Multiply and Replenish
Mormon Essays on Sex and Family

Chapter 2.
Changing Perspectives on Sexuality and Marriage
Klaus J. Hansen

[p.19]”Mormonism is destined to thoroughly revolutionize the world with regard to the intercourse of the sexes.” —Orson Pratt

Mormonism has experienced a social and intellectual transformation of such magnitude that a resurrected Joseph Smith, returning to earth today, might well wonder if this was indeed the same church he founded, given the disappearance of the political kingdom, of communal cooperation, and of plural marriage. These are the most obvious examples. Although the demise of all three institutions must be attributed to external as well as internal pressures, the interplay of these factors in the dynamics of change is particularly revealing in the case of sexuality and marriage, providing some glimpses into just how Mormonism was transformed from a nineteenth-century religious movement that encompassed all facets of human existence to its contemporary status as one of numerous denominations in the spectrum of American pluralism.


Early Mormon attitudes regarding sex and marriage were derived [p.20]from their New England heritage. In colonial America sexual attitudes and behavior were firmly rooted in a biblically-oriented Calvinism or Anglicanism and in a social order reflecting the values of these religions. Fornication and adultery, as well as other, less common sexual transgressions were regarded not only as heinous sins but as crimes to be punished. For later generations “puritanism” became a synonym for sexual repression. As Edmund Morgan’s revisionist study pointed out long ago, however, the Puritans were far from being the sexual prudes that a hostile literature made them out to be. They regarded sex in marriage not only as a means of procreation but also as a natural expression of love between husband and wife. Celibacy in healthy persons was regarded as unnatural and against the will of God, as, of course, was sexual transgression. In either case, one was willfully rejecting the laws of God.1

However severely they condemned sin, the Puritans realized that living as they did in a fallen world, even they could not be absolutely certain about the state of their souls. Virtue could be achieved only at the cost of eternal vigilance. First and foremost, it was the responsibility of the family to monitor the behavior of its members. But the community likewise saw to the enforcement of morals, a task made easy by a relative lack of privacy. If these institutions failed, the law held immorality in check. When sin, nevertheless, did strike, the Saints rarely panicked. Realizing that there, but for the grace of God, went they, Puritans had a relatively relaxed attitude toward transgressors, no doubt encouraged by a stable social order in which rather infrequent premarital pregnancies and illegitimate births suggest a close correlation between prescription and behavior.

From about 1675 on, however, we can observe an increasing divergence between belief and conduct. By 1790, the premarital pregnancy record in America exceeded 25 percent of firstborn children, suggesting a dissolution of the social and intellectual underpinnings of traditional society. As the social controls of the community slackened, sexual mores slackened also. From this time on, however, the statistics begin a steady downward trend that reaches a low point of less than 10 percent by 1860.2

Interpreted without a context, such data might suggest that nineteenth-century Americans had reestablished the stable social order of a traditional society. The social and intellectual climate of [p.21]the period, however, points to a different conclusion. By the 1820s and 1830s, the decades of the birth of Mormonism, American culture had moved a long way down the road from the relatively stable social order of colonial America to the increasingly atomistic society of capitalistic individualism; from the traditional Calvinism that saw God as the center of the universe to an Arminianized evangelism that saw man as the center; and from a society in which behavior was largely controlled by the norms of the community to a society in which moral standards were internalized. Teetotalism and sexual restraint became two of the most important means of expressing this modern attitude. Once again, as in colonial society, prescription and behavior coincided, but for very different reasons.3

As social control gave way to self-control, Americans developed a perfectionism that would brook no compromise with sin. In colonial society, sex in marriage was regarded as intrinsically wholesome. In the nineteenth century, an army of sexual reformers began to extol the virtues of sexual continence bordering on celibacy, even in marriage. If we can believe the rising chorus of antisexual rhetoric, severe doubt was cast on God’s wisdom or at least propriety for having made human propagation a function that was so indelicate. Relatively perfunctory in their attacks on public vice, these reformers raised their crusade to a pitch of near-hysteria as they inveighed against the supposedly ubiquitous sexual excesses practiced within the privacy of the marriage bed or, even worse, by the individual alone.4

In the opinion of one historian, such attitudes “may have had a therapeutic value when [they] took hold in the 1830s, giving men and women an explanation and a set of cures for the frightening world they found themselves in.” Another explanation for this seemingly puzzling shift in attitudes may be found in the individualistic, anti-institutional ethos of the period, which placed the burden of reform on the individual rather than on society. If the world was less than perfect, it was the fault of the individual. As a result, private sins assumed an unprecedented, monumental significance. Charles Rosenberg’s assertion that masturbation was widely regarded as the “master vice” of the period finds a plausible explanation in the social and intellectual climate of antebellum America.5

Sexual attitudes thus had undergone a profound transformation. [p.22]To colonial Americans the idea that one particular form of sexual transgression was a “master vice” would have been incomprehensible. As vigorously as they disapproved of departures from the sexual norms, such lapses were merely sins among many other sins. For many nineteenth-century reformers, however, sin had virtually become synonymous with sex.


These were the kinds of sexual attitudes emerging as Mormonism made its debut in America. Such values, however, were not congenial to early Saints, who scarcely fit into the pluralistic cultural pattern emerging in the antebellum period. Joseph Smith’s millennial kingdom was intended as an alternative to the presumed deficiencies of American society rather than as an instrument for its reform. Mormonism, at least in its early phase, attempted to restore a society that reflected traditional values. Eventually, Smith envisioned a radical reordering of the family and of relations between the sexes, innovations scarcely foreshadowed in the Book of Mormon, which in its sexual ethos shared many of the values of colonial society. Though Puritans would have regarded Smith’s idea of modern revelation as heretical, they would have been comfortable with the kind of Book of Mormon theology that asserted that the Fall “was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devillish” (Mosiah 16:3).

To the early Mormons this passage appears to have been a fact of life rather than a source of anxiety. There is little evidence suggesting that the Saints–at least prior to the death of Joseph Smith–shared the sexual concerns of their modern American contemporaries. As in traditional society, adultery, fornication, and other less common sexual transgressions were condemned, and unrepentant sinners excommunicated. But an examination of early church trials suggests that sexual offenses were but one cause among many for excommunication. Although demographic evidence for this early period is scant, it is likely that the sexual conduct of the Saints was on the whole exemplary by the standards of the period, though little was said about sex in diaries, journals, and letters.6

To modern, psychologically-oriented scholars, this silence may itself speak volumes. Yet it should be remembered that it was the age [p.23]in which sexually-obsessed reformers articulated their concerns ad nauseam. If sexuality had been one of the Mormons’ chief concerns, it is unlikely that they would have remained silent on that issue, especially since the new religion was very much a religion of the word. Aspiring Saints prepared for a manifestation of the spirit through a rational process of study.

Mormonism was an ideology preparing a new social and religious order and was not particularly evangelical or revivalistic. Converted Saints, to be sure, would manifest through their conduct that they had been “born again,” but what set Mormons apart from the world was their ideological identification with the kingdom of God. Many gentiles lived lives of moral rectitude. But what they lacked, in the opinion of the Saints, was the true and everlasting gospel. Those who accepted Mormonism followed its moral regulations gladly. Yet these were not the central concern of their lives. The message of the Mormon restoration, priesthood authority, and gifts of the Spirit were central.

It appears that during the antebellum period, conceptions of sexuality were tied to changing perceptions and conditions of class. Middle-class sexual morality became a necessary adjunct to the profile of producers and managers. In an upwardly mobile society, this ethos was imitated by all who had middle-class aspirations. This kind of “Victorianism” also served to provide a sense of identity, to set the middle class off from both the lower classes and the aristocracy, who were either unable or unwilling to live by bourgeois moral precepts.7 In spite of increasing stratification, class boundaries in America were clearly less defined than in Europe. Charles Rosenberg has argued persuasively that “a good many Americans must … have been all the more anxious in their internalization of those aspects of life-style which seemed to embody and assure class status.”8

Sociologist Joseph Gusfield’s study of the “bourgeoisification” of antebellum American cultural values provides striking support for this argument. For the overwhelming majority of those involved in the temperance movement, for example, abstinence became a symbol for the internalization of moral values and behavior. Because “there would be no compromise with Evil in any of its forms,” sexual conduct would be of equal concern to upwardly mobile Americans.9 The Saints, however, felt that they had escaped the psychological, social, [p.24]and economic pressures of class. Although in their new world, temperance and sexual restraint were part of the social order, neither served as a means for social transformation.

Joseph Smith’s dietary rules as revealed in the Word of Wisdom illustrate this clearly. Viewed superficially, these directives appear to be a typical expression of the temper of the times. Yet the very wording of the revelation is alien to the emerging spirit of “necessary moral action”: “To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of Wisdom.” Among Mormons the use of alcohol was governed by the same kind of sanctions that made moderate drinking in colonial America socially and morally acceptable. Smith remained a moderate drinker all his life, and it is perhaps safe to suggest that until his death the Word of Wisdom was honored almost as much in breach as in observance–a further indication that Mormon social norms, in many ways, resembled those of the seventeenth century more than those of the nineteenth (D&C 89).10

There is, of course, a point at which the analogy between drinking and sex breaks down. Neither Mormons nor Puritans would have agreed with Benjamin Franklin’s moderate use of “venery” if it occurred outside of marriage. When applied to fornication or adultery, the concept of moderation, in the opinion of Mormons, ceased to have meaning. Rather, it can be said, Mormons, like Puritans, had a positive attitude toward sex in marriage and did not share the hysterical attitude of the reformers regarding masturbation. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not suggesting that the Saints condoned the “secret vice.” All I am saying is that, having removed themselves from the presumed corruptions of the gentiles, they had no reason to invent a “master vice” in order to cope with the pressures of modernization. Mormons, for example, exhibited little if any anxiety over gender roles. Charles Rosenberg has shown that masturbation was connected to such anxieties and was, at the time, regarded as an “ultimate confession of male inadequacy.” Masturbation was also regarded as socially isolating, thus conflicting with the male role demands for social and economic achievement. The social and economic communitarianism of Mormonism made such arguments irrelevant.11

An autobiographical statement by Joseph Smith suggests an [p.25]implicit lack of concern over issues that agitated moral reformers of the day. We cannot, of course, know what transgressions the prophet conjured in his readers’ minds as he confessed, “I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth and the corruption of human nature, which I am sorry to say led me into diverse temptations, to the gratification of many appetites offensive in the sight of God.” But given the preconceptions of the day, it is hard to believe that his detractors would have gone out of their way to read trivial foibles into the passage. The sentence, surely, has a potential for offending the squeamish. Certainly, those editors who much later changed “corruption” to “foibles,” and struck out the phrase, “to the gratification of many appetites,” must have been sensitive to the uses that could be made of this passage. By that time (1902), as we shall see, Mormons had adopted the “modern,” nineteenth-century attitudes of their erstwhile antagonists. Quite possibly, the young Smith was not only more ingenuous but also more “traditional” in his response to his imperfections.12

Having thus far stressed the traditional aspects of Mormon culture and Mormon sexuality, I hasten to add that even in its early phase Mormonism contained many of the germs of its later evolution into a “modern” religion. Emerson’s statements that Mormonism was “an after-clap of Puritanism,” while containing a great deal of insight, was clearly an oversimplification. Even the Book of Mormon contains too many Arminian heresies to make the comparison stick, and Smith’s later pronouncement that “men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” was fully compatible with the beliefs of one form of liberal Protestantism. Still, having extricated themselves from the pressures of modernization, Mormons, unlike their gentile contemporaries, were not compelled to push for a frantic internalization of mores–sexual or otherwise.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that many of Joseph Smith’s unorthodox ideas were already contained in the Book of Mormon. By 1833, with the publication of the prophet’s early revelations in the Book of Commandments, the novel side of Mormonism became more apparent. Continual altercations with gentiles prevented the full realization of many of these ideas. It was not until the early 1840s, when Smith believed he had placed the kingdom of God [p.26]on a firmer footing in Nauvoo, that he was able to press for his innovative religious, political, and social ideas.


Plural marriage was the most dramatic of these. Because of the extreme complexity of the origins of Mormon polygamy, all I can do here is summarize the most important points. On 12 July 1843, Joseph Smith secretly dictated a revelation pertaining to the doctrine of celestial marriage—the new and everlasting covenant—that sanctioned the principle of plural marriage. Part of the justification, in the revelation, was restorationist. In times past the Lord had given concubines and wives to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as to David, Solomon, and Moses. In the latter days God was revealing the principles upon which these ancient patriarchs were justified, together with a stern injunction that “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same … and if ye abide not that covenant, then ye are damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” The major purpose of plural marriage was “to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may glorified.”13

Although it was only in the 1840s that Smith began to teach polygamy to his most trusted followers, and to practice it himself, there is strong evidence suggesting that some of the ideas may have originated as early as 1831 when he was engaged in retranslating the Old Testament. An unpublished revelation to a group of missionaries who had been sent to native Americans in Missouri in 1831 indicated that at a future date they would be permitted to take Indian women as plural wives, though none did.14 In 1835 the church made the first of a number of pronouncements denying charges of polygamy at a time when rumors were spreading that Smith had taken up with Fanny Alger, a seventeen-year-old orphan. One Mormon faction, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, once used these denials as evidence that Smith never taught or practiced plural [p.27]marriage, claiming it was instituted by Brigham Young. That Smith inaugurated plural marriage in theory and practice is irrefutable.15

In Nauvoo, Smith initiated some of his close and trusted associates into the new and everlasting covenant. Brigham Young later claimed that “it was the first time in my life that I desired the grave, and I could hardly get over it for a long time.” Smith himself claimed that he took the fateful step only after God had repeatedly commanded him to do so. According to Eliza R. Snow, one of the most renowned of his plural wives, the prophet hesitated to carry out the fateful commandment “until an angel of God stood by him with a drawn sword, and told him that, unless he moved forward and established plural marriage, his priesthood would be taken from him and he should be destroyed.”16 Realizing the explosive potential of polygamy, Smith publicly denied and condemned the practice until his death. As a matter of fact, the Book of Mormon contained a passage denouncing polygamy, though with the significant escape clause that “if I will … raise seed unto me, I will command my people” (Jacob 2:30).

Privately, Smith made it clear that plural marriage was an important part of the social order of the kingdom of God. It may be more than coincidental that the revelation concerning the new and everlasting covenant was given more than a year after an important revelation that had launched the political organization of the kingdom. Because most states had bigamy laws, plural marriage could be practiced legally only in a separate political kingdom. It is for this reason that Brigham Young prudently deferred the public announcement of polygamy until he had established a quasi-independent kingdom of God in the Rocky Mountains.

Polygamy, perhaps more than most other principles of Mormonism, could identify the Saints as a peculiar people who had removed themselves from the mainstream of American culture. It could serve as a rallying point and a symbol of identification for a people who in spite of many idiosyncratic qualities of their faith shared many of the basic cultural characteristics of their fellow Americans. Perhaps even more importantly, polygamy irrevocably tied its practitioners to Mormonism. For polygamists it was virtually impossible to defect from the kingdom. Many opponents of Mormonism realized this only too well and conducted the anti-polygamy crusade of the 1880s not [p.28]only on moral grounds but more importantly as a means of destroying the kingdom.

To all but devout Mormons and anti-polygamy crusaders the origin of polygamy presents a perplexing and intriguing historical problem. The Saints, of course, simply accepted it as a commandment of God, given for the reasons stated in Smith’s revelations. The anti-Mormons had an equally simple explanation: A lecherous leader had to devise a system that would allow them to exercise their sexual appetites freely. A more sophisticated version of this “lecher school” is Fawn Brodie’s, which argues that although Smith loved his wife Emma dearly, “monogamy seemed to him an intolerably circumscribed way of life.” At the same time, “there was too much of the Puritan in him” to allow him to be content with clandestine affairs. Therefore, in order to calm his own conscience, “he could not rest until he had redefined the nature of sin and erected a stupendous theological edifice to support his new theories on marriage.”17

As Brodie has shown, those last few years in Nauvoo prior to Smith’s assassination were extremely turbulent. Like many public figures, he had a charismatic personality attractive to both men and women. This resulted in some very strong male friendships—and in the case of John C. Bennett in the exploitation of the prophet by someone who projected a great deal of personal magnetism of his own. It is clear that Smith exhibited no overt homosexual tendencies. But he had a magnetic attraction for women. At the same time, his own marriage appeared to be less than fulfilling. As leader of the church, he was the one who absorbed all the attention and adulation of followers. A woman’s role, in the nineteenth century especially, was very much that of helpmate, and in the case of Emma under conditions more trying than those experienced by most women of the time. The itinerant years of persecution had taken their toll on Emma. She had borne Joseph nine children, of whom only four lived to maturity. If an 1843 description of Emma as “very plain in her personal appearance” can be trusted, these same years had enhanced the physical attractiveness of the prophet, who was a year younger than his wife.

In the culture of Victorian America, even more so than in our own times, there prevailed a sexual double standard regarding age. Joseph, at thirty-eight, was a man in the prime of life; Emma, at [p.29]thirty-nine, was on the threshold of becoming an old woman. The double standard was even more pronounced regarding differences in sexuality. According to Sarah Grimke, woman was innately superior to man because “the sexual passion in man is ten times stronger than in woman.”18 Indeed, according to polite middle-class opinion, a “lady” had no sexual passion whatsoever. Mormons did not accept such middle-class notions. But it is also true that culturally Emma did not fit comfortably into Mormonism and aspired to middle-class respectability.19

One of the first non-Mormons to take issue with the crusaders against polygamy was George Bernard Shaw, who argued that Smith’s puritanical followers would have quickly deserted him if they had suspected him of lecherous proclivities. Unfamiliar with the demographic realities of western America, Shaw thought that the major purpose of polygamy was to provide husbands for a surplus of women and ensure the rapid population of the Mormon frontier. Grateful for support from such an unexpected quarter, some Mormons convinced themselves that Shaw was right. The theory provided a kind of sociological respectability for plural marriage after its demise and found some currency in textbooks at a time when the frontier thesis was in vogue. The fact, of course, is that even in Mormon Utah women were in short supply. As a matter of fact, in some communities there was considerable competition between younger and older men for nubile women. Furthermore, as Stanley Ivins had demonstrated, plural marriage had an adverse effect on the birth rate. Fertility of women in polygamous marriages was lower than that of women in monogamous marriages—possibly because polygamous husbands tended to be older and hence less virile or often absent.20

Historians argue that polygamy can be understood only in the broader context of antebellum American culture. Lawrence Foster has presented the most ambitious and plausible explanation for the origins of plural marriage thus far.21 He argues that Mormon polygamy was but one of numerous attempts in antebellum America to establish alternative family systems by millennial religious groups. He regards the Mormon introduction of polygamy “as part of a larger effort to reestablish social cohesion and kinship ties in a socially and intellectually disordered environment,” or at least one that Mormons [p.30]perceived as such. (After all, a large group of Americans were quite satisfied with the absence of institutional restraints.)

The kind of people who became Mormons or Shakers or Oneida Perfectionists found themselves thoroughly at sea in the world. As they saw it, old rules no longer applied and new rules had not yet been clearly defined (and in any case were not to their liking). In such an age it is therefore not surprising to find social and cultural minorities choosing to believe that social reality was arbitrary and developing alternative visions. In the words of Foster, “Smith was attempting to demolish an old way of life and to build a new social order from the ground up.”22 The conditions of the new and everlasting covenant illustrate this point forcefully: “All covenants, contracts, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise … are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.” These covenants have to be entered into in this life under the authority of someone “on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.” Contracts conducted under the auspices of eternity were clearly superior to those concluded only for time—like those of the gentile world (D&C 132:7).

Mormons regarded baptisms of other churches as invalid. In the early days of millennial enthusiasm in Ohio and Missouri, some Saints, erroneously to be sure, believed that traditional property arrangements were likewise superseded and began to help themselves to the belongings of their gentile neighbors. The concept of a political kingdom of God evolved to the point where it was regarded as the only legitimate governmental authority under heaven. It is as if the Mormons had reinvented Locke, who had remarked that “in the beginning, all the world was America.” But Mormons also learned that America was no longer a tabula rasa—that the slate would have to be wiped clean before a new beginning could be made.

The nuclear, monogamous family was fast becoming the cornerstone of American social order as other, traditional institutions declined. The modern family had a seemingly paradoxical function. On the one hand, it served as a haven and retreat from the pressures of a heartless and competitive world. On the other hand, it created [p.31]and nourished—aided by evangelical religion—the identities of self-motivated individuals who competed successfully in the modern world of trade, commerce, and manufacture. Thus, by striking at the American family, Mormonism was attacking not only the social but also the economic and even psychological foundations of antebellum America.23

Joseph Smith was extremely sensitive to the shift in the locus of authority that had led to the decline of the status of fathers. He insisted that the patriarchal order in the home be restored “if social chaos is to be avoided.” “Multitudes of families are now in confusion and wretchedly governed. This is a great evil.”24 A contemporary observer of these conditions and an intimate of Joseph Smith, John D. Lee, reported on the prophet’s views in Nauvoo: “At about the same time the doctrine of sealing for an eternal state was introduced, and the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid. That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so … That they were married to each other only by their own covenants, and if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessings and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married. That it was a sin for people to live together, and raise or beget children, in alienation from each other. That there should exist an affinity between each other, not a lustful one, as that can never cement that love and affection that should exist between a man and his wife.”25 With the restoration of the true priesthood this alienation could be reversed, and men and women could find eternal happiness in the new and everlasting covenant.

Mormons were not the only ones who perceived a sense of isolation and alienation in antebellum America. Tocqueville, who had an uncannily accurate perception of the temper of the times, remarked: “The woof of time is every instant broken, and the track of generations effaced. Those who went before are soon forgotten; of those who will come after, no one has any idea … Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.”26 The [p.32]Mormon prophet taught “that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children” (D&C 128:18). This link was marriage under the new and everlasting covenant. To be binding “for time and eternity,” such marriages had to be “sealed” by proper priesthood authority in temples dedicated for this purpose. Monogamous marriages performed in this manner were just as eternally binding as polygamous unions. Polygamous marriages, of course, have officially been discontinued since the so-called Manifesto of 1890. Nevertheless, Joseph Smith made it unmistakably clear that the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom, the attainment of Godhood, was reserved for those who had entered into polygamous relationships. It was polygamy that presented the most direct and visible challenge to the American social order. It was polygamy that more than any other Mormon institution came to symbolize the new heaven and new earth.

It is not surprising then that the promulgation of such ideas would lead to tension and conflict, not only between Mormons and the world, but also among the Saints themselves. By the time of Smith’s martyrdom, theological and social innovations had accelerated at such a pace that they threatened to spin out of control. Social cohesion in Nauvoo was clearly loosening. The prophet’s experimentation with “celestial marriage,” if continued in the ad hoc fashion of those secretive liaisons of that last year prior to his death, had a potential for sexual anarchy. Certainly, the impact even on his most trusted followers was nothing less than traumatic. In fact, the prophet himself seems to have had second thoughts as he launched social and sexual practices in direct conflict with the Judaeo-Christian ethic and the established mores of American society. According to one of his followers, Smith had to be assured by revelation that he had not committed adultery. To detractors, particularly those in the church who were beginning to look askance at his vigorous round of experimentation and innovation, the revelation could be justification for transgression.27


After the death of Joseph Smith Mormonism continued to totter [p.33]in precarious balance and began to split into numerous sects. Although Brigham Young professed to continue in the tradition of his predecessor, more conservative policies imply a recognition of the centrifugal forces that were pulling Mormonism apart during the Nauvoo years. If polygamy in Utah, publicly announced in 1852, was a major aberration from the social mores of Protestant America, its public, institutionalized, carefully regulated practice involved social controls far beyond those recorded in the days of Joseph Smith. At the same time, its external controls contrasted sharply with the internal controls and self-repression that were the essential features of “modern” morality.28

In Utah Mormons developed a greater degree of self-consciousness about sexual matters. An increasing defensiveness in Mormon publications seems directly related to the announcement of polygamy in 1852. Anticipating or responding to charges of sexual profligacy, the Saints began to compare their supposedly superior sexual morality to a sexually corrupt Babylon. Because gentiles stressed that polygamy provided a convenient means of sexual gratification for men, the Saints now emphasized more strongly than before the idea that the primary if not the only purpose of marriage, monogamous or polygamous, was to have offspring. Sexual relations, said Heber C. Kimball, were not “to gratify the lusts of the flesh, but to raise up children.” One of sociologist James Hulett’s informants reported that “his father was sexually interested in his wives only for the purposes of procreation, and the Principle could not be lived in any other way.”29

When M. R. Werner, a biographer of Brigham Young, coined the phrase “puritan polygamy,” he probably was not far off the mark. It was an impression consistent with the observations of Richard Burton, the famous English traveller and linguist, who visited the city of the Saints in 1861. Burton reported that “All sensuality in the married state is strictly forbidden beyond the requisite for ensuring progeny–the practice, in fact, of Adam, and Abraham.” He quoted one of his informants, Belinda Pratt, as saying that according to the Old Testament, during prescribed periods of gestation and lactation, sexual relations were prohibited: “should her husband come to her bed under such circumstances, he would commit a gross sin both against [p.34]the laws of nature and the wise provisions of God’s law, as revealed in His word; in short, he would commit an abomination.”30

In Kimball’s opinion, any man violating the divine laws of sexual conduct had no right to procreation: “if I am not a good man, I have not just right in this Church to a wife or wives, or to the power to propagate my species. What, then should be done with me? Make a eunuch of me, and stop my propagation.” His hyperbolic solution, however, appears to have been intended for the life after death, in keeping with Parley P. Pratt’s statement that “If they choose in this world to follow the wicked lusts and pleasures of the moment, … then … death closes the scene, and eternity finds them poor wanderers and outcasts from the commonwealth of the celestial family, and strangers to the covenant of promise.”31

Thus the principle of deferred compensation found its way into the sexual economics of the kingdom of God, “this being the world of preparation and that the world of enjoyment,” as Pratt put it. Under the “law of forfeiture,” in the next life wives of men who had proved themselves “wholly unfit to sustain the sacred relationship of a husband … will most assuredly be given to the comparatively few men who keep themselves pure, and fulfil the laws made known to them from heaven.” If there was an excess of righteous women over men eligible for the highest degree of glory, simple justice mandated polygamy in heaven to assure that all eligible women attained the exaltation they deserved. The polygamous husband was thus able all the more to increase his kingdom.32

For those who were able to control their sexual impulses, the rewards were awesome. According to an article in the Millennial Star, “the fountains of life are the source of His glory, dominion, and power. They are the germ of an infinitude of good if used only for pure and righteous purposes, and of unlimited evil if perverted and corrupted. Either way the consequences resulting are incalculable, and can only be measured by the mind that can grasp eternities of existence.” Those who had the vision to live their lives in conformity with such insights and entered into the eternal covenant of plural marriage, said Brigham Young, would “hold control over the elements, and have power by their word to command the creation and redemption of worlds or to extinguish such by their breath, and disorganize worlds, hurling them back into their chaotic state. This [p.35]is what you and I are created for.” What, by comparison, were the sinful pleasures of this world?33

This awesome conception of the power of sex was supported by a positive philosophy of sex that gentiles found nothing less than blasphemous. In the opinion of Mormons, the traditional Christian world view was essentially hostile to human sexuality, supported as it was by a metaphysical dualism that elevated the soul above the body, mind above matter, spirit above flesh. Seen from this perspective, sex was at best a necessary evil to ensure the continuation of the human race. But because in Mormon theology the dichotomy between mind and matter has been eliminated, because, as Joseph Smith said, “all spirit is matter,” and “nothing exists which is not material,” sex in theory did not represent the corruption of the flesh against the sublimity of the spirit.

This spirit-matter continuum is complemented by a rejection of the traditional Christian view of men and women as contingent beings dependent on the existence of God. In the view of Joseph Smith, we are coeternal with God—”necessary beings”—and like God without beginning and end. In a certain sense, sexuality is a part of our eternal nature, even if its manifestation in mortality differs from that in other forms of existence. Orson Pratt asked rhetorically, “Will that principle of love which exists now, and which has existed from the beginning, exist after the resurrection?” His answer was in the affirmative.34

One of the most important consequences of this premise, and one that distinguished Mormonism radically from other Christian religions, is that sexuality is not a result of sin. This could hardly have been otherwise, since at least some Mormon leaders believe that the human spirits in the preexistence were begotten “upon the same principle that we reproduce one another.” Consistent with such beliefs, Mormons rejected the notion of original sin.35

Pushing this literal-mindedness to its extreme, Mormons argue that divine sexuality is but an elevated form of human sexuality. Mary’s conception of Jesus was interpreted as meaning that though she had not been touched by mortal man, God had literally begotten his son as we are by our fathers. For some Mormon authorities, it followed further that Jesus too was required to fulfil the law “to multiply and replenish the earth.” In the opinion of Apostle Orson [p.36]Hyde, Jesus begat children, and in so doing “only did that which he had seen his Father do.” It followed that both God and Jesus were married.36

It remained for a woman, Eliza R. Snow, plural wife of Joseph Smith and later Brigham Young, to pursue this idea to its logical conclusion in perhaps the most popular and certainly the most Mormon of all hymns, “O, My Father”37: “In the Heavens, are parents single? / No! The thought makes reason stare! / Truth is reason, truth eternal/ Tells me I’ve a mother there.”

The next step might well have been the worship of this heavenly mother along with God the Father. For a number of compelling reasons, however, this did not happen. Most Mormons were Protestants before conversion. However much they saw Mormonism as a repudiation of the sectarianism of the Protestant tradition, they were emotionally unprepared for a practice that might have reminded them too much of “popery.” For most Protestants, Maryolatry was a distasteful excess of Catholicism, and worship of a Mormon heavenly mother might have been too reminiscent of that practice.

A more important reason was that Mormon leadership was a male prerogative. The Mormon priesthood was for males only. They were under greater obligation than women to do right, and under greater condemnation if they sinned. “Whatever may be the character, conduct, or wishes of woman, the Lord expects man to do right, independent of her influence.” According to Mormon theology, it was Eve who was led astray by the serpent. Adam, on the other hand, was not deceived, but acted in full knowledge of what he was doing, making a rational choice between two conflicting divine commandments. In emulation of Adam, man—not woman—was to be “a great centralizing power which will draw congenial spirits under his control.” Therefore, “the man should stand at the head of and be the controlling power in his family, and they should yield the most implicit obedience to his counsels.” It was the male who held responsibility for the salvation of his family, “and if he leads them astray, he will have to answer for it in their stead.”38

Woman’s role was clearly more circumscribed. Since her sexuality was regarded as passive, she lacked the broad sphere enjoyed by man for the exercise of free agency. Although she was “one of the choicest gifts of God to man,” the Lord intended that she “should be [p.37]obedient to the man. He made her the weakest of the two, and implanted in her nature a disposition to cleave to man, and a desire to please him and be obedient to his wishes.” It is “under the guidance of a noble lord striving to magnify his manhood, [that] she becomes all that God and nature designed her to be.” Such ideas, still current among contemporary Mormons, are a major reason for their strong opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment and feminism.39

In the opinion of one nineteenth-century observer, however, Mormons in those days did not place their women on a pedestal. According to Richard Burton, the Mormon woman was “not petted and spoiled as in the Eastern States; the inevitable revolution, indeed, has rather placed her below par, where, however, I believe her to be happier than when set upon an uncomfortable and unnatural eminence.”40 This situation, however, may have been more a result of necessity than of ideology. In the Mormon frontier environment, social realities worked against the male ideal envisioned by many a Mormon patriarch. For if Mormon women had meekly submitted to the male bias of their presumed superiors, it is doubtful that the group led by Brigham Young would have become the largest and most successful of the numerous movements claiming to be the heirs of Joseph Smith. As Leonard Arrington has observed, the survival of Mormon society in the Great Basin hinged largely on the courageous and self-reliant family leadership of those innumerable pioneer women whose husbands were forever abroad, on foreign missions, or who could devote only a limited amount of time to each family because of their polygamous obligations.41 Significantly, it is only after Mormonism succumbed to the forces of modernization that we begin to encounter among the Saints what Christopher Lasch has called “that pious cant about the sanctity of motherhood, the sanctity of home and hearth, which was the real mark of women’s degradation” in the nineteenth century. Women in territorial Utah had more in common in many ways with their sisters in colonial America than with their nineteenth-century American contemporaries.42 Male roles likewise were determined at least as much by the social and economic realities of subsistence agriculture as by the ideology of priesthood supremacy. It was not until the twentieth century that Mormon women were raised onto that same pedestal from which their nineteenth-century antagonists had barely escaped.


[p.38]This transformation in sex roles was part of a larger process of the “embourgeoisement” of Mormon culture after the Civil War–a period during which the Saints began to adapt to the forces of modernization by internalizing their sexual mores. By its very nature this process cannot be imposed by ecclesiastical fiat, but is by and large a spontaneous response to cultural change to which the institution must adapt itself if it wishes to survive. The plausibility of this theory is supported by the work of anthropologist Mark Leone, in whose opinion modern Mormonism developed a high degree of “adaptability” in its value system, which derived to a large extent from the sensitivity of its members to the cultural environment, as well as the ability of the Saints to influence the world around them: “Under the guise of strict literalism exists a diffuseness, individual inventiveness, and variability through time that contradicts usual views of the Mormon belief system.” What Leone has done is to apply sociologist Robert Bellah’s concept of “modern religion” to Mormonism; both have an ability to absorb and generate change.43 Certainly without this adaptability it is doubtful that Mormonism would have been able to survive the elimination of those social, economic, and political institutions that were virtually synonymous with its cultural identity in the nineteenth century. These institutions rested on a theology that made Mormonism a “religion of the word,” one that had a strong ideological orientation, stressing belief as much as behavior. As late as 1867 this emphasis is illustrated in the Godbeite heresy, which represented a more “modern” view by refusing to acknowledge the prophet’s right to dictate to them “in all things temporal and spiritual.” In an excommunication trial, “the High Council affirmed that this was contrary to church doctrine,” and that the defendants “might as well ask whether [they] could honestly differ from the Almighty.”44

The social and intellectual transformation that occurred is perhaps best illustrated by church president Joseph F. Smith in 1903 during the controversy over the seating of Mormon apostle Reed Smoot in the U.S. Senate. Smith said: “Our people are given the largest possible latitude for their convictions and if a man rejects a message that I may give him but is still moral and believes in the main principles of the gospel and desires to continue his membership in [p.39]the church, he is permitted to remain and he is not unchurched” (my emphasis). By this time, Mormonism was well on its way to adopting the kind of self-revising value system that Bellah describes in Beyond Belief and that Leone sees as the key to modern Mormonism.45

Among American Protestant churches this transformation had largely occurred in the antebellum period. Under the impact of a pluralistic denominationalism, churches emphasized conduct more than belief, thus serving as effective tools of modernization. Tocqueville acutely observed: “Go into the churches, you will hear morality preached, of dogma not a word.”46 Mormonism now went the route of its erstwhile antagonists. Between 1880 and 1920, Mormonism experienced a profound cultural transformation reminiscent of the shift from Puritan to Yankee, of the shift from belief to behavior, of the shift from the total system in which religion encompassed all facets of life and the social order to one in which religion became “self-revising” to adapt itself to social, economic, and political change.

Internalized moral norms became an essential compass in this restless new world. As among the modernizing Protestants of antebellum America, abstinence from alcohol and sexual restraint became more important signifiers of faith than belief. It is no accident that in this period we perceive an intensified Mormon campaign for observance of the Word of Wisdom and an increase in excommunications due to sexual transgression (even though excommunications in general declined in this period). As among antebellum Protestants, sin was increasingly equated with sex, if not according to official doctrine, certainly according to the manner in which church authorities enforced compliance with sexual norms, thus shaping a quasi-official attitude. An early indicator of this changing climate of opinion was the expurgation of Joseph Smith’s autobiography.47

In pioneer Utah numerous community sanctions had been applied to enforce sexual morality. As in colonial society, the community informally enforced its moral values. This was facilitated by a relative lack of privacy reinforced by settlement patterns. Like the New England village, the Mormon village consisted of houses that clustered in close proximity. Few families could afford separate rooms for each of their members.48 At the same time, in a society that was primarily agrarian sexual pressures were somewhat minimized [p.40]because most young people married early. Brigham Young encouraged young men to marry at the age of eighteen. Richard Burton reports that “girls rarely remain single past sixteen.”49 Thus the need for strict sexual control of adolescents was diminished.

As society became more urbanized and industrialized, early marriage became socially less desirable, or even possible. As marriages were postponed to a later age, sexual pressures understandably increased, thus necessitating greater sexual control. The need for greater control, however, coincided with the dissolution of traditional institutions. Given the premium Mormons continued to place on sexual purity, internalization of sexual mores was a necessary and inevitable response to social change. Leonard Arrington suggested that in this period the Word of Wisdom became a symbol of identification.50 Sexual morality may well have become an even more profound symbol of identity. Again we are reminded that sex served an analogous function among upwardly mobile, antebellum, middle-class Americans.

This social transformation had its early beginnings at about the same time that Mormonism experienced an internal backlash against polygamy. Having been branded as sexual outcasts, the Saints may well have felt they had to “out-Victorian” the Victorians to become respectable members of American society. Quite possibly, Mormons went through a response analogous to the one Charles Rosenberg observed among aspiring members of the lower orders of Victorian England and America through “repression of sexuality.”51 Nevertheless, if the polygamy backlash contributed to the embourgeoisement of Mormon culture, a more profound and important reason, I believe, was the internalization of modern behavior patterns. In fact, the development of the modern Mormon personality may have contributed as much to the ultimate demise of polygamy as did the crusade of the gentiles.

By the 1870s polygamy was passively resisted by many devout Saints who quietly practiced monogamy. At the same time, this “relic of barbarism,” as the Republican party platform branded polygamy, was more actively opposed by a growing number of Mormons who were beginning to embrace the social, economic, and political values of modern America. I believe it is possible to argue that when the Saints, by the turn of the twentieth century, gave up the political [p.41]kingdom of God, communitarianism, and plural marriage, they did so as much from an internal response to modernization as from external pressure. It is not improbable that had it not been for the anti-polygamy crusade, this relic of barbarism, unlike its twin slavery, might have died with a whimper rather than a bang.

In any case the demise of polygamy signified the beginning of the end for Mormonism as a total institution. By the 1880s the modern market economy was invading Utah with a rush. Because its leaders had kept the government of the political kingdom secret, they were able to hang on to it a bit longer. But with the death of plural marriage the political kingdom seems to have died on the vine. The signs of the times were clearly irreversible. By the end of World War I most Saints had become as modern as their erstwhile antagonists.


In recent years the American sexual drama has opened to another scene. Some commentators have called its ethos postmodern, characterized by norms that are becoming increasingly tolerant of pre- and extramarital sex, abortion, and nonjudgmental attitudes toward masturbation and homosexuality. Twentieth-century American society has clearly moved away from sexual self-control and self-repression—those inner-directed norms of nineteenth-century individualism—toward “sexual liberation.” Mormons understandably see such norms as a threat to their own values and are discovering that internalization of morals leading to self-control is increasingly difficult to achieve. Considerable evidence points to an emerging tendency of Mormons to return to externally sanctioned mechanisms of social control. In recent times these have resulted not only in stricter surveillance of sexual morality and observance of the Word of Wisdom, especially among adolescents, but also in stricter standards of grooming and dress, for example, at Brigham Young University. For better or for worse, it is these symbols of behavior that are increasingly determining who and what a Mormon is. Modern Mormons have clearly joined “a nation of behavers.”52

Yet it may come as a shock to modern Americans that these same Mormons still profess to believe in the principle of plural marriage. As a matter of fact the entire Mormon belief system is still very much [p.42]intact. Supporting Marty’s thesis, Jan Shipps has demonstrated that anti-Mormon crusaders were offended not so much by Mormon beliefs but by their sociopolitical behavior. After the Saints wholeheartedly embraced political pluralism, economic individualism, and the monogamous nuclear family they were permitted to believe as they chose. A telling illustration of this attitude is the remark of a prominent participant in the Smoot hearings that he preferred “a polygamist that didn’t polyg [Smoot] to a monogamist that didn’t monog.”53

This raises an interesting question about the possible reintroduction of polygamy among Mormons. It is not inconceivable that a postmodern American society may extend its liberalized attitude toward sexual behavior to the principle of plural marriage, or even same-sex marriage, and that at some future date the United States Supreme Court may overturn Reynolds v. United States just as the Warren Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson. Should that happen, what would the response of Mormons be? My crystal ball, admittedly, is cloudy. Nevertheless, I can hardly believe that the Saints would be overjoyed at such a decision. No doubt they will be able to avoid the unpleasant prospect of reintroducing polygamy, for example, should they be faced with such a choice. That, however, does not make such a situation any less ironic.

KLAUS J. HANSEN is a professor of history at Queen’s University, [p.272]Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and author of Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History and Mormonism and the American Experience, as well as numerous articles on Mormonism and American social and cultural history. “Changing Perspectives on Sexuality and Marriage” first appeared as chapter five in Hansen’s Mormonism and the American Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 147-78.


1. “The Puritans and Sex,” New England Quarterly 15 (1942): 591-607; The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England (rev. ed.: New York, 1966), 29-64; John Demos, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (New York, 1970); Michael Vernon Wells, “Sex and the Law in Colonial New England,” Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1974.

2. Daniel Scott Smith and Michael S. Hindus, “Premarital Pregnancy in America, 1640-1971: An Overview and Interpretation,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 5 (Spring 1975), 538.

3. Three important works dealing with this transformation from differing perspectives are Ronald D. Walters, American Reformers, 1815-1860 (New York, 1978); Richard D. Brown, Modernization: The Transformation of American Life, 1600-1865 (New York, 1976); and Joseph R. Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement (Urbana, IL, 1966).

[p.43]4. See Ronald G. Walters, ed., Primers for Prudery: Sexual Advice to Victorian America (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1974).

5. Stephen W. Nissenbaum, “Sex, Reform, and Social Change,” quoted in Walters, Primers for Prudery, 17; “Sexuality, Class and Role in Nineteenth-Century America,” American Quarterly 25 (May 1973): 136.

6. Based on an examination of 84 trials prior to the death of Joseph Smith, in Joseph Smith, Jr., et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City, 1948). Sexual transgression is an issue in only three cases. Out of twenty-seven “disfellowship” cases (a member may not partake of the sacrament and exercise his priesthood) only two involved sexual irregularities.

7. Steven Marcus, The Other Victorians: A Study of Sexuality and Pornography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England (New York, 1966); Ronald Walters, “Sexuality and Reform in Nineteenth-Century America,” paper presented at Seminar in American Civilization, Columbia University, 19 Sept. 1974.

8. “Sexuality, Class and Role,” 143.

9. Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade, 46-57.

10. Leonard J. Arrington, “An Economic Interpretation of the `Word of Wisdom’,” Brigham Young University Studies 1 (Winter 1959): 40-41. Significantly, references to violations of the Word of Wisdom were eliminated from the edition of the History of the Church published in 1902.

11. “Sexuality, Class and Role,” 145; H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., “The Disease of Masturbation: Values and the Concept of Disease,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 48 (Summer 1974): 234-48.

12. Quoted in Davis Bitton, “B. H. Roberts as Historian,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 3 (Winter 1968): 31-32.

13. Deseret News Extra, 14 Sept. 1852. Added to the D&C as sec. 132 in 1876.

14. Ezra Booth to Ohio Star, 8 Dec. 1831, quoted in Jerald Tanner and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism Like Watergate? (Salt Lake City, 1974), 9.

15. See especially Foster, “Between Two Worlds”; also Danel Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage before the Death of Joseph Smith,” M.A. thesis, Indiana-Purdue University, 1975; a useful survey of the scholarly literature is Davis Bitton, “Mormon Polygamy: A Review Article,” Journal of Mormon History 4 (1977): 101-108.

16. Quoted in William Alexander Linn, The Story of the Mormons (New York, 1902), 280; Biography of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City, 1884), 70.

17. Brodie, Fawn, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, 2d ed. (New York, 1971), 297.

18. Quoted in Ronald G. Walters, “The Erotic South,” American Quarterly 25 (May 1973): 196.

19. I find support for this assertion in my reading of Valeen Tippetts [p.44]Avery and Linda King Newell, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984).

20. “The Future of Political Science in America,” quoted in “George Bernard Shaw Speaks,” Improvement Era 40 (July 1937): 413.

21. Foster, “Between Two Worlds,” 189-403.

22. Ibid., 226.

23. See William E. Bridges, “Family Patterns and Social Values in America, 1825-1875,” American Quarterly 17 (Spring 1965): 311; Kirk Jeffrey, Jr., “The Family as Utopian Retreat from the City: The Nineteenth-Century Contribution,” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 55 (1972): 21-41; Ronald G. Walters, “The Family and Ante-bellum Reform: An Interpretation,” Societas 3 (1973): 221-32.

24. Quoted in Lawrence Foster, “A Little-known Defense of Polygamy from the Mormon Press in 1842,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 9 (Winter 1974): 26; I am assuming here that a pamphlet, titled The Peace Maker, from which Foster quotes, represents the ideas of Joseph Smith.

25. Quoted in Foster, “Between Two Worlds,” 258.

26. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Henry Reeve, ed. Phillips Bradley, 2 vols. (New York, 1942), 2:105-106.

27. Joseph Lee Robinson, Journal, 22, archives, historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

28. Leonard Arrington has suggested that “the conditions under which Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles assumed leadership assured a hierarchical structure designed along authoritarian lines. The theophanous works of Joseph Smith were canonized into doctrine, and the doctrine and organizational structure of the church became more dogmatic and inflexible” (“The Intellectual Tradition of the Latter-day Saints,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 [Spring 1969]: 18; see also Ephraim E. Eriksen, Psychological and Ethical Aspects of Mormon Group Life [Chicago, 1922], 35-36).

29. Journal of Discourses 5:91 (herafter JD); James Edward Hulett, “The Sociological and Social Psychological Aspects of the Mormon Polygamous Family,” Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1939, 37.

30. Belinda Pratt, in Burton, City of the Saints (London, 1861), 520.

31. JD 5:49; Millennial Star 5:193.

32. Millennial Star 17:726; see also JD 2:83. Hundreds of wives were “sealed” to Smith posthumously, among them the Empress Josephine. See Thomas Milton Tinney, “The Royal Family of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr,” 1973, typescript, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City.

33. JD 3:356.

34. Ibid. 12:186; see also Sterling McMurrin, Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1965), 3-5, 49-57; D&C 93:29; Smith, History of the Church, 6:310-12. For a dissenting Mormon view, see Lowell Bennion, “This-Worldly and Other-Worldly Sex: [p.45]A Response,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 2 (Autumn 1967): 106-108: “We do not know that [sex] is eternal. As we know sex it is physical and biological as well as social and spiritual. Who can speak of the resurrected state in physiological terms with any knowledge or meaning?”

35. JD 5:254; 6:101; James Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City, 1922), 30.

36. JD 2:210; 8:115, 211; 13:407. For a modern Protestant argument that Christ was married, see William Phipps, Was Jesus Married? (New York, 1971).

37. See Hymn no. 138, in Hymns; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1948). Mormon apologists will no doubt find remarkable parallels if not confirmation of the Mormon position in the recently translated Gnostic gospels discovered in 1945 in the caves of Nag Hammadi in upper Egypt. See Elaine Pagels, “The Suppressed Gnostic Feminism,” New York Review of Books 26 (22 Nov. 1979): 42-49; The Gnostic Gospels (New York, 1979).

38. Millennial Star 17:722-23; 19:717; 20:817; Ileen Ann Le Cheminant, “The Status of Woman in the Philosophy of Mormonism from 1830-1845,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1942.

39. The case of Sonia Johnson, who was excommunicated from the Mormon church because of her opposition to the anti-ERA stand of the hierarchy, received wide coverage in the news media.

40. City of the Saints, 529.

41. Leonard Arrington, “Blessed Damozels: Women in Mormon History,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 6 (Summer 1971): 22-31.

42. “The Mormon Utopia,” The World of Nations (New York, 1971), 57. The most influentiai interpretation is Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860,” American Quarterly 18 (1966): 151-74.

43. Mark P. Leone, “The Economic Basis for the Evolution of the Mormon Religion,” in Irving R. Zaretsky and Mark P. Leone, eds., Religious Movements in Contemporary America (Princeton, NJ, 1974), 751-52; Robert Bellah, Beyond Belief (New York, 1970).

44. Edward W. Tullidge, “The Godbeite Movement,” Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine 1 (1880): 32.

45. U.S., Congress, Senate, Proceedings before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protest against the Right Hon. Reed Smoot, A Senator from the State of Utah, to Hold His Seat, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1904-1907), 1:97-99.

46. Quoted in Martin Marty, A Nation of Behavers (New York, 1976), 201.

47. See for example the minutes of the St. George Stake High Council, 1862-, as reported in Nels Anderson, Desert Saints: The Mormon Frontier in Utah (Chicago, 1942), 146-48.

48. According to the laws of the kingdom of God, adultery was punishable by death, though enforcement of the law cannot be documented. [p.46]Gustive O. Larson suggests the possibility of enforcement during “The Mormon Reformation,” Utah Historical Quarterly 26 (1958): 60-63. The community, however, condoned and perhaps encouraged extra-legal action. See, for example, the celebrated case of The United States v. Howard Egan, in October 1851. Egan had tracked down and killed the seducer of his wife, James Monroe. In his plea for the defense Mormon apostle George A. Smith argued that by the standards of the community Egan had no choice but to kill Monroe. Egan was acquitted. See JD 1 (1854): 95-103; Lowry Nelson, The Mormon Village: A Pattern and Technique of Land Settlement (Salt Lake City, 1952).

49. JD 12:194; City of the Saints, 518.

50. “An Economic Interpretation of the ‘Word of Wisdom,'” 47.

51. “Sexuality, Class and Role,” 149.

52. Harold T. Christensen, “Mormon Sexuality in Cross-Cultural Perspective,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 10 (Autumn 1976): 62-75; Harold T. Christensen and Kenneth L. Cannon, “The Fundamentalist Emphasis in Contemporary Mormonism: A 1935-1973 Trend Analysis of Brigham Young University Student Responses,” privately circulated.

53. “From Satyr to Saint: American Attitudes toward the Mormons, 1860-1960,” 23-25, paper presented at Annual Meeting, Organzation of American Historians, Chicago, 1973.