Brian C. Hales. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2006. Softbound, 6.75×10″, 541 pages.
Winner of the John Whitmer Historical Association’s Smith-Pettit Best Book Award!
Under the subject of alternative lifestyles, the issue of polygamous relationships falls squarely in the middle of the debate. Polygamous marriages are a common practice in many other countries, but the United States has vehemently opposed such unions and will no doubt find itself disputing its position on them again in the near future. As with the same-sex marriage issue, a firestorm of controversy surrounds the question since the right to participate in a polygamous union is very much tied to the right to live out one’s preferences, religious or not. Detailed accounts of sexual abuse and child brides are frequently leaked from the various polygamous societies, notwithstanding their extreme efforts to remain under the radar of law enforcement and the press. A by-product of these mysterious societies is that public interest is vitalized by their continuous efforts to gain independence from traditionalist culture.
This fascinating study seeks to trace the historical tapestry that is early Mormon polygamy, details the official discontinuation of the practice by the Church, and, for the first time, describes the many zeal-driven organizations that arose in the wake of that decision. Among the polygamous groups discussed are the LeBaronites, whose “blood atonement” killings sent fear throughout Mormon communities in the late seventies and the eighties; the FLDS Church, which made news recently over its construction of a compound and temple in Texas (Warren Jeffs, the leader of that church, is now standing trial on two felony counts after his being profiled on America’s Most Wanted resulted in his capture); and the Allred and Kingston groups, two major factions with substantial membership statistics both in and out of the United States. All these fascinating histories, along with those of the smaller independent groups, are examined and explained in a way that all can appreciate.
“This book is the most thorough and comprehensive study written on the sugbject to date, providing readers with a clear, candid, and broad sweeping overview of the history, teachings, and practices of modern fundamentalist groups.”—Alexander L. Baugh, associate professor of Church history and doctrine, Brigham Young University