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Revelation, Resistance, and Mormon Polygamy: The Introduction and Implementation of the Principle, 1830–1853 Hardcover – June 25, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Review

 “Others, including myself, have never adequately explained the emergence of polygamy ideologically. Smith does so brilliantly, meticulously tracing the factors that overcame resistance to the doctrine among the LDS faithful. She made it possible for me to understand my own ancestors’ rationale in adopting a way of life that so offended their Victorian sensibilities.” —Janet Bennion, author of Polygamy in Primetime


"Smith's book is compelling and lucid...it is the first book to explicitly examine why Mormon men and women were willing to enter into polygamy and the mechanisms that were used to compel them to do so."
--Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, Montana: The Magazine of Western History

About the Author

 Merina Smith graduated from the University of Colorado, raised five children, then returned to graduate school, earning a PhD from the University of California at San Diego in 2011.  She currently researches and writes as an independent historian.  She currently resides in San Diego with her husband, legal scholar Steven Smith.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Utah State University Press; 1 edition (June 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874219175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874219173
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,600,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By B. Jenkins on June 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I will say up front that my review might be slightly biased. Merina and I have been personal friends for over 10 years. We team taught the Gospel Doctrine adult Sunday school class in the Avocado, El Cajon, California Ward. The subject was the Old Testament, and we got along smashingly. With that being said, however, I would not give a positive review of her book if I thought it was not well written.
First, the writing is wonderfully engaging and accessible. This is quite a feat considering the subject matter and academic context of the publication. When I started the Introduction, I could not put the book down. I read late into the night and was increasingly persuaded to follow the stories that the author used to construct the foundation and framework of her thesis. I read the introduction a second time the same night, making copious notes in the margins. I picked the book up again last night and avidly read until 1:30 a.m. This might sound like an exaggeration, but, it is not; I cannot put the book down because of how much I enjoy the writing.
Second, the arguments the author uses to bolster her thesis are cogent and meaningful. There is a logical, compelling progression in which the book unfolds. This is marvelously enhanced by the superb organization of the book (ie. the sub-sections within each chapter).
Third, the author uses judicious caution in discussing the historical/social development of Joseph Smith and the practice of polygamy. She goes out of her way to show the complex character and genius of Joseph Smith. The author never jumps to easy or simplistic conclusions regarding the motivations underpinning the actions of Joseph Smith.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sharman Hunter Wilson on October 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a descendant of early Mormon polygamists, I am always interested in books that will enlighten me about this little understood practice. Merina is a friend from her years living near Boulder, Colorado, and whenever we spoke about polygamy, it was always with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we admired the faith and sacrifice of our forebearers, on the other hand, the idea of polygamy did not sit very well with our modern sensibilities. One thing this book made abundantly clear, however, is that the idea did not sit well with any of Joseph Smith's followers either. Joseph himself, although he felt compelled to teach "the principle," knew it would not be well received. Learning how to frame the theology behind it as well as figuring out how and when to implement the practice was a long and wrenching process. With the very real threat of ruin upon his head as well as upon the church he founded, both from within and from without, he deemed it necessary to tread lightly as he introduced it to his most trusted followers. The worst part of all was the necessity he felt to keep his wife Emma in the dark. Her reaction to rumors of his teaching and possibly practicing the "plurality of wives" was one of horror and opposition. Following both the narration and the well-researched analysis was fascinating to me--the combination of real-life drama and historical perspective kept me thoroughly engaged. I was especially interested in Merina's portrayal of one of the earliest and more zealous polygamists, John D. Lee. I am descended from him and his 13th? 14th? wife, Lavina Young, through their daughter, Melvina. A trusted and spiritually adopted son of Brigham Young, Lee jumped into the practice feet first, with absolutely no idea of how to cultivate meaningful relationships with his 19 wives.Read more ›
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Val Larsen on July 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I greatly enjoyed reading this book. While it is very clear on the theological underpinnings of polygamy, what makes the book especially engaging is that it weaves the narrative of individual lives into the unfolding historical tapestry. We see how theology and faith intersect with personality and persecution and friendship and desire and jealousy in the lives of these pioneers of "the principle." Developing as it initially did in secret and at a great temporal and cultural remove from biblical models, polygamy placed a heavy burden of invention upon its pioneering practitioners. The book shows how various faithful women and men struggled to find a viable way of living together in their unconventional marriages that had no model. It shows, too, how over time, through trial and error, the Saints learned to be better polygamists. And yet, it is also clear that structural problems tested even the wisest and most faith filled participants. Unsurprisingly, many participants were not entirely wise, though judging from the book, the vast majority seem to have been full of faith.

The impression I gleaned from this book was that Joseph Smith, though surely not lacking in libido which may have played a role, truly felt called of God to restore plural marriage as part of the restoration of all things. In restoring polygamy, he brought upon himself and the Church a world of trouble, not least from his formidable and admirable wife Emma. The historical balance of the book is reflected in the fact that I felt deep sympathy and respect for both Emma and Joseph as they endured their frustrating, fierce, loving, agitated struggle to defend their diametrically opposed views on the proper model for marriage and the propriety or impropriety of polygamy.
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