Let it be so resolved…

If polyandry is the thing you find most objectionable and unjustifiable about the Nauvoo period of Mormon Polygamy, then you are suffering from misogyny.


  1. Please please please more info on this subject! I had no idea polyandry was practiced in Nauvoo.

  2. Oooh, let me get out the popcorn. This is gonna be good!

  3. The coercion, manipulation and deception are what gross me out about the whole poly situation. Those and the depressing implication that women are second class citizens viewed more as objects for possession under a polygamous system. Nauvoo polyandry was definitely not a “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” arrangement.

  4. aye

  5. … Then you need more information.

  6. But polyandry was never verifiably practiced!!


  7. Preach.

  8. Polyandry was practiced in Nauvoo in the sense that Joseph Smith was sealed to living women who had living husbands during that period. Recently, it has been argued that it wasn’t really polyandry because there is no evidence that people there considered it polyandry. Considering the great effort that Joseph, at the time, put into denying the practice of polygyny (if you want to be technical), I’m not certain that this absence of direct evidence of intent is useful, especially when there is direct evidence that Joseph was sealed to living women with living husbands and that Joseph was also engaged in polygyny, which, whatever its Biblical antecedents, was unusual behavior in that period. But, of course, your mileage may vary.

    The point of this short post is, of course, to point out that spending effort trying to figure out if Joseph and co. really thought of what happened as polyandry seems beside the point when you consider just how messed up the polygynous aspects were. Like the real crime here is how Joseph betrayed those married men.

  9. Sealed!=married. Find us some Joseph babies and then I’ll care about any of this.

  10. Hooray! Friday Firestorms are back!

  11. . . . aye

  12. rycall, look up JosephSmithsPolygamy dot ORG. The website has really good info.

  13. I think the poster’s point (correct me if I’m wrong) has nothing to do with the sexual (or not) nature of these polyamorous relationships, but rather that the very fact that they are so touchy betrays a gendered double standard. If it’s okay for a man to have multiple sexual partners it’s okay for a woman to have multiple sexual partners. Since the bridge into polyamory was already crossed in one sense, it shouldn’t be that big of an issue whether it was crossed in another.

  14. Kant66:

    Additionally I think it’s more to the point that men who are bothered by polyandry are likely bothered by the idea that one man’s woman was taken by another. You know, because once a woman is married (and let’s face it this can be easily read as theologically cemented in the temple sealing) they as seen as belonging to the man. So it’s like a man stole another man’s belonging.

  15. Polyandry: It’s only fair.

  16. I thought most people were more bothered by polygyny. When did this polyandry thing come up?

  17. The Other Clark says:

    It’s the deception and dessembling that bothers me most. From the Fanny Alger affair to the Reed Smoot hearings, it was dishonest from start to finish.

  18. I don’t think this is entirely fair. My problem with polyandry is that, in addition to the problems that polygamy introduced (e.g., polyamory, institutional dishonesty, coercion), polyandry also disrupted already-existing marriages that may have been loving, committed relationships. The LDS believe that committed marriages are sacred institutions, so barging into one and disrupting it to that degree (even by saying that it will be dissolved and reconstituted with someone else at death) is even more wrong than just marrying multiple partners who were not already committed to other people. If that’s misogynistic please help me understand why.

  19. Anon for this says:

    I think a lot of men’s revulsion to the prospect of sharing a wife would have been due to the fact that they would have had no way (until dna testing became available) of knowing which husband had fathered any resulting offspring. And we’re SO into patriarchy and lineage in this church. Look at the trouble we have now getting many men to take financial responsibility for their own children, let alone another man’s. Plus, which husband would act in the place of the Lord for the wife at resurrection?

  20. I think for many members, hearing about the existence of polyandry is their first exposure to polygamy which didn’t follow the rules laid out in D&C 132. Yes, there are much more troubling aspects to polygamy for me now, but initially this was a big sticking point because it went so against the usual justifications we hear for polygamy.

  21. Anon for this, that’s not at all what I would be thinking if asked to share my wife. “But how will I know which kids are mine???”

    That would be, like, #24 on my list of concerns.

  22. “…polyandry also disrupted already-existing marriages that may have been loving, committed relationships.” While polygyny, of course, did not. Where’s that eyeroll icon when I need it?

  23. Anon for this says:

    Kyle M,
    I think the whole thing was revolting (both polygny and polyandry), and didn’t mean to imply that would have been men’s first concern.

  24. Ann Porter: I appreciate what you seem to be implying (that polygamy disrupted marriages as well). I tried to make my comment clear that I was willing to learn or be corrected so I’m bummed that it still provoked a sarcastic response. These types of discussions tend to do that so fine.

    I guess I’m still puzzled though – do you feel that there is no real difference between a marriage where one of the partners decides to “open” their behavior and add a second spouse, and a second situation where two committed, loving partners are coerced by outside forces to open their own marriage? Those two scenarios just feel different to me, and the latter seems worse, if I try to put myself in each situation. In one situation a person *within the marriage* is changing the terms of a covenant they made (or breaking a covenant if you want to put it that way). The other seems like more of an act of violence.

  25. The missing link here is the Doctrine of Adoption. Since no evidence exists that Joseph had sexual relations with any of these women, only accounts doctored after the fact by Brigham Young. Brigham wasn’t considered a prophet. He even said himself that he was holding the position until Joseph’s son came of age. But since polygamy had taken hold, the only way to get the entire church to believe in such an offensive practice, was to link it to Joseph. If the members knew that it was members of the Quorum of the 12 had practiced it without Joseph’s knowledge & approval, it never would have been believed when officially announced many years after Joseph’s death. Joseph excommunicated John Benett when he discovered that John was practicing it. Joseph also told Oliver Cowdery that if Oliver went on to live plural marriage, it would be without either Joseph’s or God’s approval. I wish someone would stick up for Joseph. He constantly denounced the practice. I guess Moroni’s declaration to Joseph that Joseph’s name would be known for good and evil through the whole world, was true. Unfortunately, that statement also rings true amongst those who belong to the religion founded by Christ, through Joseph Smith….

  26. Tony…What about Emma? There is a lot of evidence that Emma was distraught about Joseph’s polygamy. It even says so on LDS.ORG in the topical essay on Nauvoo polygamy. Why was Emma so distraught if Joseph only renounced polygamy?

    Arthur, I fail to see your distinction between polygamy and polyandry. You are proving quite well the original poster’s point. How do you know the marriages that you are referring to were so committed and loving? The only difference is that you are feeling sympathy for the men in the polyandrous scenarios and none for the women who were forced to allow their husbands to marry other women.

  27. Kristen: I don’t know they were committed and loving. Maybe they weren’t. Maybe NONE of them were? But in a marriage when one partner seeks additional partners the very proposition itself seems to *confirm* that at least one partner isn’t committed while in the the cases of polyandry that possibility is still open that the couple in question is committed to each other and they are being asked to violate their own vows for the sake of some outside force. In the first case, I feel sympathy for one victim, while in the second, I feel sympathy for two victims. Again, if that is somehow misogyny then I will accept that I have certain cultural biases that I need to be more aware of.

  28. Tim Jones says:

    “Since no evidence exists that Joseph had sexual relations with any of these women…”

    Plenty of evidence exists that he did, conspiracy theories notwithstanding. Journal entries of family members of his plural wives, for example, recording accounts of Joseph and his new wife spending time in a bedroom of the family’s home immediately following the marriage. We might not have the sex tapes for evidence, but we don’t need them. It’s pretty obvious what was going on in those bedrooms.

  29. I can also accept that in Nauvoo, some men were coerced into taking additional spouses so in this case I agree that the situations are equivalent. But this was not always the case – not all men were coerced in this way. At least according to my understanding.

  30. Owen, I hate to state the obvious….but there are things you can do so that a woman doesn’t become pregnant…

  31. Hi,

    When it comes to Joseph Smith and plural marriage, the issue of polyandry is probably the most common question people pose. This is understandable because a plurality of husbands is unheard of in the civilized world and has been for centuries.

    There is no question Joseph was sealed to women with legal husbands. By my count, 14. The problem is that in 1945, Fawn Brodie depicted Joseph as a genuine second husband to some (or all) of these women. She had no evidence that a Nauvoo woman ever thought she had two simultaneous husbands, but Brodie got away with the bluff. No one, even Hugh Nibley, called her on it.

    This tradition has expanded and is especially popular among critics. The problem is that further research fails to find any evidence that any woman in Nauvoo thought she had two husbands at the same time. None. There are observations and anti-Mormon claims—all that were voiced after 1850. Yet, no documentation of the practice or teaching from Joseph Smith to support that such a dynamic would be acceptable has been found.

    The absence of evidence does not prove anything. But it is curious considering how explosive and controversial such a practice would have been. If you are interested, here is a new video:


    Brian Hales

  32. your food allergy is fake says:

    If I find polygyny more objectionable, does that mean I suffer from misandry?

  33. allergy,
    If we lived in a matriarchal society, I suppose it is possible, but since we don’t, no.

  34. “BY JOHN C.”


  35. John C.
    Preach it.

  36. All I can say is that my wife and I both hope polyandry is a thing in the eternities… or rather that we can both be married to the same guy.

    What would that be if I’m married to him and her, she’s married to him and me, and he’s married to her and me?

    (Answer: a whole lotta fun.)

  37. Tony, even the church admits (in their typical roundabout way) that Josephs marriages were sexual. From the essay on Nauvoo polygamy on lds.org: “Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations. Eternity-only sealings indicated relationships in the next life alone.
    Evidence indicates that Joseph Smith participated in both types of sealings.”
    About as direct as we can hope from the same writers who described Joseph’s 14 year old wife as “several months shy of her fifteenth birthday.”

  38. If John C. had spent his early years drafting corporate resolutions in a dingy law office on Wall Street, he’d have known better than to write something like the title to this post. It would have been “Be it resolved” or “Be it further resolved”. The former corporate lawyer in me and my OCD ghost just can’t stand that title anymore!

  39. So what do I suffer from if I find everything about the polygynous period highly objectionable?

  40. Tina: A conscience.

  41. I for the most part agree with the OP sentiment.

    On the other hand, a lot of people use folk doctrine to justify polygamy along the lines of “there will be more righteous women than men, so multiple women will need the same husband in the Celestial Kingdom”. Or “polygamy was just a say to take care of all those windows and single women in the pioneer days.” Polyandry is a challenge to those claims, and it can be disturbing to those who rationalize polygamy in that way. I’m not sure if that is misogyny or just plain cognitive dissonance.

  42. I meant widows. I don’t think there were that many windows to take care of in pioneer times, at least not so many as to justify polygamy.

  43. The polyandry was not at all analogous to the polygyny. It wasn’t as if a particularly righteous woman was allowed to build harems of men, all of whom were totally faithful to her. Now *that* would be equal opportunity polygamy, and it might even make the whole thing seem a bit less repulsive — equity, and all that. But that’s not what happened.

    Here’s what I hate about the Nauvoo polyandry:

    1. It’s bad enough that single women were “given” to righteous men to become part of an eternal collection of wives. But under polyandry, married woman were given — by their husbands — to Joseph. If anything, the way polyandry was practiced in Nauvoo cemented a woman’s property status.

    2. Polyandry broke the rules that Joseph describes in D & C 132 and broke with Biblical precedence. That makes it particularly jarring for newcomers to all of this mess. I mean, what’s the point of polygamy then, if it’s not even going to fit into the grand eternal rulebook. (For the record I detest D & C 132 with every fiber of my being and don’t accept polygamy. But for those who do accept it, learning about polyandry wrecks what they thought they knew about polygamy.)

    3. Nauvoo polyandry warped and distorted the concept of marriage even further than plain old polygamy. There was this idea that a woman, even a married woman, would have a celestial advantage by being under the priesthood wing of a prophet. It was doctrinally all about salvation through prophets. Super weird and totally out-of-line with any idea of family love.

  44. One last comment: I’m disappointed that the original poster is accusing people of misogyny without really understanding their points of view.

  45. Utahhiker801 says:

    Rock on, Mike Smith.

  46. I don’t see a particular problem with polygyny or polyandry, and never did from the first time I heard about it.

    I think some Mormons have been watching a few too many Disney princess movies.

    As for the whole thing being oppressive to women…

    Umm… hello? Welcome to 1800s America.

  47. @Seth R., sure, but the fact that the uniquely, especially harshly oppressive, pedophilic practice of polygyny was initiated by the “one true church” is what’s disturbing. If they had the ‘truth,’ why were women being abused more there than anywhere else, or at all?

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