Friday Night I-have-nothing-better-to-do-than-this Poll

Check all that apply.


  1. Mrs. John C. would like me to point out that her earliest knowledge of polygamy came from attending the funeral of Rulon Allred when she was three years old (it’s one of her earliest memories overall) and also hearing her father and his polygamous brother-in-law debate the practice for hours. Beat that, suckas!

  2. I believe I first heard when I was 6 or 7 and some kid made a Mormon polygamy joke at school. My mom confirmed that Mormons had once practiced polygamy and she also said that we had polygamous ancestors — but she assured me that in each case we were descended from the first wife. (Which I’ve since taken to be a cultural stigma from old Mormon times that was still lingering surprisingly late.)

  3. Scott B. says:

    Still lingering, John. I customarily send the broken cookies and crappy presents to my relatives from latter wives. We first-wife’s rule the roost. Yea, worlds without end.

  4. I was around 6 or 7 and my grandma told a nosey neighbor that Mormons have at least 7 wives. Yes, she said “have”.

  5. Interesting choice to allow multiple answers. I don’t recall a time in my life when I didn’t know what polygamy was (although there surely was). In church and seminary I learned the most basic concepts. On my mission I learned more, and learned that there are Mormons who don’t understand a lot (such as my companion who insisted that Joseph Smith never practiced it himself–I had to explain it to him several times and pulled out some history books we had lying around before he believed me). When I started reading the bloggernacle I learned even more than I knew before.

  6. Mossbloom says:

    I taught the Presidents of the Church Sunday School class to 12 and 13 year olds a couple of years ago and they thought I was crazy when I discussed Joseph Smith and polygamy. The funny thing was, at the end of the year, we had a review quiz thing, and they still insisted that it was Brigham Young who had started it. Oh well. It wasn’t my place to mess with what they had learned at home.

    I think I actually first learned about it because my mom would joke (but was actually pretty serious) that she and her single friend were going to be sister-wives in the Celestial kingdom. My dad would smile, but as soon as my mom wasn’t looking, he would make gagging faces. I guess that’s how I also absorbed that polygamy wasn’t something that everyone was looking forward to, which was how they tried to paint it at church, as if we should be thrilled to increase our “kingdoms.”

  7. I don’t remember when I first knew about it, but I know I read the D&C at some point before I was baptized – and it was impossible to do that and not realize we used to practice polygamy.

    I have polygamous ancestors. It was impossible to read their journals without realizing that.

    I learned about it at church and in Seminary – including that Joseph was sealed to more than one woman.

    Everything since then has been added detail.

  8. John, it’s good to get the contest settled immediately in the first comment. That’s . . . impressive – the fact that she remembers, not just the memory.

  9. I know a guy who announces not that he descends from the “first wife” but from “a legitimate child.” Ouch.

  10. I learned about Polygamy fro Paint Your Wagon. Imagine my surprise when Clint Eastwood didn’t show up singing at my baptism..

  11. What’s polygamy?

  12. Mommie Dearest says:

    I don’t remember where I learned about polygamy, but I know that it was NOT in church.

  13. I don’t remember a time not knowing about it. But I remember car rides with my mom while I was young and discussing the faith of those who practiced it. Thus, I never really had a problem with the concept since I was indoctrinated at a young age.

    However, I think we need to separate “learning about polygamy” from “learning about how some of the early Saints *practiced* polygamy.” (I’m thinking especially during Joseph Smith’s time. Like I said, I never really had a problem with the idea of polygamy until I got older, but when I returned from my mission and found out about more of the details it was like a second awakening on the subject and I still struggle with those issues. I guess I just wish more of the details were made known earlier so it wasn’t such a shock.

  14. Left Field says:

    When I was a kid, I read a couple of RLDS books my parents had picked up many years before at Nauvoo. That was the first I’d ever heard of anyone who claimed that Brigham Young started it. And the RLDS were pretty clear at that time which side of the question they thought I was supposed to be on. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I ever heard of LDS who thought polygamy originated with Brigham Young. I find it difficult to understand how anyone with section 132 in their canon can credit Brigham, given that that revelation is clearly attributed in the Doctrine and Covenants to Joseph Smith.

  15. I learned about polygamy from home. We had ancestors, my mom answered whatever questions I had, including about the struggles one particular ancestor of ours (hint not the first wife) had. I read some histories, it was right there in the Doctrine and covenants, it was mentioned at church-don’t remember how much. I know it was discussed in seminary-always in a better them than us type of way.

    I did have one mission companion who didn’t know about it-a fairly recent convert. She didn’t know quite a bit. She would suddenly get really quiet during a discussion and I’d make a mental note and we’d comp study it later.

  16. Katie P. says:

    When I was 10, I heard my mother discussing it with a friend. Both agreed that it must have been horrible, but my mother was saying she’d do it if the prophet told her to and her friend was saying there was nothing on earth that would make her do it.

    I remember because agreeing with my mother’s friend, which made me uncomfortable, because my mom was generally nice and my mother’s friend was mean, yelled a lot, and talked bad about her husband, and I didn’t want to be like her.

  17. Oh well. It wasn’t my place to mess with what they had learned at home.

    And if the students in your class had heard that some other false teaching, would you have left it at that, too? I think it is absolutely the responsibility of teachers to correct misunderstandings.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m in the family history/ancestors group. One advantage to that is that I have never been freaked out by polygamy the way so many Mormons are who first learn the gory details.

  19. Rebeckila says:

    My best friend learned about polygamy when she was 7 or 8 and read “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle. I think she described it as her first crisis of faith and she’s never read another Sherlock Holmes story. :)

  20. Mossbloom says:

    And if the students in your class had heard that some other false teaching, would you have left it at that, too? I think it is absolutely the responsibility of teachers to correct misunderstandings.

    I just think you have to be careful when you are teaching children. This kids were barely out of Primary. We discussed Joseph Smith and polygamy in two lessons and then again when most of them got the quiz answer wrong. But I wasn’t going to sit there and argue with 12 year olds and tell them their parents were wrong. I figure that if it comes up for them again, at least they can’t say they had never heard it before.

  21. 1. I can’t remember not knowing.
    2. I definitely learned about it at church and also in seminary.
    3. I also learned about it in U.S. history class at school (4th, 8th & 11th grades).
    4. Everything I learned through church and church-related sources painted a much rosier picture than I got later as an adult, when I read real history books. But I always knew that it started with Joseph Smith.
    5. I remember that it used to come up regularly at church–at least every time we studied church history–and I figured it was because you couldn’t not address it when everyone knew Mormons practiced polygamy, so the church had to explain/justify it somehow. One day I realized that people had stopped talking about it, but I don’t remember when that was. (I stopped paying attention in Sunday School a long time ago.)

  22. Natalie B. says:

    I learned about it early in the ward I grew up in. However, I was taught that Mormons only practiced polygamy because they needed to since the men were dead. Despite recognizing that D&C contains revelation about polygamy, I did not know that JS practiced it until grad school.

    I don’t remember when I found out about polygamy, though I do remember being upset when I learned in YWs that a woman cannot be sealed twice in the temple though a man can.

    Surprisingly, polygamy doesn’t strike me as an inherent evil. In practice, it seems that people are abused; but in theory, I can see benefits to having more people in my family. What primarily bothers me is the gender inequity–if men can have multiple wives, women should be able to have multiple husbands.

  23. Ray #8

    I know, I’m quite the precocious little git. Don’t worry, I’ve forgotten pretty much the rest of my childhood. That was traumatic/strange and I guess it’s really stayed with me.

    John read aloud to me, while I was washing the dishes last night: “How and when did you learn about polygamy?” I said, “first childhood memory: walking through a line with my siblings and parents and seeing an older man with lots of white make-up on, lying in a box with several older women crying over him and kissing him.” I had mentioned that memory to my mother, and she said, “Oh, that would be Rulon’s funeral.”

    When we googled his birth/death dates, I was amazed to discover that I was 3 (he died in May, I turned 4 in July) at the time. A terrible situation all around.

    Also, growing up, the name Ervil LeBaron really scared me. He was my own person bogeyman.

    My father regaled us with stories of Joseph and his spiritual or otherwise wives. He never left us to find out the warts and all history of the church. I’ve found it very helpful.

    My other earliest memory? Slaughtering chickens. I think it was just a few weeks after the funeral. And you wonder why I’m vegetarian.

  24. Andrea R. says:

    Parley P. Pratt is my 3rd great-grandfather, so I don’t remember ever NOT knowing about polygamy. Whenever someone asks me which wife I’m descended through, I always say, “The pretty one.” (It’s actually Mary Wood).

  25. I’m descended from some of the polygamists who settled Freedom, Wyoming/Idaho. It’s a little town that has the border running down the middle of it, so my ancestor had one wife in one state and the other across the street in the other state. I also marked the option of ‘knowing about it my whole life’, but there have been a lot of details that I’ve learned over time.

  26. Left Field says:

    My g-g-grandfather had three wives (two at a time), and was a descendant of a passenger of the Mayflower. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but according to our published family history, the organization of Mayflower descendants will accept my g-g-grandfather’s progeny as members, but only if they are descended from his first wife. I wouldn’t have any interest in joining in any case, but it always annoyed me that some of my multitudinous third half-cousins would have the audacity to sign up for membership and by so doing, tacitly agree that my great-grandfather was a bastard.

  27. Tana, my grandfather is buried about four graves away from Rulon Allred. I’ve learned not to visit on Memorial Day or other obvious days, because there is such an unusual group crowded there.

  28. My ?great-grandfather had seven wives and eventually, 52 children. He married sisters on the same day. Wonder how that went.

  29. This all makes me curious how the polygynous lady in our homeschool group survives.

  30. buraianto says:

    I’m with Natalie B, #22. I don’t know how, after reading D&C 132 in church and all, but I didn’t realize that Joseph Smith had more wives than one until after my mission.

    But then I always thought that the story about Joseph Smith refusing alcohol when having his leg operated on as a boy was to show that Joseph Smith didn’t drink alcohol, too. Nowadays, while I think it’s a cool story, I’m just not sure what the intended message of it is when given in a Sunday School lesson.

  31. buraianto says:

    And I never gave thought about how we use the word “translation” in the context of the Joseph Smith Translation until my high school friend laughed at me. Sometimes it’s the things in plain sight that are hardest for me to see.

  32. I 1st learn’t of Mormon Polygamy at school, we were studying cultural diversity, whilst it was only initially mentioned in passing, I being the only Mormon in the School was turned upon by the entire class asking how many wives I was going to have? I replied “I don’t know.. erm mayb—-” the teacher stepped in and explained that Mormon’s stopped practicing polygamy a long time ago. I was relieved when we moved onto other cultures that are still practicing forms of polygamy today.

    I learnt of the Apologetics of Polygamy in many forms on my Mission, and through personal study found the “dirty secrets” of polygamy & polyandry after my mission.

  33. Before I started dating a Mormon, the only thing I “knew” about the church was polygamy.

  34. StillConfused says:

    I remember learning about Joseph Smith’s polygamy / spiritual marriages / etc right here on bcc. I was really upset that I hadn’t been told about this earlier. I am from the South — we have our share of skeletons in our closet, but we don’t hide from them like the Church does with polygamy. In all honesty, if I had known the truth earlier, I would have never become LDS. So maybe that is why they keep that info hush hush

  35. it's a series of tubes says:

    Can’t recall ever not knowing. I am a descendant of a prominent polygamist; an FLDS family lived next door to my grandparents house in Sandy, UT when I was young (they later moved to Colorado City).

  36. jjohnsen says:

    I knew about polygamy at a fairly young age, but until my late teens I thought it was something that rascal Brigham Young taught, boy wasn’t he the strange old grandpa from church history?

    I was pretty surprised when I found out more about it. Now it bothers me that most people I know still believe the rascally Brigham Young version and think I’m apostate if I mention Joseph Smith had more than one wife.

  37. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about it. I know I have some ancestors on my maternal grandfather’s side who were polygamists back in the day, but I ALWAYS thought it originated with Brigham Young. I never imagined JS had more than one wife until I read it … probably on the internet… probably BCC. It surprised me, but it certainly didn’t freak me out.

  38. I first heard about polygamy from one of my wives.

  39. I can’t remember not knowing. I have some polygamy in my ancestry. It is funny that John C mentions his mother assuring him about being descended from the 1st wife. My mother told us we were descended from the 2nd wife so if it hadn’t been for polygamy we wouldn’t exist!

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