Epideictic Rhetoric and the Formation of Collective Identity : Nineteenth-century Mormon Women in Praise of Polygamy
Brigham Young University
Author, "Plural marriage is perhaps the single most distinguishing characteristic by which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been known popularly since its organization in 1830. Although the practice was officially discontinued in 1890, the church is still known worldwide for its once-held dedication to the principle of plural marriage. At one time, that dedication was intense and the church was embattled because of it. In the late 1880's, by which time the entire nation had come down on the Mormons demanding that they give up the practice of polygamy, the Deseret news, which was the "church's official journalistic voice" (Hardy xix), printed the following proclamation in defense of polygamy, which had become central to early LDS theology. The abandonment of polygamy, that is considered by some to be so easy of accomplishment, is more untenable even than fighting. However much the people might desire to do this, they could not without yielding every other principle, for it is the very keystone of our faith, and is so closely interwoven into everything that pertains to our religion, that to tear is asunder and cast it away would involve the entire structure. (qtd. in Hardy xix) Clearly, the law of plural marriage was vitally important to the LDS church in the nineteenth century. Yet despite its importance to the membership of the church, the principle was never an easy one for most Mormons to follow. From the time of its introduction until the Woodruff Manifesto officially ended the practice (and certainly beyond), polygamy was in many ways a source of conflict for the majority of the membership of the church."