Book: Polygamy was deep and broad in early Mormon society in Illinois





If the past is a window to the present, then a new book about polygamy among early Mormons could be a portal to understanding where some contemporary Utah polygamists have found inspiration for their way of life.

From child brides and secret ceremonies to their defiance of marriage laws, the narrative in "Nauvoo Polygamy," by George D. Smith illustrates the development and breadth of polygamy as it was first practiced in the 1840s by the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in Nauvoo, Ill.

"It changes our understanding of a plurality of wives," polygamy historian Martha Sontag Bradley said of the book. "It provides indisputable, quantifiable evidence that the scope of plural marriage was more broad and deep than we had imagined."

In nearly 700 pages, the book weaves the story of church founder Joseph Smith's relationships with the more than 30 women he married and how he persuaded his closest followers that "celestial marriage" was a sacred and essential religious practice.

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