full of resentment and anger.

Mormon Enigma - Wikipedia

But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord. The relationship between Joseph and Emma was caustic, to say the least. Joseph Smith was killed at the Carthage Jail on June 27, Despite their differences, the murder of her husband was not something that Emma desired.