MORMON WIVES AND WIFE-STEALING
During the frontier days in early America, revival meetings were very popular. In addition to being seasons of spiritual exaltation, they were occasions for social gathering and for entertainment. Visiting preachers would deliver spectacular and sometimes outlandish messages just in order to draw a crowd and put on a good show.
There was competition between speakers, and every orator tried to bring a different form of the Gospel so as to stand out from the others. Commonly, the preacher would rant about hell and put everyone in doubt as to their salvation. No matter what commitments the hearers had made in the past, it was argued that these had not been sincere enough, that people were still hiding sins in their lives, that they were not giving enough money, and that they should be rejecting the world’s pleasures and not living lives of ease, etc. Since everyone in the crowd had some kind of human failing, it was easy to bring them under conviction that they needed to get saved all over again or more sanctified and holy in their living.
Since the pulpit orator was always a man, the easiest converts to his message were impressionable women. They could be induced to seek more piety by doing whatever the charismatic speaker demanded. Thus, it was the practice of cult groups such as the Shakers and the Mormons to put on revival meetings that would agitate an entire community with their different slant on Christianity and their claims of being the only true saints.
Mormons needed women to join their frontier communities and to enlarge their harems, and so the proselyting preachers’ message to females was to leave their families and their lives of luxury and prove themselves worthy of salvation by trekking to the New Jerusalem in Utah. Only by being married to a Mormon man could a woman be assured of heaven. Many responded to this call, and in some cases reluctant ones were even kidnapped and taken from their families.
After Brigham Young’s twenty-seventh wife divorced him, she spoke out against the Mormon Church all over the United States.* In her lectures, she told of polygamists stealing “Gentile” (non-Mormon) wives and justifying their expanding harems by pointing to the Bible, in which the patriarchs had possessed wives and concubines.
*The Twenty-Seventh Wife by Irving Wallace, The New American Library, 1962, pp. 197, 264
In her talks Ann Eliza Young revealed the strange Mormon doctrine that Adam, in a previous existence, had many wives, of whom Eve was one. She said that the Saints held the belief that Jesus had a harem consisting of Mary Magdalene and the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, and that the marriage at Cana of Galilee was one of His bridal feasts.
To her stunned audiences Ann Eliza exposed the unhappiness in polygamous households, the loneliness of the children, the incest of men marrying their nieces or half-sisters, and the degradation of women being looked upon as “cows.”
A book published in 1998* exposed the seamy side of polygamy as practiced by Joseph Smith. There were 33 well-documented wives of the Mormon prophet, although some researchers have placed the figure as high as 48. Evidence shows that Smith experimented with polygamy in the 1830s and added many wives to his harem when he moved to Illinois. In the latter years of his life, Smith was taking more than one new wife a month. Eleven of Smith’s wives were between the ages of 14 and 20, nine were in their 20s, eight were in Smith’s own peer group of 31 to 40, two were in their 40s, and three were in their 50s. One, Agnes Coolbrith Smith, was his brother’s widow.
Emily Dow Partridge told how in 1843 she was approached by Smith when she was 19 years old. He told her, “The Lord has given you to me.” Their marriage was performed in secret, and after the wedding Smith married her sister Eliza four days later. Since this was also a secret ceremony, Emily did not immediately discover that Eliza was her “sister-wife.”
Wife-stealing was a part of Mormonism from the first. The lecherous prophet lived in adultery with eleven of his “wives.” These women were married to Smith and still cohabited with their husbands, who were mostly faithful Mormons. Not one of these women divorced her “first husband,” and they all continued to live with their civil spouses while married to Smith. One Mormon, William Law, who opposed Smith after the prophet tried to seduce his wife, filed a suit against the church leader for living “in an open state of adultery” with 19-year-old Maria Lawrence. According to the church, adultery was a sin second only to murder, punishable by the loss of all wives in heaven. Evidently, Smith must have gotten a special dispensation from God to break this law. The outspoken
*In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives Of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton
opponent of Joseph Smith, William Law, started a paper, the Nauvoo Expositor, to let the Mormons know that their leaders were practicing polygamy. Smith sent an armed guard to wreck the press and burn all the papers, and this act led to his arrest and subsequent assassination by the state militia.
In 1866, Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, said, “The only men who become gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.” And Young set out to prove his prophecy by taking 55 wives and having more than a hundred children.
Well known columnist Jack Anderson was raised a Mormon. In 1980 he did a report for Parade magazine on polygamy in his boyhood days. He said that it was common practice for the Mormon leaders and wealthy laymen who were the big contributors to take the choicest girls. Anderson reported that “young girls just out of high school were parceled off to old psalm singers in their 60s and 70s...Some of these leaders had huge harems with more than a dozen wives, most of them young and, from outward appearances, highly desirable.”
In the early days after polygamy was introduced to society by the Mormons, it was denounced by most Americans. Writers noted that the history of polygamy was intertwined with the history of slavery. The issue became a political one and was reflected in the Republican party platform of 1856 that condemned “those twin relics of barbarism - polygamy and slavery.” It was recognized that polygamy forces a woman into a condition of servitude, i.e., slavery. As a consequence, in 1879, the Supreme Court outlawed polygamy, ruling that a “free, self-governing commonwealth” presupposes monogamy, upon which “society may be said to be built...Polygamy leads to the patriarchal principle, which, when applied to large communities, fetters the people in stationary despotism, while that principle cannot long exist in connection with monogamy.”
Although polygamy was officially disavowed by the Mormon Church in 1890, it is still being practiced by 25,000 to 35,000 people, and young women are still being enticed and stolen from their homes. In 2002 in Salt Lake City, prosecutors charged a woman with inducing her sister to marry her husband. Police officer Rodney Holm was married to Suzie, aged 36, who then helped him acquire her sister, aged 16. The Holms belonged to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), one of six polygamous splinter groups in Utah and other Western states.
The Fundamentalist offshoots of Mormonism teach that a girl’s first menstruation is a sign that she is old enough for marriage. Officials say some girls are being married as young as age eleven. In keeping with their antiquated standards of propriety, the women of these sects are encouraged to dress in pioneer-style long dresses with ribbons and frills and to wear their hair uncut to their knees. They do not listen to music or watch television.
As of the year 2000, the leader of the FLDS sect was a ninety-year- old prophet by the name of Rulon Jeffs. At that time he was reported to have between 19 and 60 wives. With the prophet’s advancing age, his son, Warren, later assumed the leadership position.
Outside the Jeffs group, a 16-year-old Salt Lake City girl was whipped by her father for refusing to become her uncle’s fifteenth wife in 1998. Both father and uncle were prosecuted, and the uncle got ten years in prison for incest and unlawful sexual conduct.
This girl had stumbled into a remote gas station in northern Utah covered with bruises on her legs, arms, and buttocks. She had run seven miles through the night. Her father, John Kingston, had applied his belt to her when she refused to marry her uncle. John Kingston had fathered ten children with a half-sister, and the girl who fled was his eldest child. After marriage to her uncle, David Kingston, she ran away twice. Then the father took her to the clan’s ranch and into a barn, where he beat her until she passed out. After her ordeal the girl moved to a foster home and returned to high school.
In 2001 Thomas Green, who had a household of five wives and twenty-two children, was convicted of four counts of bigamy and one count of criminal nonsupport for $50,000 in welfare the state paid his family. To get the public funding he had claimed that his wives were single parents. (Some of this money probably went to the other five wives and eight children who no longer lived with Green.) In a follow-up trial Green was also found guilty of child rape for marrying and impregnating a 13-year-old girl. Seven of Green’s children were inherited from one wife’s previous marriage. Green married the women, divorced them to stay within the letter of the law, and continued living with them. He had ten wives in all after 1970, though the count stood at five at the time of his trial.
Some polygamists scatter their women around in different houses, but an article written in 1988 said that the Green household was all under one roof. Each wife had her own room, and they slept with Tom in the master bedroom when it was their turn. The schedule was posted on the refrigerator door. The “sister wives” rotated all domestic chores, and the one whose turn it was to do the cooking served breakfast in bed to Tom and whichever wife was there with him.
One unique feature of this family was that the husband was married to a pair of mothers and their respective teen-age daughters from former marriages. Linda, 16, was the daughter of Green’s senior wife Beth, 42. Shirley, 18, was the daughter of June, 37. Linda had married Tom in Mexico when she was 13. She put her situation this way: “It’s no problem. Your relationship just changes, is all. It’s like, well, you become good friends instead of mother-daughter. I mean, Mom doesn’t have authority over me anymore. Tom does.” Of Shirley, Tom said: “Talk about sex. Now there’s the little gal in this house who really loves it.” Because Linda was underage when impregnated, Tom Green was given five years to life in prison, and this sentence was light, because of the desperate pleas of his spouses.
At the time of his trial Tom Green was 52 years old, and his wives were Linda, 28, Shirley, 30, LeeAnn, 25, Cari, 24, and Hannah, 23. The five were between 13 and 16 years of age when he married them, impregnated them, and required the state to pay the bill. Shirley and LeeAnn were sisters and Linda’s cousins. Cari and Hannah were also sisters. Linda’s mother, June, past her child-bearing years, had left the family unit.
Elizabeth Smart was an obedient 14-year-old Mormon girl in 2003, when she was abducted by Brian David Mitchell, 49, and his wife Wanda Eileen Barzee, 57. Exploiting her religious beliefs, Mitchell told Elizabeth that God had revealed that she was supposed to be his second wife. He gave her a new name, “Augustine,” and dressed her in white robes - practices that are carried out in secret in Mormon temples. Elizabeth was violated the first night and was sexually abused and held for months at campsites in the mountains. At times she was tied to a tree with a cable. Mitchell and Barzee were charged with kidnapping and sexual assault and given life in prison.
Previously, Mitchell had been married to another woman, Debra, and had sexually abused her daughter, Rebecca, for the four years of the marriage - which ended in divorce in 1986. Two years before the Elizabeth Smart incident, another girl, Julie Adkison, had been approached by Mitchell and his wife at a Salt Lake mall. Julie said she found him hard to resist. She stayed with him for six hours, spellbound by his enticements, before finally getting away.
These cases show that women are still the targets of Mormon exploitation, and that they are being taken into harems, whether of their own free will or not. It is significant that the Utah Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that it was legal for polygamous families to adopt children.
The Mormons’ main argument for plural marriage is based on the polygamy of the patriarchs. But they also claim that Jesus taught it. When He spoke of angels, the Lord said that they do not marry in heaven. So, the Mormon Church teaches that husbands and wives who are married in churches or civil ceremonies become angels and do not remain married in heaven. In the afterlife they stay single and join with the angel hosts as ministers, i.e., slaves to the “gods” (those who have been married for eternity in a Mormon temple). Mormon men and women, who are sealed together in private “celestial marriage” ceremonies conducted in LDS temples, are believed to be joined as husbands and wives forever. Children may also be sealed to their parents for eternity.
According to Mormon dogma, husbands and wives who are joined in celestial marriage become gods upon death. These deities establish and populate other worlds such as this one by procreating more spiritual children in the celestial kingdom. Thus a Mormon husband can become “a heavenly father” and his wives “heavenly mothers” of millions of newly created human souls. Having more wives allows the divine husband to populate a larger universe and to be a higher god than others.
This process called “exaltation” or “eternal progression” is the way Mormons believe the Heavenly Father became the God of this world. They believe He was once a man as mankind is now, who, along with his wives, progressed to become God. He is now an exalted man with a physical body of flesh and bone, and He reigns just like the gods of other universes.
Richard L. Atkins
ZANE GREY’S ASSESSMENT OF MORMONISM
Extracts from Riders Of The Purple Sage
Charaters: Millie Erne, abducted by Mormons
Frank Erne, Millie’s husband
Jim Lassiter, Millie’s brother, turned Mormon-killer
Jane Withersteen, a Mormon woman, loved by Lassiter
Mormons...are unnaturally cruel. To my everlasting sorrow I confess it. They have been driven, hated, scourged till their hearts have hardened. But we women hope and pray for the time when our men will soften.
I believe Mormon women are the best and noblest, the most long-sufferin’, and the blindest, unhappiest women on earth.
...your Bishop...He’s the law.
...and you know how Mormons hide the truth.
It’s a hard country for any one, but hardest for Gentiles. Did you ever know or hear of a Gentile prospering in a Mormon community?
I know Mormons. I’ve seen their women’s strange love an’ patience an’ sacrifice an’ silence an’ what I call madness for their idea of God. An’ over against that I’ve seen the tricks of men. They work hand in hand, all together, an’ in the dark. No man can hold out against them, unless he takes to packin’ guns. For Mormons are slow to kill. That’s the only good I ever seen in their religion...these Mormons ain’t just right in their minds. Else could a Mormon marry one woman when he already has a wife, an’ call it duty?
Milly was not known openly in Cottonwoods as a Mormon wife. That she really was a Mormon wife I have no doubt. Perhaps the Mormon’s other wife or wives would not acknowledge Milly. Such things happen in these villages. Mormon wives wear yokes, but they get jealous.
But it was bitter knowledge that made him see the truth. He had felt the shadow of an unseen hand; he had watched till he saw its dim outline, and then he had traced it to a man’s hate, to the rivalry of a Mormon Elder, to the power of a Bishop, to the long, far-reaching arm of a terrible creed...hand in glove with that power was an insatiate greed; they were one and the same.
...and she doubted that her Bishop, whom she had been taught had direct communication with God - would damn her soul for refusing to marry a Mormon...So she reasoned, true at last to her faith in all men, and in their ultimate goodness.
...Collier Brandt...was a Mormon with four wives. The big house where they lived was old, solid, picturesque, the lower part built of logs, the upper of rough clapboards, with vines growing up the outside stone chimneys. There were many wooden-shuttered windows, and one pretentious window of glass, proudly curtained in white. As this house had four mistresses, it likewise had four separate sections, not one of which communicated with another, and all had to be entered from the outside.
“That first day,” whispered Jane, “Lassiter said he came here to find Milly Erne’s grave...to kill the man who persuaded Milly Erne to abandon her home and her husband - and her God!”
She had told Lassiter that she felt helpless and lost in the fearful tangle of their lives; and now she feared that she was approaching the same chaotic condition of mind in regard to her religion. It appalled her to find that she questioned phases of that religion. Absolute faith had been her security.
Among many thousands of women you’re one who has bucked against your churchmen. They tried you out, an’ failed of persuasion, an’ finally of threats. You now meet the cold steel of a will as far from Christlike as the universe is wide.
There was something terribly wrong with her soul, something terribly wrong with her churchmen and her religion.
To prey on weak women through their religion - that was the last unspeakable crime!
It ‘pears that soon after I left home another preacher come to the little town...He preached some other kind of religion, and he was quick an’ passionate...He went after people, women specially...he had power over women. He had a voice, an’ he talked an’ talked an’ preached an’ preached. Milly fell under his influence. She became mightily interested in his religion...So the new preacher often called on Milly, an’ sometimes in Frank’s absence...Then presently, along comes a man from somewheres in Illinois, an’ he up an’ spots this preacher as a famous Mormon proselyter...An’ Frank..drove the proselyter out of town...one mornin’ Frank rode in from one of his trips, to find Milly gone...But after bein’ patient I...found two letters from Milly. One was a long letter written a few months after her disappearance. She had been bound an’ gagged an’ dragged away from her home by three men...They were stangers to her.
An’ I’d like you to see jest how hard an’ cruel this border life is. It’s bloody. You’d think churches an’ churchmen would make it better. They make it worse. You give names to things - bishops, elders, ministers, Mormonism, duty, faith, glory. You dream - or you’re driven mad...But it can’t last always. An’ remember this - some day the border’ll be better, cleaner, for the ways of men like Lassiter.