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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Polygamy”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Polygamy.” You can view other subjects here.

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Some persons still see the Church Historian as functioning the way Joseph Fielding Smith did and regard the historian as a far more important person in the Church hierarchy than he actually is.  Also many persons assume that the Church Historian knows all of the Church history, and telephone to ask him or write to ask him all kind of questions about Church history—or perhaps they wish him to explain a certain aspect of Church history.  But his training is simply where to go to find the answers or how to interpret the sources of information.

A common question these days is something that bothers people who have read or are reading The 27th Wife by Irving Wallace.  There is a paragraph in this book pointing out that Joseph Smith married Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs who was already married to Henry Bailey Jacobs, and who was on a mission at the time she married Joseph Smith.  I have explained this as being a celestial marriage—a marriage for eternity, and not necessarily a marriage for time or a marriage in the earthly sense.  I have also said that this apparently was done with the approval of Elder Jacobs.

There are essentially three possible theories to explain the origin of plural marriage:  the-seat-of-the-pants theory, the theory of social benefit, and the theories based on theological explanation.  All three may have played some role.  In the Great Basin Kingdom in footnotes and in the text, I tended to emphasize the social benefit theory—that there were many women who left their husbands to join the Church who would have not been able to marry in the ordinary sense and who were married for time and eternity or for eternity alone to prominent Church officials who looked after them.  The same for women who lost their husbands.

My reading and conversations here would suggest that more importance should be attributed to theological explanations of polygamy.  There was a very definite feeling that persons could not achieve exaltation without linkages to persons who were essentially assured of exaltation.  Consider the LDS belief that Joseph Smith spoke to God, received messages from him, and was essentially saved by him.  He was certain to be a king, a ruler over many, a head of a dispensation in the next life.  A woman whose husband was sinful, mean, cruel, unbelieving, heretical, had no assurance of exaltation and desired to achieve it so strongly that she was willing—indeed anxious—to leave her husband and join the Saints and be sealed, at least for eternity, to the Prophet.  Or, if not to the Prophet, to one of his apostles.  

This is a selfish motive for being sealed as a plural wife, and its importance should not be underemphasized.  There were subsidiary motives as well of theological origin:  raising up a righteous seed, providing a righteous body and family into which infant spirits could be born.  If the woman’s motive was many times selfish—to achieve her exaltation—the man’s motive might have been equally selfish.  If a man was promised the opportunity of being a prince and king in the next life and part of this hinged on having a large family who would become his subjects, he desired to have a large family.  The Law of Adoption as revealed about 1842 or 43 made it possible to graft on to that family many others who had left their own families to join with the Saints in Kirtland, Far West, Nauvoo, or elsewhere.  Hundreds of young men were adopted into the families of prominent Church leaders.  This was particularly a strong emphasis during the months after Joseph Smith’s death when the Nauvoo Temple ceremonies were being performed.  Perhaps two or three dozen young men were sealed as sons to Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, John D. Lee, and other Church stalwarts.  According to contemporary diaries, there was even campaigning to have this or that young man sealed to them.  This implied a temporal responsibility. The adopted fathers must see that the young man was looked after.  The young men must take advice and counsel of their fathers and work for them.  This resulted in a great deal of confusion, because it became inevitable that the advice and counsel of their fathers might be different from that of their ecclesiastical officials, and it was not many years until such adoptions were discontinued in practice.  The official end of this practice, however, did not occur until 1894 when President Woodruff said that he received a revelation that men where to be sealed to their natural fathers—not to Church officials.

I don’t know of any instance of the adoption of young women.  The young women were simply sealed as plural wives of church authorities, so this is how they came under the law of adoption and, or course, that practice stopped in 1890—or at least in 1904—with the Manifesto and the subsequent rule of 1904.

This is all a very strange kind of theology—a theology which the present generation of LDS find difficult to understand.  The Church’s attitude during the last 30 or 40 years has been to avoid mention or discussion of it, but I do not see how we can avoid grappling with this problem if we are to write honest history.  Moreover, with the doctrine of continuous revelation it becomes easy for us to handle it by saying that practices were suited to the times and circumstances.

I have asked Gordon Irving to do a preliminary study on the Law of Adoption, and we may later have someone else pay his respects to this practice—not necessarily for publication, but to enable us to see the parameters of the problem and see what will be involved.

I have never discussed this with a high Church official nor with a temple clerk, but perhaps after several more months when I feel more relaxed in talking with certain Church officials, I may raise the issue with one of them.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday 4 August 1972]

Buddy [Youngren] told a story that is a little upsetting.  It apparently was told him by Truman Madsen who in turn was told it by Richard Anderson.  Richard Anderson had received a letter from Wallace Smith and Richard Howard, which authorized him to use the Joseph Smith and Emma Smith letters in his forthcoming book of letters between Joseph and Emma.  When he was back at Indiana to check on some last minute items, he happened to mention to Richard H. that he was thinking of putting in a few remarks about Joseph Smith and polygamy—that perhaps this would help to explain some of the nuances in his letters and those of Emma to him.  Richard A. said that he told this to Richard H. as a confidence to get his counsel as to whether Richard H. thought this was all right.  Instead of taking it in this light, however, Richard H. went to Wallace and told Wallace about it and Wallace hit the ceiling.  In a few days Richard A. received a legal sized letter of a couple of pages—very cool and formal in its manner—contrasting with the friendly letters previously received from Richard H.  The letter began something like “It is our understanding that you propose to do so and so…” and removing all permission previously granted to him to publish these letters.  Then at the end of the document in small print was a phrase something like, “Of course, the permission we previously granted to you is still in force if you do not plan to mention polygamy in your volume.”  This upset Richard A. very much.  On the one hand, he thought Richard H. was his friend and that he could talk with him friendly without the matter going to Wallace.  Richard A. thought he had been betrayed.  On the one hand, he thinks the mention of polygamy helps to shed light on some of Emma’s responses.  On the other hand, he wants to remain friendly with the RLDS and wants to publish the letters, which they have.

This is a lesson for us in regard to approaching Richard H. and Wallace Smith on the use of the documents, which they have which we want to include in our Joseph Smith volume.  On the one hand, we shall have to assume that anything we say to Richard H. will go to Wallace Smith, and secondly we shall have to assume that in order to obtain this permission we shall have to avoid mention of polygamy in the book.

I told Buddy that I was sure that Richard H. feels less secure than previously because the orthodox are after him for being too liberal, so he is trying to keep in good with Wallace Smith and the orthodox people so he will not be thrown out as their church historian.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 28 August 1972]

I received a telephone call today from Tom Fyans, who is in charge of communications of the Church.  In his office was Mrs. Phillip Bullen who is trying to get the Church to, as she puts it, be honest about polygamy.  She is the daughter—or perhaps the granddaughter of one of Heber J. Grant’s plural wives.  Apparently the January issue of Ensign (or New Era) had a feature on the prophets.  In connection with Heber J. Grant they mentioned only the first wife, leaving the impression that he did not have other wives.  A nasty letter was written to President Lee by Senator Wallace Bennett whose wife is a daughter of Heber J. Grant by a plural wife.  Did she not exist?  Was not her mother a wife?  Was not Heber J. Grant her father?  Could she be written off the list so easily?

Apparently all of the Grant girls from plural wives are trying to stir up enough sentiment that they will get the Church to admit officially in its magazines and books that Heber J. Grant and other Church leaders had plural wives.  Anyway, Brother Fyans wanted me to assure him over the telephone, so he could assure Mrs. Bullen, that so far as the history is concerned we are writing it like it is and recording it like it is.  He said he would discuss this with me privately on some other occasion.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 12 September 1972]

Saturday morning was the funeral of Raymond Taylor at Berg Mortuary in Provo.  In addition to two musical numbers there were three talks—one by Carroll Barnson of Kanab, who had been associated with Raymond during the uranium period of the 1950s and had been a close friend ever since; Sam Taylor, the writer and brother of Raymond; and myself.  Carroll’s remarks covered particularly the uranium period of Raymond’s life.  My remarks were a general appraisal of his attitude toward Church history, toward the Mormon culture, and so on.  Sam’s talk may cause some problems.  For one thing it was a little more humorous than one would expect at a funeral.  For another thing he got into a defense of the idea of writing forthrightly about polygamy, and on two occasions he thanked me as Church Historian for opening up to him freely the materials in the archives.  This was in context, which suggested that that had not been the case before and that Raymond was free to look at anything, thanks to me.  There are just three things wrong with that:  (1) There has been no change from the policy inaugurated several years ago (in 1967) by President Joseph Fielding Smith when he was Church Historian; (2) Raymond Taylor was granted this permission by A. William Lund and Earl Olson; (3) It is not my prerogative to exercise control over the use of the archives.  But, of course, one had no way of replying to that in the context of a funeral.  I spoke before Sam for one thing.  I was asked by Ruth Fors Taylor, Raymond’s wife, as a special favor to speak at this funeral.   She was a longtime employee of the Genealogical Society, and she and Raymond were married by Elder Theodore M. Burton.

After the service President Wilkinson of BYU came up to sympathize with me.  He also thought that word of Sam’s talk would get around and that I would “hear about it.”  There was a very large number of people present—perhaps 200 or 300.  President Wilkinson thought my talk had just the right tone, but he thought Sam’s talk was definitely out of place.  Considering that Raymond had already established a certain kind of reputation for being outspoken and that now I was being given all the credit (?) for all of his confidential material, Wilkinson thought I would have problems.  Sunday morning President Wilkinson telephoned me to say that he had asked a Mr. Lloyd Ririe, who made a tape of the funeral, to give the tape to him (President Wilkinson) and he would have it transcribed and would furnish me a typescript for the record.  He also said that I should feel free to use his name in case anyone raised questions about the service.  He said “Leonard, we have got to protect you in your position as Church Historian; you are too important to all of us to be controlled or removed.”  I thanked him, but I really don’t think I’ll have any problem because of the service.  After all, I will be judged for my own talk and not for Sam’s.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 18 December 1972]

In our meeting yesterday morning Joseph Anderson told of his long association with President Heber J. Grant.  Brother Anderson was secretary of the First Presidency from 1923 until 1972—a period of fifty years.  He had learned during the first year that there were personal things, which should not be recorded in the minutes, and he still believed that was a good thing.  He thought President Harold B. Lee shared that philosophy.  His reasoning was somewhat like this.  If we mention the name of a person in some disrespectful way or in some indiscretion, his family may find it out and this would destroy their image of him as a worthy example.  Church leaders are all human, of course, but we ought not go give ammunition to our enemies, nor cause for the family and members of the church to be critical.  

I mentioned the problem we have as historians of discussing polygamy.  We must do it, since it is a part of our history. We cannot avoid discussing it.  Yet we cannot glorify it—that would play into the hands of the fundamentalists.  Nor can we be overly critical of it—after all, the Lord commanded us to practice it.  Brother Anderson said the principle of polygamy was correct, just as the United Order principle was correct, but we were not righteous enough to practice it correctly.  He said that was the problem with polygamy—not everybody was sufficiently righteous enough to practice it as it should be practiced.

Brother Anderson often heard it said that the ideal polygamous family was that of Joseph F. Smith.  He was very fair in dealing with all his wives and children.  He said that many years ago a famous actress came from Hollywood to Utah.  She was fascinated by plural marriage.  She interviewed all the wives of Joseph F. Smith, then went to him and said, “President Smith, you must be one of the world’s great actors.  I have talked to each of your six wives, and each one tells me quite sincerely that she is your favorite wife!”

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 3 January 1973]

Brother [Joseph] Anderson mentioned that he has been reading the George G. Cannon journals and said there were many things in those journals that ought to be made available to our Church historians and the membership of the church.  He mentioned, for example, Brother Cannon’s visit with David Whitmer, which was very interesting and important.  Also that George Q. Cannon says a great deal about the writing of the Manifesto of President Woodruff.  Said that President Woodruff brought to him the draft of the Manifesto in his own handwriting.,  President Cannon corrected some punctuation and that was all—that the text of the Manifesto was composed by President Woodruff.  Brother Anderson thought that was important for us to know since many people have assumed that Brother Cannon was the author of the manifesto.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 6 February 1973]

I had some conversations with Arizonans last week, some of which were related to the continued growth of the Fundamentalists.  I was told stories about certain previously loyal and devoted members who had been active in the Church and then had suddenly joined the Fundamentalists.  And it occurred to me that the Fundamentalists groups are playing a role similar to that of the monasteries in ancient and medieval Christendom or perhaps modern Christendom.

Joining the Fundamentalists is like retreating from life or society—from social and political society into a little protected world of their own.  They make no attempt to accommodate to the ways of the world.  They set up their own standards and conditions and essentially go into seclusion.  This is a way out for devoted members who find it impossible to face the problems of the modern world—who find the accommodations too much of a strain—who are not able to bridge the gap between their Mormon heritage and the blatant secular world of Babylon which surround them.

Fundamentalists are something like the equivalent of an LDS monastic order.  People brought up on a rural atmosphere with a particular way of life cannot adjust to the loyalties and compromises of the urban life that they confront in Phoenix, in Salt Lake City, in Bountiful, in Los Angeles, and in other places in the West.  They react against the different values of urbanized society and retreat back into the simple strait-forward values of their heritage, which means withdrawing into the group of the Fundamentalists.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 6 February 1973]

Brother [Joseph] Anderson stated in our meeting this morning that the Fundamentalists have published a pamphlet with four “concealed” revelations.   The word conceal means nothing in particular since it simply means we have not published them.  The four are:

3.  The supposed revelation of President Taylor counseling his son John and family to continue the practice of polygamy.  The Lord saying he would not revoke that principle.  The First Presidency—or at least Joseph Fielding Smith has long declared that this is a forgery—that President Taylor did not receive such a revelation.

The Fundamentalists claim that the revelation was presented at a certain meeting giving date and place.  Brother Anderson looked in the diary of George Q.. Cannon and found that a meeting was held at that date and in the certain place and Brother Cannon records rather fully what took place in the meeting, but he makes no mention of this or any other revelation being presented at that time.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 15 February 1973]

Ham Godbe was in this morning and left a list of questions about the Godbeites, which he hopes I will be able to find answers for.  I told him that I would not do anything with it until after conference, but in a matter of a week or two I would ask one of my research assistants to see what he could find on these questions.  Ham says that he is convinced that the first disenchantment of W.S. Godbe, his grandfather, with Mormonism and Brigham Yong was over polygamy.  He had come to the conclusion that plural marriage was not a correct principle.  He thinks that disenchantment was the basis for the eventual break with Brigham Young and the Church.  It was not only his own feeling about the correctness of the principle but also that his first wife, who was a shrew, was dead set against it, and that he took the stand against it because of her complete opposition.  Despite this, he later fell in love with Charlotte Cobb, daughter of Augusta Cobb and Brigham Young, and married her as a plural wife.  He loved her and he allowed himself to be persuaded that it was all right to marry her.   All of his friends were surprised and stunned at this action of his and his first wife never forgave him.

After the break with the Church, he separated from his plural wives.  By then he had four, I think, and one of them divorced him.  He gave her a good settlement and supported the others well but lived only with his first wife.

Ham says that he thinks E. L. T. Harrison did not marry plurally and that his disenchantment may have been partly due to polygamy and lack of confidence in the spiritual sensitivity of Brigham Young and other Church leaders.  One account says his wife died in a handcart company.  Another says that she died at the time of the Godbeite break.  Tullidge, I think, says that Harrison lived in a state of “soft-suppression” thereafter, which would suggest that he never did marry after his first wife died.  Tullidge, of course, had married plurally, and Ham thinks that Tullidge changed according to who was paying his bills.  He was a strong supporter of Brigham Young and the Church when he was a member of the Church and employed by Brigham Young.  He was a strong supporter of the Godbeites during the period he was serving as a writer for the Mormon Tribune, then he went back East and joined with the RLDS and changes his tune again when he was with them.  He returned to Utah as an elder and missionary for the RLDS and had sufficient confidence of the Salt Lake City Commission and other people that he put out the history of Salt Lake City and the history of Northern Utah.  Ham thinks that in order for him to be an elder in the RLDS Church, he would have had to be divorced from his plural wives—they never would have permitted him to have status with the RLDS unless he got gotten rid of his plural wives.

Shearman, of course, married plurally and stayed with his plural wives and that no doubt accounts for his later reconciliation with the Church.  Ham pointed out that all of the Godbeites had continued to express their basic faith in Mormonism—that is, the gospel before Brigham young.  Henry Lawrence never married plurally and never wrote much for anything.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 27 March 1973]

Vic Jorgensen telephoned this morning and said that he had received my letter, and he wanted to give me reassurances.  He telephoned Sister Hyde and assured her that he had not made copies of the letters she had given him to give to me.  He said he had understood that he was not to make copies of these, and he had not done so.  She seemed satisfied with this.  He also explained to her that she would receive a copy of her interview to keep and that the copy would be reserved in my office and would be restricted.  He said she was completely satisfied with his explanations and seemed reassured.  Vic said that her brother, H. Grant Ivins, had written a 35-page manuscript on polygamy in which he had said essentially the things that she had told in her interview.  It is a little sensational in nature and also he is a little bitter about the Church denying things they knew very well to be true.  Grant had tried to publish this various places and had not had success and may end up publishing it by himself as a pamphlet.  Vic said that the pamphlet has circulated here and had been read by Sterling McMurrin and other people who had given him advice and that a copy of it is in the Utah State Historical Society.  This is a copy which is restricted and which they are not officially supposed to have.  They acquired it by somewhat dubious means, but they nevertheless have it.  He thought if I really wanted to see it, I could probably get Mel Smith to let me see it.  Vic gave the impression that he has seen it.

I must admit I am still a little uneasy about Vic.  He had told me previously that he had made a copy for himself of the letters that Sister Hyde had given him and that he had obtained her approval to put them in his thesis.  Now he says that he didn’t even make a copy for himself.  I suppose all we can do is await his thesis.  At any rate I have given him strict instructions not to use it in his thesis and have done this by letter, so if the material appears in his thesis, it will be a strict violation of my instructions to him; it will be a betrayal of confidence lodged in him by Sister Hyde since he was representing me in getting the interview from her.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 13 April 1973]

Andrew and Kathryn Larson were here to see Davis Bitton about the Charles Walker journals that Davis is editing, and they told some stories about polygamy.  The points they emphasized were that the Saints in their private conversations emphasized that polygamy was to refine their spiritual natures—to learn discipline, to learn to overcome their willful natures, to overcome selfishness, and to learn to overcome their sinful natures.  Both women and men understood it as a matter of sacrifice. It appealed to the sacrificial instincts of both women and men.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 4 May 1973]

4.  In response to the request of Brother Olson that Brother Arrington give his opinion of Michael Marquardt’s pamphlet on the peculiar marriages of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brother Arrington said the pamphlet smacks of sensationalism and that it does not provide a true understanding of the situation.

[LJAD, Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Tuesday, 19 June 1973]

Ron Esplin showed to me the suicide note which Orson Pratt wrote in 1842. This was shortly after his return from his mission to England. He had heard about the flirting and sexual immorality of his wife Sarah. In confronting her with it, she had told him that Joseph Smith had made advances toward her and that she had attempted to evade him. This had made him so despondent that he could not see any reason for living. On the one hand, could he believe Joseph Smith in whom he had had faith for twelve years? On the other hand, could he doubt his wife whom he loved very much and was devoted to?

Apparently a number of people in Nauvoo had heard of his despondency and were concerned about him. Missing him, they looked all over for him and finally located him down at the edge of the river as if he were about to jump in.

We have in our archives a number of signed statements by individuals in a position to know, testifying as to Sarah’s immorality and questionable behavior with John C. Bennett while Orson Pratt was on his mission in England. These were some people like Daniel H. Wells and others who were not members of the church but who had seen Bennett and Sarah in a compromising position and had observed Bennett’s comings and goings to her apartment. They disported themselves as man and wife. Apparently this evidence and the integrity of those giving it finally persuaded Pratt that his wife was not trustworthy. This led him to come back into the church and to become reconciled with the brethren. On the other hand, he may have felt guilty leaving his wife behind as he went on his mission to England and may have forgiven his wife Sarah. That explains his remaining with her and bringing her with him to Utah. Sarah, of course, later became divorced from Orson and she continually told as if true the story of the Joseph Smith importunities. In this she was, of course, encouraged by the apostates and anti-Mormons.

[LJA Diary, 3 Aug., 1973]

Mary Christensen, who works in the Lion House, came in this afternoon to ask about the marriage record of her mother and father. Her father was Mathoni Pratt, the youngest son of Parley P. Pratt. He had married two women before the Manifesto of 1890. According to her, as told by her mother and father to her, her father was called in by Church Authorities in 1902 and asked to carry on the principle of plurality by marrying another wife. He did marry a third wife, Elizabeth Sheets, I think, and she, Mary Christensen, is a child of that marriage. Then, of course, occurred the Manifesto of 1904 which ended these marriages approved by the officials of the Church. She, Mary, was born in 1903 apparently.

Sister Christensen has never been able to find any record of that marriage. Her father’s papers were all burned except one record book which gives a date for the marriage and for the place says EH. This could not mean Endowment House since the Endowment House was torn down. Perhaps it meant some building near Temple Square which served as a temporary Endowment House. Mary is certain based on what her parents told her, that the marriage took place in Salt Lake City. She is also certain that Joseph F. Smith as president of the Church was aware of the marriage and approved it because at the time of the marriage he gave to Mary’s mother and father a portrait of Joseph Smith which also conveys his signature and best wishes. This would suggest that perhaps a group of people were called to practice polygamy by Joseph F. Smith or by someone designated by him.

Her point in coming to me was to ask where she might find a record of the marriage. She has been told by some people that all of these records of marriages after 1890 were all destroyed before the Smoot trial of 1904-07. However, she thinks there must be some record somewhere. I suggested she talk with Brother Joseph Anderson about the possibility that the records might be in the vault of the First Presidency. I also suggested that she talk with the president of the Salt Lake Temple as the records might be there. She said she was working with Brother Christiansen in the Genealogical Society in an attempt to locate them if they were there.

[LJA Diary, 27 Feb., 1974]

Brother Arrington read a proposed letter addressed to Elders Howard W. Hunter and Bruce R. McConkie relative to the desirability of doing a study pertaining to the subject of the practice of plural marriage by the Church in the nineteenth century.  It was pointed out that there is a need for suitable reading material on this subject, and permission was given for Brother Arrington to have the letter prepared and sent to Elders Hunter and McConkie.

[Minutes of the meeting of the Executives of the Historical Department, 31 Dec., 1974; LJA Diary]

Dear Brethren:

We feel an obligation to report a scholarly development which causes us anxiety. It has to do with the increased interest in the practice of plural marriage by the Church in the nineteenth century.

Because of national concern over the breakdown of the family unit, courses in marriage and the family given at universities throughout the United States are beginning to include readings and lectures on alternative types of marriages, such as trial marriages, common law marriages, plural marriages, etc. Classes at literally hundreds of colleges and universities are including readings on various types of families, including the nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint plural family.

Unfortunately not very much has been written on the subject and what has been written is neither adequate nor desirable from our point of view. The standard references to the plural family used in most colleges and universities are Stanley Ivins’ article for the Western Humanities Review of 1956 entitled “Notes on Mormon Polygamy,” and Kimball Young’s book Isn’t One Wife Enough? These allusions made in classes to the Mormons and their pioneer marriage practices are often so ridiculous that some of our Latter-day Saint students have made complaints. The usual response to these complaints is, “Furnish us with some suitable reading material and I’ll be glad to list it.” Our Public Services people have recently received letters from Latter-day Saint students (and even telephone calls from two General Authorities) asking for suitable reading material on the subject of plural marriage. Unfortunately, there is little that we can recommend. We know of three books of readings on the American family currently being prepared by social historians (not LDS) which include a section discussing plural marriage among the Mormons. We have every reason to believe these will not be satisfactory, from our point of view. 

Since the subject is being discussed, whether or not we like it, and since the available sources are not adequate or desirable, we wonder if it would not be wise and timely for a member of our staff to prepare a paper or pamphlet or short book on the subject of the history of the practice of plural marriage among the Latter-day Saints.  We feel confident that this could be done in a positive manner, that it would not be offensive to Church leaders and to descendants of plural families, and that it would not provide support or encouragement to Fundamentalists.  At the same time, we are confident that such a responsible historical treatment would be used as a reference by social historians and family specialists in colleges and universities throughout the country in preference to the Ivins and Young pieces.  We envision a moderate, well documented piece of limited circulation—written with perspective and understanding—certainly nothing satirical or sensational.

We are raising a question about the desirability of doing this study because it has been our impression in years past that the Church has had a hesitancy about approving the publication of anything dealing with the subject of polygamy or plural marriage.  For instance, very little writing or mention of plural marriage has appeared in any of the Church magazines in the last two generations.  The task we are volunteering to do will obviously be difficult, but we think that in the interest of the Church it would be better for us to provide something sound and accurate than for a generation of American university students to be exposed to a warped view for failure of our office to come out with something better.  We would be glad to have your judgment on this matter.


[LJA to Howard W. Hunter and Bruce R. McConkie, 31 Dec., 1974; LJA Diary]

In the meeting with Elder Hunter and Elder McConkie on Tuesday, I sought their reaction on the letter I had written asking for their opinion on the book concerning the practice of plural marriage of the Latter-day Saints. They both said they supported the idea and said they would take it to the Quorum of the Twelve and try to obtain their support for the task. If given approval I would plan to publish the book under my name but have chapters written by various members of our staff, and I would indicate by a footnote notation on the first page of each chapter who it was written by. This would give each of the persons writing it a chance to list it under their bibliography. It would avoid the impression of an eclectic work with a different name attached to each chapter.

I expect to have Davis Bitton do a chapter or two based upon his background in reading of the Mormon families. I would probably have a chapter by Richard Jensen which would be a study of divorce in pioneer Utah and a chapter or two by Dean May using quantitative methods to pin down some of the characteristics and trends of plural marriage practices. I might also be able to enlist the support of Larry Foster to use some part of his dissertation in the work.

This project would take us several months, and we would expect to publish a book on the topic which was both informative and interesting. It would be aimed for members of the Church as well as for the general public.

[LJA Diary, 23 Jan., 1975]

Study of Plural Marriage

Reference was made to a letter of Leonard J. Arrington to the brethren regarding the study of plural marriage. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has this material. Elder Stapley asked Brother Arrington to explain why there was a need for such a study, which Brother Arrington did, to which Eider Hunter added additional reasons why he thought the study was justified. Elder Stapley suggested that he and Brother Hunter take this matter to President Kimball.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 18 Mar., 1975; LJA Diary]

Truman [Madsen] said his grandmother, Rachel Ivins Grant, was converted to the Church, went to Nauvoo, was there for only a year or so. She got to know the Prophet Joseph. She also saw the beginnings of plural marriage and reacted against it. This became somewhat generally known. One day she got notice that the Prophet Joseph wanted to see her. She just knew he was going to ask her to marry him. So she didn’t go. Shortly thereafter the Prophet went to Carthage and of course was killed. She then went back to her parents in New Jersey. Truman says the family know absolutely nothing about that period she was back with her parents in New Jersey. What she said, thought, did, etc. Then several years later she migrated to Salt Lake Valley. There she was courted by various young men. She turned them down. She had become converted to plurality. Finally, one day, President Jedediah Grant talked with her and approached her. He said he knew that the Prophet Joseph wished to marry her and wished her to be sealed to him for the hereafter. Would she marry him, Jedediah, as a proxy for Joseph, and let him raise a family up to the Prophet. She accepted this, they were married in the Endowment House. They knew about the Joseph Smith arrangement, and the records indicated this. She then conceived, and shortly Jedediah died. The child was born after his death and she named him Heber Jeddy Grant. When the child was only two years old, she was visited by Eliza [R. Snow], who prophesied that the child would become president of the Church. She kept this in her heart, and kept the ideals high for him as he grew up. And of course he becomes a general authority at age 21 or 22.. Then he goes to Arizona. Sees Lot Smith. At about that time, he has the experience which tells him that the Lord approves his appointment as General Authority. After this, he no longer questions the appointment. After Jeddy Grant dies, he is looked after, to some extent, George D. Grant and family, the brother of Jeddy.

[LJA Diary, 29 Jun., 1975]

Another reason for the lack of good biographies has become clear to me in the months and years that I have been Church Historian, That is the problem posed of dealing with plural marriages and plural families. Half of a man’s life is that which relates to his wife and family. This offers problems enough to an ordinary monogamous person, but the problems are enormously complicated in dealing with multiple marriages and multiple families. It isn’t only a question of dealing with these in some satisfactory way. It is also a question of family tension, hatreds–the family desire to suppress, forget, and cover up. Nearly every important Mormon entered into plural marriage and in nearly every instance the first wife, though formerly giving her approval for the second marriage, privately opposed the second marriage and privately was jealous of the second wife. While she attempted to sublimate her feelings, these were recognized by her children and these were magnified by them so that it was impossible for them to look upon the second wife and second family in an objective way–as the children of a brother or sister would look upon aunts and uncles and cousins. Feelings developed between first, second, and subsequent families. Privately, not publicly, they made snide remarks about their “aunts”. Wives would tear pages out of husband’s diaries that referred to the other wives and family. They would destroy letters to or from the other wives and families. Bitter complaints would h made which were passed onto children and great-grandchildren.

With this kind of atmosphere family members, regardless of whether first or second or third family, would not want to undertake a full biography or history, nor would they want anyone else to do so, nor would they cooperate and so for Mormon figures with “images” to protect–apostles, members of  First Presidencies, General Authorities, etc.–the histories simply didn’t get written because the family did not want certain things published which would inevitably have to be included and this probably explains why the only successful biography–works which were more than hagiographies–were of apostates or characters whose image was already destroyed or tarnished.

[LJA Diary, 27 Aug., 1975]

Glen Rudd was in yesterday. Dr. Lindsay Curtis and Henry Richards have been appointed as an unofficial Committee to work with Elder Mark Petersen on Fundamentalists and people who are tempted to join the Fundamentalists. These brethren go to speak with bishops whose ward members are experiencing trouble along that line, speak in ward Sacrament meetings, in stake conferences and speak with Fundamentalists and others who are being persuaded by Fundamentalists. They have, of course, had many important conversations already. Glen says the single biggest problem is the failure of the church to acknowledge that there were plural marriages performed after 1890. They have documented proof that there were official marriages performed after that date. Also the failure of the Church to acknowledge the validity of the Revelation of 1886. Joseph Fielding Smith denied it, but it is almost certainly genuine.

Glen and others of the committee have pointed this out to Brother Petersen, who has now instructed them to make up a list of questions to be asked of the Church Historian, and Brother Petersen will presumable call me and ask me to write a pamphlet or memorandum giving authentic answers to these questions. Glen is warning me in advance and will probably let me see the questions before he takes them to Elder Petersen. 

I agree with Glen that we must acknowledge that there were some plural marriages sanctioned after 1890–not within the church as a whole but within the rather small circle of General Authorities, their families and close friends. The Abraham Cannon case is an example, but there were others as well, and these not only performed in Mexico, Canada, and the high seas. There perhaps were some marriages performed after 1904 within a select circle, although that is less certain. Certainly there were some marriages performed after 1904 but the trials for the membership of those performing marriages did not occur until 1910-11.

Glen says that a former teacher in the Seminary program–I think his name was Steve Murphy—joined the Fundamentalists, and Joe Christensen did not discover his sympathies along that line until he had taught Seminary one year, and then he was fired, but during that year he converted some of his Seminary students. This was three years ago and they were at that time sixteen and now are nineteen and are going on missions. We know of three of these who have been on missions, including one of the two boys that was killed by gas in one of the Latin American countries within the last while. They have also discovered that some of these boys have been keeping full diaries and sending them to Brother Murphy. They don’t have any qualms about lying to get temple recommends or to go on missions because “the Prophet Joseph lied about polygamy in Nauvoo.” 

[LJA Diary, 30 Jan., 1976]

Study Regarding Polygamy

Brother Arrington made reference to a book recently received entitled After Polygamy Was Made A Sin by John Cairncross, which book includes a chapter on Mormon polygamy. In his bibliography Mr. Cairncross states that there is no adequate study of Mormon polygamy as a whole, particularly demographic studies. Brother Arrington was of the opinion that the History Division could write something on this subject which would adequately explain the Church’s attitude toward polygamy. The matter of publication could then be left for the decision of the First Presidency. 

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 10 Feb., 1976; LJA Diary]

Today at Rotary I saw Preston Parkinson. I told him I had noticed that his father, George Parkinson, had married his second wife in 1902. I asked him to confirm the date of that marriage which he did. I asked him if he felt free to tell me who married his father and mother (his mother was Fanny Woolley, daughter of Edwin D.). He said he did not feel free to tell me. He said he knew who it was but that it was his mother’s wish that the Church official who did it not be embarrassed by identifying him. One of George Parkinson’s counselors in the Oneida Stake Presidency was Mathias Cowley, later an apostle. Cowley was his brother-in-law having married George Parkinson’s sister. They were the parents of John Cowley, who is also a member of Rotary. I asked him if his father might have been persuaded to enter into polygamy after the Manifesto by Brother Cowley. He said, no, he didn’t think so. He said that President Joseph F. Smith was far more liberal on plural marriages than President Snow had been and that President Smith had permitted–perhaps even encouraged–a number of marriages after he became President in 1901; so that it may have been not necessarily a particular Church leader who persuaded him as much as the general attitude of President Smith toward such marriages. My own speculation is that President Smith may himself have performed the marriage–or in any case may have sanctioned it.

President Parkinson moved to Salt Lake City about this time and, because of the post-Manifesto marriage, the marriage with Fanny needed to be kept quiet. So she went under the name of Ferrin, and Preston himself went by the name Preston Ferrin during his first few years. Indeed, he enrolled in school under that name.

[LJA Diary, 11 Oct., 1977]

Polygamy in Utah 

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of Cannon-Hinckley Church History Club. Grace could not go because she had a bad throat and chest congestion, accompanied by a 101 temperature. Perhaps flu. Bad cough. I sat at the table with Florence Jacobsen, Alice Wilkinson and a friend, and David and Tricia Wilkinson. Enjoyed very much the table talk.

The speaker was Theodore L. Cannon, Jr., deputy state attorney general. He is the son of Theodore L. Cannon, Sr., who worked for many years for the Deseret News, and died about ten years ago. Theodore Sr., in turn, was the son of John Q. Cannon, son of George Q., and the daughter of John J. McFellan, who played the Tabernacle Organ. Cannon talked on Polygamy in Utah today and its impact on crime.

Ted said that the figure often used, 20,000 to 30,000 polygamists in Utah (or the USA), is complete speculation–no real basis for the figure. They have had a full-time man investigating the polygamy groups since the slaying of Rulon Allred, and they have found the following. There are five organized groups. These are:

1. The Johnson group. These are at Colorado City, formerly Short Creek. Reputed to have 3,000 to 5,000, they find them to have only 400. However, I didn’t get that straight, since he said they have 200 homes and 612 children attending their schools. Could he have meant 400 in Utah? This group is managed by a group of elders, not by a charismatic leader. It is an insular, suspicious group; peaceful and timid, remembering the Short Creek episode.

2. The Rulon Allred group, led now by Owen Allred, brother of Rulon. Reputed to have 2,000 to 4,000 in Pine City, Montana, and Mexico, he finds them to have 300 to 400 here (Utah). Read from an article about Dr. Allred by Sylvia Kronstadt in a pulp magazine. Some 1,500 persons attended Allred’s funeral. This is not a non-LDS group. They are Mormons, believe they are true Mormons, some of them hold temple recommends.

3. Alex Joseph group. Joseph is one-fourth Indian. Lives in Glen Canyon City in Arizona. Has 15 wives, who are young and pretty. A charismatic, magnetic leader of the Elvis Presley type. The reports about him are conflicting. A lawyer who used to be associated with him claims he once admired Ervil LeBaron, was a Hitler type, is dangerous. Claims he is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ. He disputes all this. Their investigator, based on talks with him, says he is an enemy of Ervil LeBaron, not criminal, but will protect his style of living. Less than 100 persons. He is feared by some people. He has a paramilitary group that he trains, but Cannon thinks it is defense oriented. A man of personal charisma.

4, Merlin Kingston group. About 200 to 300 living in Davis County. Have a considerable amount of property.

5. The LeBaron saga. Ervil is the ninth of 13 children. The family grew up in Colonia Juarez. Patriarchal authority passed from the father to Ben. Ben was in mental hospitals. The mantle then passed to Joel. He and Ross founded the Church of the First Born of the Fulness of Times in 1955. Joel, a peaceful, Christ-like man, was opposed by Ervil, a militant aggressive man with dangerous delusions. Ervil expelled from the Church in 1970, so Ervil established the Church of the Lamb of God. Some of his followers then killed Joel. The investigator says Ervil is a modern-day Moses, believes he is God’s agent, believes is appointed by God as the head of this country. He threatened the president of the US. He believes the worst form of criminality is teaching a criminal religion; namely, one he disagrees with. Believes he has met Jesus Christ and shook hands with him. Had 13 wives. Only about 100. members of his church, but only perhaps 40 are now faithful followers in opposition to the law. Other polygamy groups are fearful of LeBaron. A recent warehouse stealing occurred which shows this. The warehouse owned by the Allred group. A couple of teenagers came to rob it. The watchman thought they were part of the Allred group, and fired at them, killing one. A paranoid reaction. The LeBaron group are based on fear. Some 20 to 23 homicides by this group. Since Ervil is in jail, there is no leader; no one to replace Ervil.

The Allred group claims leadership via John Taylor. LeBaron says his grandfather derived his authority directly from Joseph Smith.

Canon believes that if plural marriage were taken to the courts, it would prove to be constitutionally exempt from prosecution as a religious practice. Cited the Amish case.

Dave Evans volunteered to tell the origin of the 20,000 to 30,000 figure. In 1962 a husband and wife team came to write a story on Polygamy for the Saturday Evening Post. Must refer to Robert Cahn, “Utah: Change Comes to You,” Saturday Evening Post, April 1961.They told Dave they had just come from the State Capitol and the Attorney General, Walter Budge, now deceased, had furnished them with the 20,000 to 30,000 estimate. Dave then went immediately up to the Capitol to ask Budge where in the world he got that figure. Budge said the legislature had appropriated money for an investigation, and the investigators had accumulated a whole mess of cards of names of persons that people believed to be polygamous. He showed Dave the box of cards. Wouldn’t you say there were up to 25,000 cards there? Dave said haven’t you counted them? No. Just an estimate. But wouldn’t there be a lot of duplication–different people reporting the same persons? Maybe. Didn’t count them because we ran out of money. Well, what if I furnish the money to have them counted, and the duplicates eliminated? Shouldn’t you get in contact with the Sat Eve Post reporters and tell them how shaky your estimate is? Well, if you insist, you write the letter and I’ll sign it. Dave went back to his office, wrote the letter, and headed back for the capitol. The Attorney General had taken off. Nobody knew where he was. And stayed away for some time. It became obvious, he did not want to repudiate his previous estimate– did not want to confess how shaky it was. So the figure got in Sat Eve Post and has been used ever since, all around the world.

Cannon said his own estimate is that there are about 1500 persons in the groups mentioned above, and there are probably an equal number in small, family-sized groups which are practicing it on a family basis but not part of the community groups.

All are difficult to prosecute. They perform only one civil marriage; the rest are ecclesiastical marriages. And if they were prosecuted, it would probably fail in the Supreme Court. The last polygamy prosecution was 15 years ago. No prosecutor in his right mind would prosecute them for polygamy. The big attempt by the Governor of Arizona, and it killed him. But you might get them for weapons violations.

Cannon doubts that LeBaron is insane, though he will probably plead it.

Cannon says there is some evidence that the real purpose of the Allred killing was not to do away with Allred as much as to do away with all the leaders at the subsequent funeral. According to testimony, there was a pickup truck at the funeral with a mounted machine gun, ostensibly by some of the LeBaron group, and they intended to gun down a whole series of leaders. But through a series of coincidents, the leaders were late going to the funeral and early leaving, so that there was not the chance to do it. Cannon says Ervil has admitted killing his brother Joel in San Diego.

Cannon says Ervil may be materialistically motivated, but not the Allred group, who follow the practice because of persuasion and belief. Also Verlan LeBaron a Christlike man.

[LJA Diary, 17 Oct., 1979]

Elder Durham asked me who were Victor Jorgenson and Carmon Hardy. I told him briefly about those two brethren. Then I added that I thought the article was very responsibly written and could have been much more sensational and damaging than it was. He agreed. He thought perhaps there was much to be said for having an article of this nature come out in this way to clear the air, all being done privately and made it easier for us to write some things than we could have done without the appearance of the article.  He said he thought he could understand Joseph F. Smith saying something one time and something else another time. Joseph F. Smith doesn’t come through too well in the article; some elements of duplicity there. But he did not seem to be angry or shocked by the appearance of the article. He was sure Elder Petersen would not like it. 

[LJA Diary, 29 May, 1980]

In my meeting with Elder Durham this morning the following transpired:

4. Elder Durham had turned down Jean Purcell to further work with the Woodruff Diary and translate the portions in shorthand. I persuaded him to rescind the order but he did so only under condition that: 1, she agree not make a copy, which I told him had already been emphasized; and 2, that he have a chance to see the portions translated. I told him we would do both. Elder Durham said that currently things are very tight, meaning, I think, that the Brethren have cautioned him to be very close with materials in the archives and not make them available to anybody. This must be a reflection of the article on post-Manifesto polygamy in the current Utah Historical Quarterly and perhaps other things as well. It seems stupid, however, in view of the fact that professional anti-Mormons like Marquardt, Tanners, Walters, etc. already have microfilm copies of the Woodruff diaries, as well as most other important items in our archives. Where they got them has nothing to do with us, nor any security breach here. 

[LJA Diary, 12 Jun., 1980]

Last night, at the annual meeting of the council of the Redd Center, I had a chance to talk with Milt Backman, author of The Heavens Resound, the Ohio experience of the church. Several things:

1. Milt’s original title for the book, when he submitted the manuscript to us, was The Ohio Experience. He says the new title, The Heavens Resound, was with the manuscript when it came from our office. It had been furnished by one of us, by Elder Durham, or by Deseret Book before they showed the edited manuscript with suggestions to Milt. It was not his suggested title.

2. Milt says the manuscript that was published was essentially the way he submitted it, except that the Deseret Book people insisted that he leave out all references to polygamy in Kirtland. Deseret Book told him they had no objection to including it. But they had so much difficulty getting approval of church authorities to include mention of polygamy in Nauvoo in the footnotes to Dean Jessee’s book that they were sure they would never get approval to include mention of its practice in Kirtland. So all references to polygamy in Kirtland were deleted by Deseret Book. 

[LJA Diary, 30 Nov., 1983]

At the office of Dr. Corey Miller I was waiting for Dr. Miller and his wife came in. She is a Cannon. Her father was Karl Jenne Cannon who, she said, was the child of Frank J. and his maid–an affair they had before his marriage. The child was adopted by George Q. He was born shortly after the last son of George Q. and Sarah Jane Jenne Cannon, Preston, born April 12, 1881, so Preston Jenne and Karl Jenne Quayle Cannon were raised as twins. Karl told his family that he did not know he was not a twin until the night before his wedding, when his older brothers told him he was not a twin and was, in reality, the son of Frank J., not George Q. What a happy wedding present!

Karl J. was always regarded as a twin son of George Q. by the Cannon family, so his own family was brought up with the idea that their grandfather was George Q. Not until his children ware well along into maturity–their 40s, did he tell them that he, Karl, was really the son of Frank J., and that Frank J. was their grandfather.

Corey Miller’s wife said she hated polygamy. She was outraged to learn that some church authorities, including Cannons, married after the Manifesto. She has been told by many Cannons that Frank J. was the most brilliant of the Cannon children. She is also proud of his role in persuading President Woodruff to issue the Manifesto, and of his role in getting statehood for Utah.

[LJA Diary, 29 Feb., 1996]

Bob Clark, director of the Austin Institute drove me to the airport Saturdaymorning and pumped me until I boarded the plane on the church’s response tothe Fundamentalists. Seems that his family have had two or three “lost” tothe Fundamentalists in the past few years and he was concerned. We have beenless than candid with them in some respects, so it is hard to know how tohandle this kind of conversation. We have plenty against the Fundamentalistpoint of view, but we have been unwilling to admit that they are right on oneor two historical questions. Tough one to respond to.

[LJA to Children; 21 Nov., 1976]