Grub Street History: Peggy Fletcher Stack and The Polygamies of Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs

By August 26, 2011

I’ve been just waiting for someone to get gutsy and rash enough, in the wake of Warren Jeff’s sexual assault convictions, to try a side-by-side, cross-historical comparison of Jeff’s polygamy with that Joseph Smith. Given the state of the public mind – inebriated as ever with the subject of polygamy and whetted by Big Love, Sister Wives, and now the salacious Jeff’s trial – it was only a matter of time. In his rather pitiable defense, Jeffs gave a rehearsal of Mormon religious persecution, ran through a sort of FLDS catechism, and made gestures toward Joseph Smith.

Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article this week comparing Jeffs and Joseph Smith (“Comparing Mormon founder, FLDS leader on polygamy,” Salt Lake Tribune, 08.19) was perfectly suited to the public appetite. The piece, headed by the provocative artwork below, pits the revulsion that many feel toward Jeffs’ foul crimes against the deep admiration that many Latter-day Saints feel for the Prophet Joseph Smith. It deftly exploits, as good journalists know to do, some of the strongest currents in the cultural atmosphere, and the effect is a visceral one. Stack unabashedly sits Joseph Smith and Warren Jeffs side by side in a parity that will make most Mormons flinch.

There are some eerie resonances in Stack’s comparison of Jeffs and Smith, at least it would feel that way from a contemporary perspective. As she points out, there are similarities in the young age of some of the brides that Jeffs and Joseph Smith married. Both presented a theological explanation for the polygamous practices in which they engaged, and the authenticity of these difficult to analytically verify. Likely due to social norms surrounding sexuality, these practices were not public in either circumstance, though Jeffs apparently involved his followers in ways that Smith did not.

The underlying question that Stack’s raises and skillfully leaves to tease is: Are these two men really akin to each other? Is one really a mirror image of the other, transposed over several centuries?

Stack’s article is simultaneously a remarkable piece of journalism and a sad piece of history, despite its attempts to engage more competent historians. Although the stuff of Mormon history is our raison d’etre here at the Juvenile Instructor, I’ll leave the corrective point-by-point comparisons of Jeff’s contemporary polygamy and Joseph Smith’s historical practice to others who are more fluent in both literatures and more interested in the topic. On a personal level, I think Stack’s comparison is gratuitous and wantonly provocative. But here I’ll just point out a few methodological considerations that she has neglected.

Cross-historical studies are fraught with peril and cause tremors in even the most stout-hearted historians (and anthropologists, and other competent scholars). That’s because historians are aware just what they face with such a project. It’s very difficult – in any venue – to work thoroughly enough in two widely divergent contexts to render the content of each so that it is even vaguely conversant with the other. The further apart these periods are, the more difficult that is to do. And it is certainly not so breezy as Stack’s piece would make it seem.

Naturally, treatment of the subject runs into trouble just by the fact that the piece is a newspaper article, which cannot hope to do historical justice to the topic. What the form necessarily excludes is all the contextualization and analysis that most scholars believe mandatory for any meaningful look into history.

Let’s not forget, though, that as piece of journalism, Stack’s piece is categorically different from academic history. Journalism operates under different rules, with different objectives, and through different means. Despite the fact that many of us while reading journalism perpetually cry out for closer analysis, not all journalism can take this form. The realm of popular media is a properly a distinct sphere, one that necessarily stands apart from academics. While it may often frustrate the thoughtful, journalism is a legitimate sphere of discourse, one that historians and academics should not merely bemoan, but visit and work to shape more often.

Perhaps more problematic for the article’s historical integrity even than its lack of historical context and sustained analysis, however, is the modern context in which the article is produced and received. To some extent, of course, all historical interpretations take place in a modern mindset. History is continually reinterpreted and meanings of the past are continually revised because interpretive priorities change over time.  But Stack’s article (like most other journalistic writing) is an artifact of a very particular temporal moment that is exceptionally hypercharged. It is a product of a news-cycle episode that is invisibly framed by some very powerful and focused tensions, themes, and interests. This sensationalized paradigm is the effect of fresh exposure to the images, video, accounts, and unvarnished opinions inherent to modern media exposure. And this is the world which journalists inhabit, navigate, and try to exploit. It is all but inevitable that a proximate and sensational present will oppress a passive and distant past.

To me, these are fascinating considerations that arise when history enters into the rough-and-tumble world of journalism. I hope to make a habit of writing about this from time to time in a series I’m calling Grub Street History, after London’s colorful journalism district of the late 17th through the early 19th centuries. In the world of popular media, history has different roles and functions. It is handled in different ways – journalists have their own historical methods. So just how do journalists who invoke history, specifically those who talk about Mormon history, engage and utilize historical information and narratives? Are there patterns in the efforts of those who write about Mormons and their past? What is the significance of those trends and how do they help shape discourse about Mormonism? With the current media interest in Mormonism and often in Mormon history, there will likely be ample opportunity to find out.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. What did you think of Nate’s Deseret News piece? I thought he did a good job.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 26, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

  2. Stacks article was pretty fair. The hard part is that there are considerable parallels between Joseph’s practices and those of Mr. Jeffs.

    The passage of time makes it hard to sort out. But, the behavior of both was kind of creepy.

    But, because of the gaps, all I can say is “I don’t know” with respect to much of it.

    Comment by Steve — August 26, 2011 @ 4:51 pm

  3. As one of my professors put it. Journalism is current history. Magazines, which have more time to evaluate are more willingly to delve into the issues deeper. While academic history is something that needs time and space and in some ways forgetting to be able to evaluate events on a scale more measured and hopefully less filled with kneejerk reactions.

    When papers do history they are matching a history understood a very low level and trying to fit it to their thesis which was determined before they started. Without the academic background to at least give them a sheen of safety.

    Comment by Jon W. — August 26, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

  4. I just read it, and I have to say it seems pretty fair as far these things go. “Under the Banner of Heaven” it’s not. Also, it would be way too tame for 19th C journalism in London. Don’t forget that the 19th C had journalists posing as johns trying to buy young girls – and by young, I’m mean 8 or 10 – as hookers to see if it was possible. They also demanded that the girls they buy be virgins. Heck, one journalists described a young boy he saw in a London workhouse and then insinuated that he was certain the boy would have sex with another man that night. The journalist was sleeping just a few feet away. If this was true grub street material, a young woman would go undercover and try to watch the deflowering of a virgin in Jeffs’ bed.

    Also, I agree with Steve. There are parallels, and Stacks points them out. She also points out the fact that Smith gave women a central role in his religion, and was decidedly less creepy than Jeffs. She isn’t saying that Jeffs and Smith are one and the same but rather shows the ways in which they depart from each other as well as where their behavior was similar. What might be interesting would be to put responses to Mormon polygamy then and current polygamy next to each other. Something tells me the results might have more parallels than many modern Mormons would like to admit. Fanny Stenhouse probably sounds much like many Utahns today.

    Comment by Amanda HK — August 26, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

  5. I’m not sure a comparison between the two is that instructive. What JS practiced was not, strictly speaking, polygamy, was it? And I don’t recall that he was actually involved with girls younger than 18 or 19. But if we look closely at some of the polygamists in Utah — perhaps even some of our own relatives — we see similar situations: older men marrying young girls 14, even 13 years old. Even in the 19th century, that was rather disgusting.

    Comment by Dan — August 27, 2011 @ 8:03 am

  6. Dan:

    If you get the opportunity to read Todd Compton’s “In Sacred Loneliness”, it will explain much about “what JS practiced” Compton, a member of the church, used the diaries and written statements by Joseph’s plural wives and other contemporary members in his examination.

    Comment by larryco_ — August 27, 2011 @ 8:59 am

  7. Dan,

    Joseph had two 14 year olds and a considerable number that were 20+ years younger.

    The hard part is that we don’t know if all were sexual.

    Comment by Steve — August 27, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  8. larry,

    that is a fascinating read. I haven’t read the book, but this book review sheds some very interesting light, and not good for Joseph Smith. For instance:

    Zina remained conflicted until a day in October, apparently, when Joseph sent [her older brother] Dimick to her with a message: an angel with a drawn sword had stood over Smith and told him that if he did not establish polygamy, he would lose “his position and his life.” Zina, faced with the responsibility for his position as prophet, and even perhaps his life, finally acquiesced (pp. 80-81).

    It sure sounds like Joseph Smith blackmailed Zina into the marriage, thus removing from her the ability to choose for herself.

    I think polygamy will continue to be a millstone around the neck of the church. Frankly, if I were not a member and missionaries were to stop at my door now, I would turn them away, not interested at all in such a religion.

    Both Jeffs and Smith used religion to convince young women to have sexual relations with him, using threats against them or against himself or those in the faith as blackmail. I’m glad the church has stepped away from polygamy, but it may never be free of its legacy, especially if we still think someday we’re gonna get back to polygamous relations.

    Comment by Dan — August 27, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  9. oh, and i’m not the Dan in comment #5. Just to be clear. 🙂

    Comment by Dan — August 27, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  10. It’s a good book albeit somewhat sad.

    BTW – my comment from yesterday appears to have disappeared into the spam filter.

    Comment by Clark — August 27, 2011 @ 11:07 am

  11. Dan: “Both Jeffs and Smith used religion to convince young women to have sexual relations with him,”

    I’ve looked into this charge a great length and concluded that it is likely bunk perpetuated by gossip. The DNA evidence is just too compelling to make this kind of irresponsible statement. Which “young women” did you have in mind? Could you give us some reliable evidence that would substantiate this charge beyond a reasonable doubt or even more probable than not?

    Comment by Blake — August 27, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  12. Dan,

    A significant number of the women testified — under oath in the Temple Lot case — that they were wives “in very deed”, a 19th euphemism for sexual intercourse.

    Many became wives, on Joseph’s death, of either Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball and had large numbers of children.

    The lack of descendants by Joseph seems to indicate some sort of birth control was practiced.

    Comment by Steve — August 27, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  13. Sorry, that should be addressed to Blake.

    My apologizes.

    Comment by Steve — August 27, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

  14. No Steve, one woman testified to that effect and she wasn’t young — she was twenty. It was Zina Huntington who testified that way. She was under pressure from the church because it was desperate to establish that its practice of plural marriage was the legitimate teaching of Joseph Smith. And what does “wife in very deed” mean — are you really sure it doesn’t mean that they had a legitimate marriage ceremony as far as she was concerned?

    Any other suggestions Steve?

    Comment by Blake — August 27, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  15. I should have specified that she was 20 when Joseph proposed to her; not when she testified in the temple lot case. Can you show that “married in very deed” was in fact a euphemism for sexual intercourse? I have looked into it, and it isn’t at all clear that it is.

    Comment by Blake — August 27, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

  16. Steve: “The lack of descendants by Joseph seems to indicate some sort of birth control was practiced.”

    Any evidence for that beyond your mere supposition?

    Comment by Blake — August 27, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  17. Blake,

    Here’s the points from Todd Compton books:

    Melissa Lott Willes (19 at time of marriage and testified wife “in very deed”)

    Emily Partridge Young (19 at time of marriage and testified had roomed with him the night of her marriage and had “carnal intercourse”)

    Benjamin Johnson noted that the prophet had used his spare bedroom to room with two of his wives, including his sister (ages 19 and 30).

    Angus Cannon, the Salt Lake City Stake President, conversed with Joseph Smith III about some of the wives, in particular Eliza R. Snow (age 38 at time of marriage). Some had claimed she died a virgin. He related she had said in response that: ‘I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that.” Cannon claimed that Joseph had had a child by Sylvia Sessions Lyon (age 23 at time of marriage). Of note, Sylvia told her daughter that she was Joseph Smith’s child on her deathbed (DNA doesn’t track daughters well).

    But, one can only look to Section 132. It clearly notes that a primary purpose of polygamy is to create posterity.

    I know it would be nice to pretend that sex wasn’t involved, but it is really a stretch.

    Comment by Steve — August 27, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  18. Blake, I don’t know what Godly favor we’ve incurred to have you as such a frequent visitor of late, but why don’t you try to think through your responses and leave one well thought out comment instead of multiple curt responses. I mean, we all love to see your name emblazoned all over the internetz, but you know.

    At any rate, Brian Hales’ site lists the women he finds reasonable evidence for their having sexual relations with JS. He lists three women’s testimonies from the Temple Lot Case on the matter of sexual relations:
    Emily Dow Partridge
    Lucy Walker
    Melissa Lot
    And Joseph B. Noble testifying of Louisa Beaman

    Interestingly, he doesn’t list Zina Huntington as being a wife that he finds reasonable evidence for sexual relations. Maybe I can get him to come over and comment on that.

    Comment by Jared T — August 27, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

  19. Steve: I’m fine if sex was involved. Not my issue. I began just like you assuming that JS had in fact engaged in sexual relations with his plural wives. However, after taking a closer look, I came away much less sure. further, my primary challenge is Dan’s charge that Joseph used his status as prophet “to convince young women to have sex with him.” That is why the ages are important — and 19 and 20 years is not too young for such decisions.

    My issue is also the evidence and what has been claimed for it. It is clear that there is zero evidence that Joseph fathered any children through plural wives. I would urge you to go back and look at the evidence again in light of these facts.

    The temple lot transcript is much less clear than is claimed regarding these issues. I have read it many times. The evidence for instance of Emily Partridge’s claim to “carnal intercourse” is not clear at all that she is referring to her marriage to Joseph Smith. It is supposed to be supported by a reference to p. 15 (it is actually p. 156) of Foster’s Religion and Sexuality. Foster cites pp. 364, 367 and 384 of the temple lot transcript. However, I think that Foster’s claim is less than clear in the Temple Lot Transcript — and in fact easily construed as referring to later marriages.

    Melissa Lott Willes does not say that she was Joseph “wife in very deed.” She did say that she stayed at her Father’s house as Joseph wife when Joseph was there. But that is a big difference. (Temple Lot Case, complete transcript, part 3, pages 97, 105-06, questions 87-93, 224-60)

    Benjamin Johnson made a number of contradictory statements regarding Joseph Smith; but the fact is that his statements are simple hearsay. He actually said that he saw Joseph in bed with his sister but didn’t see them turn out the light; then later denied he saw them in bed. I believe that the statements are unreliable — and I won’t even get into the nonsense suggested in the Cannon hearsay within hearsay. Here is at least is a link suggesting that a more careful link suggests that the testimony is contradictory and less than reliable: http://www.defendingjoseph.com/2008/09/are-original-statements-that-joseph-was.html

    Look more carefully at D&C 132.65 which seems to exempt Joseph Smith from “the law of Sarah” which is the command to take another to raise up seed.

    That said, I’m fine with plural marriage. I’m fine if Joseph had sexual relations — I just don’t believe the evidence is clear that he did in those cases that have purported as clear — and there are many clear cases where he had no relations with plural wives (and none with other men’s wives who also married him).

    Comment by Blake — August 27, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  20. Jared: why the venom?

    Comment by Blake — August 27, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  21. Venom? Hardly. But I am glad you can follow directions. Keep it up.

    Comment by Jared T — August 27, 2011 @ 2:46 pm

  22. Jared T: Here is Lucy Walker’s testimony from the temple lot case given in a deposition:

    Q. Can you state the circumstances under which h [Joseph Smith] first taught you that principle [of plural marriage]?

    A. Well, the circumstances were these, – it was a command from Go to me to receive it, and I would rather have laid down my life than disobeyed it, but it was a grand and glorious principle that was to be established, and when I was called upon I stepped forward and gave myself up as a sacrifice to establish that principle, and I did that in the face of prejudice, of course. In this day and age [1892] we are considered fanatics of course, more or less. I gave myself up as a sacrifice, for it was not a love matter, so to speak, in our affairs, at least on my part it was not, — but simply the giving up of myself as a sacrifice to establish that grand and glorious principle that God had revealed to the world.

    Q. Did you live with Joseph Smith as his wife?

    A. He was my husband sir…

    Q. How many children did you have by virtue of your marriage with Joseph Smith?

    A. I decline to answer that question sir.

    Q. Did you have any?

    A. I decline to answer the question.

    Q. Have you any children by Joseph Smith?

    A. I decline to answer the question

    Q. Why do you decline to answer it?

    A. Well I think that is my business and one of yours. The principle by which we were married is an eternal principle, and will endure forever…

    Q. Well did you raise a child by him?

    A. I decline to answer the question.

    Q. Did you ever occupy the same bed with him?

    A. I decline to answer the question.

    Q. You say you will not answer any of these questions.

    A. I do, not on that subject.

    Q. Did you ever see a child that you knew was Joseph Smith’s outside of David, Alexander, Frederick and Joseph?

    A. I decline to answer that question…

    Q. You know you did not have any children by him [Joseph Smith]?

    A. Well now that is something that I did not tell you anything about at all. It is none of your business if we had twenty sons or children, and it is none of your business if we did not have any. (Lucy Walker deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony (part 3), pages 450-51, 468, 473, questions 29-30, 463-74, 586.)

    I think that you can see why I don’t see that as clear evidence of sexual relations.

    Comment by Blake — August 27, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  23. Blake,

    Are you asking me if I have further evidence than the review I read of Todd Compton’s book? I don’t. I wish there wasn’t so much secrecy around the women he “married.” I put that in quotes, because, again, it was all so secret, and I get the impression, right or wrong, that Joseph Smith covered his tracks with a revelation justifying his relations with other women which he clearly saw that society around him would not accept from a “man of God.” The fact that there is so much secrecy surrounding these marriages inevitably draws suspicion, particularly when it doesn’t mesh with the rest of the characteristic of Joseph Smith, as one who is not actually a very secretive guy, but who shouts on the rooftops of the city the “good news.” Fanny Alger is the one that draws my suspicion, right from the start. A young girl who worked and lived with the prophet and who was rather a part of the family. There isn’t a recorded revelation indicating that Joseph was to marry her, from any record that I am familiar with (and that isn’t saying much, as this is not my area of expertise—perhaps someone with more knowledge could correct me if I am wrong). So why did he have sexual relations with her, hiding that from Emma and the rest of the church? From Fanny on, he probably realized that he could get away with having more women in his life, and even use it to expand the church. But I simply cannot believe it came from a revelation from God, until much later, probably when God realized that Joseph Smith needed to be covered spiritually and legally. And I do mean that, that God probably saved the church from moral destruction by justifying Joseph Smith’s actions. That’s probably a wacky theory, but it just came to me. Sort of like how it just came to Joseph to marry whoever he wanted. 🙂

    Comment by Dan — August 27, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  24. @ Blake — Do you have a reference for the DNA evidence? I’m suspicious of any attempt to prove whether or not someone had sex in the 19th C based on DNA evidence, and would like to read the published paper to see what precise claims are being made. By this logic, my husband and my lack of children means we’ve never had sex either.

    Comment by Amanda HK — August 28, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  25. Amanda: the scholar’s name is Ugo Perego, and he is only trying to prove paternity, not sexual intercourse. DNA is his field of expertise, so it is pretty solid stuff—even if the work of those who appropriate his work is not aLways as solid.

    A shot bibliography of his is found here.

    He also had a summary article in this recent volume.

    Unfortunately, the paternity over the most likely case, Josephine Fisher, cannot be tested yet until the science progresses.

    Comment by Ben Park — August 28, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

  26. Dan: I would suggest broadening your research on this issue before making further statements about Joseph Smith. The reasons for reticence are obvious: (1) such relationships whether sexual in nature or not were considered sacred; (2) they placed Joseph’s life in danger; (3) if they involved sex, it is a matter of privacy.

    “So why did he have sexual relations with her?” What is your evidence that she did? It seems to me that the innuendo from Cowdery that he saw them alone is the only possible evidence of sexual relations that is at all reliable — and he later recanted that charge. Moreover, Joseph denied at least that he had committed adultery. In my view, the evidence is consistent with the view that Cowdery saw no more than a marriage ceremony and that Alger and JS were alone together in a barn after the ceremony. The evidence of sexual relations with Alger is not at all clear — so why is it so certain in your mind when you know no more than what you read in Compton’s book? I urge you to look at the evidence — the actual sources — with a critical eye before simply believing the gossip and innuendo swirling around the topic (and certainly around the internet).

    Amanda: The work of Ugo Perego at Sorensen labs (a good friend of mine and probably the leading authority in the world on the issue) is fairly decisive on this issue. There is no DNA evidence of children sired by Joseph except from Emma and numerous (the vast majority at this point) have been ruled out as possibles. On the other hand, I could demonstrate whether you have children by your husband very easily with a simple DNA test. If you’re interested, check out this link: http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/2008/08/ugo-perego-joseph-smiths-dna-revealed.html

    Comment by Blake — August 28, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

  27. Amanda: I am not as sanguine as Ben that Josephine Lyon is a likely case of paternity by Joseph Smith, but he is right that the tests are not yet conclusive (those tests that have been done related to her suggest Joseph is not the father). You can check this out: http://fairmormon.org/Polygamy_book/Children_of_polygamous_marriages

    However, you are correct that lack of children is not proof of lack of sexual relations. But in my view it is inappropriate to extrapolate from our world in which the pill is readily available to birth control during Joseph’s time. We know that Joseph was virile and we know that many of those for whom it is claimed he had relations that they were fecund.

    Comment by Blake — August 28, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  28. @Blake and Ben — Thanks for the info. I’ll check out the link. The debate on this page interests me, although probably for different reasons than those involved. It reminds me of debates over whether or not Mary had sex after the birth of Jesus. The context and stakes of the debate are obviously WAY different, but they sound similar nonetheless. Perhaps if my dissertation flops, I’ll write a Mormon version of the Da Vinci Code.

    @Blake — Birth control isn’t a twentieth century invention, nor is abortion. Both were known and practiced in the nineteenth century. The question would be: Were they practiced within the Mormon community? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.

    Also, no DNA tests needed. I’m pretty sure I would remember having a baby and both needles and cotton swabs unnerve me a bit anyway.

    Comment by Amanda HK — August 28, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

  29. Amanda: My bad, I suspect you would remember having given birth. For the record, I don’t remember giving birth either.

    Comment by Blake — August 28, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

  30. Thanks, everyone, for weighing in.

    Kevin: I thought Nate did a decent job of showing some divergences. He essentially steered around the direct comparison by focusing on the intervening period: he said a lot about Brigham and the Saints in Utah rather than Joseph and his time. That’s a legitimate approach. He also emphasized the nuances of history, which we can all appreciate.

    Comment by Ryan T. — August 29, 2011 @ 8:53 am

  31. Amanda, probably not necessarily relevant in this context but as I recall when Bennett was practicing his competing polygamy in Nauvoo and justifying it with, “Joseph did it,” there were claims about both abortion and birth control. The abortions were purported to have been performed by Bennett himself. As I said it doesn’t follow that Joseph used birth control. And of course the birth control of the era was poor.

    Comment by Clark — August 29, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  32. Blake,

    I don’t have much of a fight here. I honestly don’t care either way. I judge Joseph Smith by the society I am in, not his. Just like we Americans judge the prophet Mohammed by our society, not his. Who knows why Joseph Smith was so secretive about the other women he married. Some were highly secret, while others were rather open. It sends a poor message. It’s not clear. It’s not transparent, and it smells of cover up.

    In the end, I really don’t care that much. Joseph Smith really was a rough stone rolling.

    Comment by Dan — August 29, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

  33. @Clark – Of course, BC wasn’t as good as we have now. My own personal take on the matter is that Joseph probably did have sex with his plural wives. It seems that most other polygamous husbands did, and why his would be the only polygamous union in which sex wasn’t happening is beyond me. But, I think such sex was probably infrequent. Joseph was constantly in trouble with the law, the community was frequently under threat, and Emma was nonplussed with his behavior. Whether or not birth control was used, I honestly don’t know. That said, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that not all sexual acts produce children. I won’t be graphic, partially because we all know what they are. The reason that the pill was revolutionary was not because it was the first kind of effective birth control. It was because it allowed women to control the likelihood of pregnancy without their husband’s consent. Interesting about Bennett.

    Comment by Amanda HK — August 30, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

  34. About the claims of abortion and BC, such claims were common potshots. They were also leveled at the Shakers and Catholic nuns by some authors who claimed that both groups HAD to lying about their chastity and using BC to cover it up. Such things, along with Bennett’s claims, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Comment by Amanda HK — August 30, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  35. Amanda I have no strong feelings one way or the other, although I’d assume he would. (Why wouldn’t he?) That said I think Compton’s thesis of dynastic marriages is pretty compelling. In that scheme there’s actually a pretty strong theoretical scaffolding for thinking that at least a significant number of them he wouldn’t have. I’m not fully convinced by Compton though. I don’t think a good theoretic model of what Joseph was thinking has been developed. (And of course that very quest assumes there was a coherency to it all beyond the idea of restoring polygamy)

    Comment by Clark — August 30, 2011 @ 3:38 pm


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