Polygamy: Then and Now
Polygamy is a common, well-buried secret that is often hard to leave and still exists throughout the country today. Usually, when one thinks of polygamy, the mere idea seems unreal. The idea of having more than one spouse disgusts some people. How can someone want to be married to more than one person? Sure, you can sit there and say that you “love” all of them, and that may be true, but to divide yourself up among them in order to spend time with everyone is almost insane. How do those wives want to share their husband with other women? It seems what you hear most about today is spouses cheating on one another, so why would someone want to free willingly let that happen? First thing is first, where do you even see polygamy? Polygamy is mainly associated with Mormonism and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. It all started with Joseph Smith. Smith was born in 1805 in Sharon, Vermont (Oliver, Branch, and Walker). According to the religion, he prayed his first prayer at age 16, and he saw Jesus and God the Father in a vision (Oliver, Branch, and Walker). About seven years later, the angel Moroni (the son of the prophet Mormon) gave him two golden tablets inscribed with symbols, which he translated into the Book of Mormon in 1830 (Oliver, Branch, and Walker). The Church of Christ was founded on April 6th of that same year and was the first church for the religion. Four years later the church changed its name to Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) (Oliver, Branch, and Walker). On June 27th, 1844 Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum die in a gunfight at a jail where he and others are being held on charges of treason. They were attacked by a mob. Joseph did manage to kill two gunmen and wound another with a small pistol, which was smuggled in earlier (Oliver, Branch, and Walker). Merriam-Webster defines polygamy as “marriage in which a spouse of either sex may have more than one mate at the same time.” Polygamy has been around since at least the 1800s. President of the Church, Joseph Smith Jr, introduced a number of new practices in Nauvoo, IL in the 1840s including plural marriage. From then on, the other Presidents of the Church continued to support the practice of polygamy. President John Taylor was a staunch defender of polygamy. Wilford Woodruff in 1890 however, issued the Manifest, now known as Official Declaration 1, announcing his official counsel to the church to abandon polygamy. Before that in 1885, Lorenzo Snow served time in prison for practicing polygamy. Polygamy has been practiced in the past in the Mormon religion. Polygamy was stopped because of an 1896 Supreme Court ruling regarding the acceptance of Utah into the Union. Mormons agreed to stop the practice, and this proved to be the end of recognized polygamy in the church. Polygamy is still practiced today in more of a "don't ask don't tell" fashion (Lue, Polygamy). In Utah, estimates range from 30,000 to 75,000 people that still participate in the polygamist lifestyle, which is about 1%-2% of the population (Lue, Polygamy). Polygamy is more common that most people realize. Polygamy is not something many Americans are accustomed to. Western culture teaches that monogamy, as opposed to polygamy, is the proper, accepted form of marriage. Western culture places that morality into its people, often from youth. In Western culture, having more than one partner in a marriage is often causing for divorce; however, in some religions, such as Mormonism, it is practiced and even encouraged by most of its people. In the book Secrets & Wives the Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy, author Sanjiv Bhattacharya talks about his travels throughout Utah. His quest to talk to those who either were or currently are in polygamous relationships was not an easy one. He discussed how he would seemed to be shunned from some of the polygamous communities he entered because they did not like outsiders and knew that he was not...
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