As I'm weeks away from my own impending nuptials, the thought of marrying more than one person seems awful -- like residing in the Fifth Circle of Hell. Spouses are like noses. If you have more than one, people look at you funny. But my fiance's father dropped a bombshell on me a few months ago: the in-laws have polygamous ancestors. Which is not all that surprising considering they have been Mormon for generations.
So I was delighted to read this Salt Lake Tribune comprehensive breakdown of presidential contender Mitt Romney's polygamous ancestry. Written by Thomas Burr, the article not only details the polgyamy, but explains it in a historical and religious context and analyzes the political fallout. Not bad!
I had no idea how vast Romney's polygamous past was. His great-grandfather fled to Mexico after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced the Principle in 1890 so that Utah could join the union. His family tree includes six polygamous men with 41 wives:
Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith said he had received a revelation from God that men were encouraged to have multiple wives.
The doctrine was a return to a practice predating Jesus Christ. Not all Mormon men took multiple brides, but many did. Smith is thought to have had as many as 29 wives at one point.
Mitt Romney's ancestors converted to Mormonism as the church was starting to spread in the 1830s and 40s. His great-great-grandfather, Miles Romney, eventually took on 13 wives, including the niece with the same name of his first wife, Elizabeth Gaskell.
. . . Parley P. Pratt was one of the influential LDS Church leaders during the early years. He married 12 times, though his first wife died before he took a second. A former husband of one of his plural wives eventually killed Pratt.
. . . Miles Park Romney took five brides, though one left him and the church. According to an American Heritage magazine story in 1964, he married one woman, Millie Eyring Snow, after the LDS Church's 1890 "manifesto" renouncing polygamy. The two never had any children.
Parley Pratt! You can't marry women who already have husbands! Anyway, the article goes on to analyze whether the polygamous past will have any fallout for Romney, citing polls and political analysts who think he'll be fine. I thought Kate O'Beirne of the conservative National Review had the best line about the whole thing:
Should Mitt Romney join a 2008 race that included John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and George Allen, the only guy in the GOP field with only one wife would be the Mormon.
Polygamists were also in the news earlier this week when a small group of children rallied in defense of their family makeup at a protest in Utah. I thought I would point out the different fashion reviews. Here's AP:
Dressed in flip-flops and blue jeans, bangs drooping over their eyes, the teens at Saturday's rally talked on cell phones and played rock music, singing lyrics written to defend their family life.
Most of the young men who spoke wore slacks, shirts and ties; the women wore long dresses and blouses.
Come on! There were only a dozen kids there! How could these details be so different? Also, what image were the reporters trying to convey using these different details? And which one is true?
Photo via NoveltyWearsOff on Flickr.