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In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith Hardcover – December 15, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Formerly at UCLA and now the editor of Mormonism and Early Christianity, Compton has compiled a meticulously researched and masterly study of Mormon Joseph Smith's 33 wives. The women are presented individually, with many of their own documents cited. Compton contends that "Mormon polygamy was characterized by a tragic ambiguity": infinite dominion in the next life vs. a social system that did not work, thus resulting in acute neglect of the wives. These "key women have been comparatively forgotten," surprisingly so considering the reverence Mormons hold for their founding prophet and how important polygamy was to Smith. The "sacred loneliness" refers to Smith's promise of salvation combined with the solitude of the forsaken multiple wives. A plenary reference and bibliography and a collection of the wives' photographs fill out this tome, making it a fascinating work. Valuable for both lay readers and scholars, this is recommended for public and academic libraries with good collections in history and women's studies.?Kay Meredith Dusheck, Anamosa, IA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

 Todd M. Compton, Ph.D., classics, UCLA, is the author of In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, editor of Mormonism and Early Christianity, a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Mormonism and Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism, and has been published in the American Journal of Philology, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Classical Quarterly, and the Journal of Popular Culture, among others. He currently plays electric violin in the Mark Davis Group, which performs at coffee houses and music clubs in the Los Angeles area, and is the assistant systems manager for Paul, Hastings, Jaofski, and Walker. He lives in Santa Monica, California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 824 pages
  • Publisher: Signature Books (December 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156085085X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560850854
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

342 of 366 people found the following review helpful By Duwayne Anderson on March 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to find a book about early Mormonism that does not focus almost exclusively on Joseph Smith. As founder of the Mormon religion, this may not seem surprising, but it's refreshing just the same to read Todd Compton's book with its almost exclusive focus on Joseph's wives, and comparatively little focus on the Mormon prophet.
Compton's book consists of 30 chapters; each written as a biography of the various women Joseph Smith married, with the conspicuous absence of Emma Smith. This highlights and emphasizes the fact that, though Joseph had many wives, they were all rejected by Emma who vigorously opposed polygamy and the intrusions it brought into her home.
Studying Mormon history has become a mixed blessing. On one hand, historical scholarship of the subject has advanced greatly since Bodie's landmark "No man knows my History." On the other hand, excommunication of prominent historians (such as Quinn and Brodie) by the Mormon Church has resulted in much fear and distrust. For most Mormons, Todd Compton's book probably falls outside the designation of "faith promoting," and may be uncomfortable for many active members of the church.
Growing up in the Mormon Church, I learned several myths about early Mormon polygamy such as: 1. A man's wife had to approve the marriage to plural wives. 2. Most plural wives were older women whose husbands had died, and for whom polygamy represented safe heaven from a brutal world. 3. Most of Joseph's plural wives were sealed to him, but had no sexual relationship with him. 4. Joseph's plural wives never became pregnant from him. 5. There was never any admission or even mention of polyandry.
Through the biographies he has constructed, Compton exposes each of these myths.
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165 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Active Latter-Day Texan on August 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am an active Latter Day Saint, and I ordered this book because despite being LDS, I had no understanding of polygamy, especially as it related to Joseph Smith. I was never taught that Joseph had other wives, and I cannot recall it ever being mentioned in church despite my life-long activity in the church. We are not encouraged to look into this issue, and in many ways we are dissuaded from looking. I purchased the book because of reviews saying it was an unbiased factual analysis of Joseph Smith's plural wives, and their lives. It was definately worth the money, and I got more than I paid for. It is objective and factual. The author goes to lengths to scruitinize sources, and uses multiple sources for information. The book is not for the weak of faith because it explains the problems that the women had because of polygamy (Emma's hostility to the doctrine, Joseph's denial that it was being practiced after a number of early marriages, and the alienation of women who shared a husband with a number of wives), but truth is truth and should be pursued. The information in the book is detailed, documented, from contemorary journals, and most sources are friendly to the church. The focus of the book is on the women themselves. It not only documents what information there is about their marriage to Joseph Smith, but also documents the rest of their lives including subsequent spouses. Much of the information comes from the women themselves as given in their journals or autobiographies. It is clear the book is meant as a survey of the lives of these women and not an effort to disparage Joseph Smith, although it will be seen as somewhat troubling to some because polygamy often offends our modern notions of morality.Read more ›
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87 of 94 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To say the least, this was a very informative book! I had long suspected that there was more to Joseph Smith's plural wives, and I am grateful to have a book which has provided me with SOME ANSWERS about a topic which is so ignored in the Church. This book is not for the weak in faith; it presents information which can be very disconcerting (which I have, personally, corroborated from other sources). In sharing some of the information with my wife, she seriously questioned whether Joseph Smith was a "fallen Prophet." (Joseph married other men's wives; and, understandably, my wife finds that very disturbing). In sharing some of the information from the book with my brother (who, as I, has been faithful and active members of the Church for over 25 years), my brother responded: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Needless to say, I have some very serious concerns about the secreative aspects of a "Man of God." I, however, am reserving judgement - as I have not, as yet, finished the book; also, I tend to give Joseph and Brigham the benefit of the doubt (There must be some explanation with which I am unfamiliar.). I must say, at times - as a result of reading the book, I regard polygamy, as practiced by Joseph and Brigham (who, later, married some of Joseph's wives, and who married the wife of a member who was away on a mission), as very repulsive - even though I have been a personal supporter of polygamy (based upon the limited "teachings" I have received in the Church). The unusual method of footnoting used by the author is very confusing (which causes me some apprehension as to the authors credibility -- which, as mentioned above, has led me to independently corroborate what I can).Read more ›
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