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Polygamous Families in Contemporary Society Paperback – July 26, 1996

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Editorial Reviews


"An exhaustive, fine piece of scholarship; it is timely and should be read with great interest--not just by scholars but by the wider educated public as well." Philip Kilbride, author of Plural Marriage for Our Times

"Based on interviews, observations, and ethnographic materials, the authors research provides a rich description and analysis of life in plural families....The authors have written an objective and sympatheic account of the structure and dynamics of fundamentalist Mormon families in contemporary America. Highly recommended." D.A. Chekki, Choice

"Their comprehensive analysis of life in present-day fundamentalist groups, both urban and rural, is scholarly, dispassionate, and very readable. Their research will be used and cited for years to come." Utah Historical Quarterly

"This volume is a complete, detailed work that is contemporary in nature....This book of research will enable the reader to better understand the motives, routines, rewards, and concerns of family life that exist in contemporary society as polygamous families live out what they believe in." Gerald John Kloss, Latter Day Saints History

"...the book is highly successful in explaining the values guiding Mormon fundamentalist communities and why maintaining polygynous unions is so important to them despite considerable costs to both male and female participants." Nancy E. Levine, American Anthropologist

"This is an interesting book, well researched and written....Altman and Ginat have managed to conduct a rich and remarkable anthropoligical/sociological study on the workings of polygamous families." Baffour Takyi, Family Relations

Book Description

Using first-hand interviews and observations, this analysis of life in modern day Mormon polygamous families describes how husband and wives cope with their complex lifestyle in various facets of everyday life. Lay readers as well as researchers will find the subject material of interest.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 532 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st Paperback Edition edition (July 26, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521567319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521567312
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,703,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In the latter half of the nineteenth century the LDS (Mormon) Church,
settled in what is now the State of Utah, authorized and encouraged
men to take multiple wives. This was based on a belief that such
marriages were the will of God. The practice led to intense
opposition by the US government, causing the LDS Church to officially
abandon this position in 1890. Some church members, convinced that
plural marriage was correct and the official church leadership had
fallen from the true path, separated and formed their own churches
where the practice of plural marriage continued. Such practitioners
are automatically excommunicated by the official LDS Church. Plural
marriage is actually a criminal offense in Utah, but the state has not
actively prosecuted it for several decades. The last major organized
police raid on one of these churches occurred in the 1950s.

Beginning in the 1970s Joseph Ginat, then a graduate student of
anthropology at the University of Utah, began building contacts with
these Mormon fundamentalists, estimated to number between 20,000 and
60,000. This was a slow and delicate process because of the long
history of oppression. Practitioners of plural marriage are still
subject to various forms of discrimination so tend to be secretive.
For this reason, it is effectively impossible to gather reliable
statistics on these people, so any numbers quoted should be taken as
very approximate.

Members of the Mormon fundamentalist churches share a belief in the
patriarchal authority and duties of the husband, traditional gender
roles, and having lots of kids. About 20% of their families are
plural marriages.
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I bought this book not too long ago, and I gotta say it is probably the most comprehensive research-based book on polygamy in America. The polygamists that this book focuses on are modern-day or contemporary Mormon polygamists. Just looking at the topics mentioned in the table of contents for this book impressed me when I saw all of the signficant (and in some cases, interesting) topics that are covered and seeing how well those topics were presented in the book. I have not finished reading the entire book from cover to cover but from what I've read so far this book is well presented and informative.

In response to one reviewer who mentioned that the interview subjects were men, to that I will say that is in part FALSE and misleading. The interview configuration SOMETIMES involved the husbands alone, but other times the interviews involved the husband and one or more wife, other times the children, the relatives, and yes sometimes the wife or wives alone, etc. Now the authors do specify that they rarely met with a wife (or wives) ALONE, but my point in bringing this up is that that is far different than saying that the subjects of the interviews were only MEN, when you factor in that the wives, relatives, children, were involved and sometimes without the husband. This is clearly stated on pg. 451, the section titled "participants in meetings".

Another important point to make is that the authors obtained their information not from just interviews but also OBSERVATIONS even going as far as living with some of the families and participating in their social events for some periods of time (Pg. 447, 1st paragraph, 5th sentence; pg. 450-451, the section titled, "interviews and observations"; pg. 454-455, section titled, "Locations of meetings").
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very good book and service
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