Polygamy, polygamy, polygamy! We can’t get enough of polygamy! Nohing has captured the attention of the world about Mormons more than the practice of polygamy. Our second book in the list dealing directly with polygamy is a work produced by Kathryn
Daynes called More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System 1840-1910. Rather than offering a judgement call on the morality of polygamy Daynes gives us an academic overview of polygamy and a thorough analysis of the doctrine, justification, motivations, and lived experiences of those who preached and practiced polygamy. The book offers both anecdotes of “in the trenches” lived polygamy that you may have not heard before but also a great deal of statistical analysis that show us how the practice changed over time and what factors increased or decreased obedience to the principle. I enjoyed the entire book but the final chapter was worth the purchase price itself as she synthesizes the social norms was that were abandoned and then replaced with new norms (polygamy) then forcibly abandoned again. She ends with a few pages on fundamentalist splinter groups that seem to go through similar periods of anomie (normlessness) but in an age when it is increasingly difficult to live separate from wider society.
TL/DR: In this fifth installment of “Top Ten Books on Mormon History,” Ben and I discuss a wonderfully written analysis on Mormon polygamy, More Wives Than One.
For a more detailed treatment of the final chapter, which Ben and I largely ignore, read my review of the book on my personal blog.
Our “Top Ten Books on Mormon History” list was composed for someone new to Mormon History. The criteria for inclusion are the book’s demonstration of:
- Use of a sophisticated academic approach and emphasis on analysis over merely regurgitating data and documents.
- Coverage an important person, event, or period in Mormon history
- Quality of writing.
- Length (not too long).
- Matthew Bowman, The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith
Release in March
- Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
Release in April
- Ronald Walker et. al., Massacre at Mountain Meadows
Release in May
- Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America
Release in June
- Kathryn Daynes, More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910
Release in July
- Paul Reeve, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness
Release in August
- Kathleen Flake, The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle
Release in September
- Armand Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive: THE MORMON STRUGGLE WITH ASSIMILATION
Release in October
- Prince & Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
Release in November
- Martha Bradley, Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights
Release in December