The Development of Early Latter-day Saint Marriage Rites, 1831-1853

It is axiomatic to say that antebellum Americans felt they had created something very new in a “new world.” This sense of newness can obscure for us, as it did for them, what was traditional in the religious movements that developed during this period. In particular, Joseph Smith’s innovations on Christianity are radical enough that it is always tempting to consider the result unique. But even the most extraordinary imagination is dependent on ordinary forms. The historian’s task is, in large part, to identify the interplay of old and new to demonstrate both continuity and change. This article attempts to do so with respect to Mormonism’s early marital forms and meanings.

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Kathleen Flake, in Journal of Mormon History 41, 1 (January 2015), 77-103.