Nauvoo Polygamy


Nauvoo Polygamy: “…But We Called It Celestial Marriage”

The definitive work on Mormon polygamy.

John Whitmer Historical Association Best Book Award

May, 2011

SKU: 978-1-56085-207-0 Category: Tags: , , , , Author: George D. SmithProduct ID: 1442


Nauvoo Polygamy is a meticulously researched and skillfully written work on Mormon polygamy. The author does not take sides in this tangled web of theology and practice, but instead has produced what may well be the definitive work on polygamy. I highly recommend it.” —Linda King Newell, co-author, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith

Nauvoo Polygamy is s a thorough investigation of sexual politics in the City of the Saints, the 1840s Mormon headquarters in the U.S. State of Illinois. Written with precision, clarity, and ease, it is a major contribution to Mormon history, groundbreaking in identifying the other polygamists who followed the lead of their prophet, Joseph Smith, in taking multiple partners.” —Klaus J. Hansen, Professor Emeritus of History, Queen’s University, Ontario

“If for no other reason, the inclusion of chapter 6 makes this book worth its price. The chapter quotes liberally from those like Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Bathsheba Smith who accepted polygamy rather easily, those like Jane Richards who accepted it only reluctantly, and those like Patty Sessions who found plural marriage almost unbearable. A bonus is chapter 9 which provides a concise historical overview of polygamous societies in Reformation Europe, touches on similar societies in America, and offers an extended discussion of Orson Pratt’s 1852 defense of plural marriage.” —Thomas G. Alexander, Professor Emeritus of History, Brigham Young University

“George Smith shows how many of the prophet’s followers embraced plural marriage during a period when the LDS Church was emphatically denying the practice … [and he tells this in] a lucid writing style.” —Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848.

“An extremely important contribution to the history of polygamy … that allows us to see how Joseph Smith’s marriages fit into the context of his daily life.” —Todd M. Compton, author of In Sacred loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith

George D. Smith is a graduate of Stanford and New York University. He is the editor of the landmark frontier diaries of one of the most prominent Mormon pioneers, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, and of Religion, Feminism, and Freedom of Conscience. He has published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Free Inquiry, the John Whitmer Historical Journal, Journal of Mormon History, Restoration Studies, and Sunstone. He has served on the boards of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, the Kenyon Review, the Leakey Foundation, and National Public Radio.

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11 reviews for Nauvoo Polygamy

  1. William D. Morain, John Whitmer Historical Journal

    Through exhaustive research and documentation, George Smith has chronicled the definitive account of polygamy in early Mormonism … with encyclopedic detail.

  2. Roger D. Launius, Journal of Illinois History

    George D. Smith, long a student of Mormon polygamy, offers the most detailed and sophisticated analysis of polygamy’s origins and practice during the life of the prophet

  3. Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press

    Here is a portal to understanding where some contemporary Utah polygamists found inspiration for their way of life. From child brides and secret ceremonies to a defiance of marriage laws, the narrative in Nauvoo Polygamy illustrates the development and breadth of polygamy as first practiced in the 1840s by members of the LDS Church living in Illinois. … It uniquely chronicles Illinois marriages between 196 Mormon men and 717 women—about four wives to each man.

  4. Paul Kurtz, Free Inquiry

    The origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are hidden by the sands of time. … In Mormonism, we are close enough to the origins of the fourth Abrahamic religion … so that an accurate account of its historical beginnings is available. … Contributing to that history is this meticulously researched and well documented book.

  5. Vickie Cleverly Speek, Association for Mormon Letters

    I was astonished to learn that … Joseph Smith had married an average of one new wife a month between April 1841 and November 1843 and that he personally launched at least thirty-three plural marriages among his closest friends … to share the ‘favors and privileges of polygamy.’ … The author reads between the lines of diaries, autobiographies, letters, affidavits, Church records, and the authorized History of the Church … to show how Joseph Smith went about secretly courting and marrying women … This was publicly denied during Smith’s lifetime and kept secret for eight years after his death.

  6. Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune

    In his ambitious new book, … George D. Smith adds a square to the patchwork portrait that remains a work in progress some 164 years after the death of the charismatic founder of the LDS Church. … Nauvoo Polygamy is a hefty tome that draws on diaries, letters, marriage records, affidavits, and Church records.

  7. Newell Bringhurst

    This book significantly broadens our understanding of plural marriage as practiced during the 1840s. In order to get a complete picture and understanding of Joseph Smith, I see this book as absolutely essential reading.

  8. Midwest Book Review

    Impressive, meticulous, insightful, detailed, and documented historical scholarship by a noted Mormon historian … highly recommended reading

  9. Martha Sonntag Bradley

    Nauvoo Polygamy changes our understanding of a plurality of wives. It provides indisputable, quantifiable evidence that the scope of plural marriage was more broad and deep than we had imagined. It was all laid out in Nauvoo. The book’s view on plural marriage in its earliest and subterranean years suggest that underage marriage has always been a part of the story

  10. B. Carmon Hardy

    George D. Smith has done some of the best work on early polygamy and Nauvoo. He tries very hard to say it like it is.

  11. Dallas Robbins, Salt Lake City Weekly

    The author traces the origins and establishment of Joseph Smith’s vision of ‘spiritual wives’ before it ever stepped foot in Utah. … He places a human face on the men and women who struggled with their strange lives in a new religion. … Whether you are a history buff, … or just waiting for the new season of Big Love to start, Nauvoo Polygamy should be on your reading list.

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